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Behind the Scenes

How We Made Our Short Film

It's all fun-n-games until...well, actually, it is usually all fun-n-games - when you have the right team and story to shoot. But it’s still real work making a film. Follow along as we showcase the various production challenges we faced and how we brought the locations to life through resourceful and innovative processes.

Stagecraft

Stagecraft is alive and well here at PICTURE END. We constructed twenty-five 4’ x 8’ flats with 2x4 frames and ⅛” utility plywood facing. We used 5 of them for the Tower Theatre’s entry (where we shot the exterior scenes) and 20 for the on-stage booth set. We shot all the interior booth scenes on The Little Haiti Cultural Center’s stage. It was a less expensive alternative to using a real soundstage. The construction team needed only a few support outriggers because the overall set built was self-standing. Strategically, we cut the various ports and windows, filling them with ⅛” plexiglass, then trimmed the frames on location. This ensured the set would come together quickly with minimal damage. We preprinted and decorated the panels using spray paint and our fake movie posters, band promos, and the gigantic advert for the “Palisades’” evil replacement. The Tower Theatre management team even allowed us to use their marquee poster frames for some of our fake movie posters. All together the PICTURE END construction team whipped our sets into shape efficiently and had fun while building the various pieces. Of course, strike was both satisfying and melancholy watching all our hard work torn down only after three days of use.

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Props to Us

There are several props and set elements that stand out because of the design and detail we applied to each.

 

The booth floor: Instead of the usual painted concrete floor, or perhaps terrazzo if the theatre was old enough, I decided on an art deco checkerboard pattern using 1-foot square “tiles.” They were actually black & white sheets of heavy construction paper, glued onto 30’L by 3’W industrial rollable cardboard, then sealed with glossy ModPodge. Once at the stage, we unrolled the floor strips then stuck them together, completing the floor’s illusion. This classic pattern, typical of floors in the Caribbean, drove the viewer’s eyes into the booth’s restricted physical space.

The sound rack: Being the cinema nerd I am, I wanted to build a convincing and visually tactile prop. A real audio rack to build this out would have been prohibitively expensive, so I created mock-ups of each item—a Dolby CP-500, some audio amps, and a functional DVD player for Wade to interact with.

Special touches to the construction include: physically correct system rack construction, carefully illustrated then rendered photo-real prints of each tech component, then I added rear lit LCD screen, real knobs, and LEDs to add realism.
 

Was this level of realism necessary? I believe that anything that causes the audience to suspend belief, even for seemingly mundane props, creates a subconscious criticism, which may prevent them from taking in the screen’s message. Plus, it was super cool to make. 😎

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On-Set & Location Design

Deep with the rafters, at the rear of the Palisades Theatre, in the space that used to host the various lighting and sound control spaces in its Vaudeville heydays, resides the projection booth. It’s here where Wade Darden has worked the past 25 years - showing classic films on antique Super Simplex 35mm projectors, run the occasional follow-spot, or simply operating the digital cinema system.

I based the projection booth loosely on actual booths I’d worked in back in the early 1980’s. When it came to the furnishings, I took artistic license giving Wade’s hideaway a more personal touch, livable and lived-in.

The exterior boarded-over theatre entrance was constructed from a set of the 4' x 8' flats. Our initial design had the entire space filled in (see illustration below-right), but upon further review of the site, we decided that only 4 panels would be sufficient to convey the closed derelict theatre's entry.

 

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Graphics and Production Art

To enhance the sets and locations, we created unique graphical images, items such as fake movie posters, old newspaper articles, advertisements, and band flyers, all by several talented artists. In addition to the original art, I used Midjourney AI to create a few graphical elements to decorate our scenes, resulting in fun little details which provided a genuine place to photograph.

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