Thursday, February 24, 2011

3 Things You Should Always Do When Shooting With Props

Hi from Lawrence and Hagan!

Props are an essential part of every film, from Indiana Jones' Hat and Whip to Batman's Batmobile, almost every filmmaker we know has used them for their productions. We recently shot a short presenting Pepsi Film's Tribeca short film competition:

We built three freestanding doors with our bare hands, here's what we learned from the experience:

1. Never build three freestanding doors with your bare hands. Especially in New York City. Especially in the tiny living room of your tiny Manhattan apartment. Especially with your bare hands. I do have to say we were successful, but for large and complicated props, getting a props master who can find a set designer or carpenter to do this will save you the calloused hands and hearts that come with turning your home into a woodwork shop.

2. Planning is key. We've said this before and we'll say it again. Plan extensively. Plan ahead. Plan for the worst. We thought we were so skilled to have built three freestanding doors in a 20 sq. ft. space with primitive neanderthal tools. But on the day of the shoot, with only a couple hours to get our props on location, we realized one crucial mistake: the doors wouldn't fit through our apartment door. How ironic. In the chaos that ensued, we unbuilt all of our doors, carried them piece by piece to our equipment truck, and rebuilt all the doors in the middle of the city streets in sub-zero temperatures. I still wake up in the middle of the night with sweat on my brow and tears on my pillow wishing we had planned for that mistake.

3. Know when to hire grips. After successfully rebuilding our giant doors, we realized we had to hand carry them half a mile to our shoot location because our truck wasn't allowed in. The crew consisted of myself, Hagan, our producer Eddie, and our DP. We had three giant doors, a crane, six lights, c-stands, sandbags, tripods, cameras, lens cases, steadicam cases, electrical generators, and a very convenient crate full of 50 pound weights. You do the math. By the time we trudged through the snow and slush and shame and all the equipment was on location, we were weak and broken men, too physically frail to begin our 8 hour shoot. Should have hired grips for this.

In the end though, I thought we really pulled it off! The shoot went smoothly and we are now using those doors as firewood to last us through the rest of winter. Hopefully that cheerful advice will help you guys avoid similar mistakes while shooting your entry for the Tribeca short film competition!

Anybody have similar stories?

Your friendly neighborhood LawHag

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