Building Your Own Sets Is What Filmmaking Is All About

by Bret Hoy1 Comment

Filmmaking is such a complicated art form to succeed in. You have to be equal parts carpenter, electrician, writer and photographer. But it doesn’t stop there.

You can’t succeed in filmmaking if you’re doing it just by yourself. You need to have a team of people beside you that are ready to take on the project. This means you have to be somewhat of a diplomat. You have to be able to communicate your ideas clearly and get other people excited.

It’s not easy. But it is highly rewarding.

Building your own sets is an activity that focuses all of these skills. The ethic, described and illustrated by Zach Daulton from No Film School, is that of the jack of all trades. Over and over again, he explains that it’s not about what you already have, but about what you can get, and what you can make yourself.

Often I find that filmmakers don’t ask themselves these questions. We generally think about what money can provide us and not what our own skills and handiwork can provide.

Instead of thinking of films as requiring money, think of them as requiring time. After you’ve exhausted all of your own resources and skills, find others that might be willing to contribute theirs. Then, and only then, consider using money to finish it.

How to Build a Movie Set in Your Garage

How to Build a Movie Set in Your Garage

Via No Film School:

Why build a set, anyway?

I wanted something that seemed very old and distressed with a wood floor and grimy mirror. I also wanted something that had the same vibe as the rest of the theatre did. After I realized what I wanted out of the dressing room, we began to search for the location.

Once you start building cheap sets and using every scrap you have, you’ll find yourself becoming a pack rat.

Locations are really hard to find when you don’t have a lot of money and you’re making an indie short film with no plan for a financial return. So the first thing I did was call all of my friends who owned real estate to see if they had anything open I could borrow for a couple weeks, but each place had a problem that would make it impossible to shoot.

One building had a perfect look, but no electricity and was located on a very busy street with a lot of loud traffic. I considered just using a regular bedroom, but most bedrooms are really tight with very limited space for lights and other gear. I didn’t think I would get all the shots I wanted. When I talked to my DP, he suggested finding a location with an open ceiling so we could top light it. That’s where the garage comes in.

Finding the right garage

The actor who plays James Mayfield (John Riley) has a garage with a 12’ high ceiling. It was a perfect place to build a set because there was plenty of electricity, we could top light it, we had some sort of temperature control, and access to a kitchen to make all the food for the crew. The only problem is that there was currently already a set built in there from a western John had directed a few years prior.

Read full article at No Film School “How to Build a Movie Set in Your Garage”

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(cover photo credit: snap from No Film School)

Bret Hoy

Bret Hoy

Bret Hoy is a filmmaker, photographer and writer based out of St. Louis, Missouri. Mainly focused on documentary and experimental film, he has produced, directed, shot and edited many short films and a few long form works.

He shoots a lot and often.
Bret Hoy


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