Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Locations and Higgins' Den Questions Answered

Mike and Susie have both asked separate questions under the previous posts which I will attempt to answer here.

First, I have been posting a lot more career photos on my flickr site  http://www.flickr.com/photos/rick_romer/   The photo editing tools are great and I'm getting pretty fast at fixing and loading the photos but I still have a couple hundred to go so check back from time to time!  Deciding on categories is the hardest part so I've been using a lot of key word tags.  They are also showing up in google now under my name.  As impressed as I am with what we were able to do here in Hawaii over years past, I am also saddened that most of those sets could not be done today because we have lost so many of those sources.  Well, at least they will live on in cyberspace for awhile!

I heard via a non-LOST source that they are going to auction off items at the end.  Very smart if that is true since $10 lamps I bought at the Salvation Army that would normally have gone into a dumpster will probably bring hundreds since they were used in Hurley's House.  Instead of paying for dumpsters, they can make tens of thousands.  Those lamps were really ugly, though!

Mike asked about the"valuable" ivory tusk on the bookshelf in Higgins' den--see his photo link in the previous post comment.  Well, that ivory tusk is a valuable as all of the small green jade carvings that were also in his den!  Genuine plastic!  It's all about location, location, location.  Put something on a pedestal or put a picture light over a painting or on a bookshelf in an estate set and presto it's ivory and jade!  Looking at the photo of the den set and then looking at a photo of Jack's father's den set on LOST yesterday when I got another call:  "Where did you get his desk?" really reminds me of how standards have changed in set dressing.  The sophistication and layers and detail in sets today compared to 30 years ago is amazing.  People are more consumer aware, have seen more / sophisticated, and have TV sets with larger size and clarity.  Although the plastic tusk and figurines would still look good today!   Those 2 ordinary looking bronze-like vases on the mantel are actually old Chinese gourds that were grown inside a  mold and then hand painted.

I'm not sure I understood Susie's question about locations and elements in her comment 2 posts ago.  Unfortunately I never really used tag labels for these posts so I could just put in "locations" and go back and see what I've said in other previous posts.  I know I did discuss the perils of using your own home as a film location (another bubble burst!).  But here are some more observations regarding locations and set dressing:
DISTANT LOCATIONS:  If you're going to be dressing sets a long ways away from your normal, resident studio location (anywhere from 50 miles to another state), there is that tendency to want to take everything with you.  I've seen many a container of set dressing arrive from L.A. between features from "The Brady Bunch" to Bruce Willis epics "just in case" the decorator might need them.  In the case of the Brady Bunch, the decorator used more of the things I helped him find here than were shipped over which made me feel good.  The decorator on the Bruce Willis epic had a budget that allowed him to practically empty every L.A. prop house of all gilt furniture, chandeliers, and expensive looking items involving a dozen containers or more.  I was only worthy of being a laborer to unload them, so I know first hand!  Ironically, even though most of the items weren't used in the Nigerian presidential palace set, the ones that were used were never seen since the entire set (the first 20 minutes of the film) were cut out since Mr. Willis wasn't in any of the scenes.  That meant no one even saw the 240 shades I put on the light bulbs of the 5' high chandeliers that the bad guys ran by once.

So, way distant locations do represent a challenge even when you do have the money.  Having basic supplies, a resourceful crew, common sense and checking out the location ahead of time for sources is always best.  Being able to knock on a stranger's door and politely asking to rent their dining room set is also a good skill to have.

LOCATION SETS:  that allow normal access to familiar sources are less of a problem.  Private homes present the biggest challenge--particularly if the family is living there and  a full redress is required.  Knowing the abuse than can happen when a film company is there (and you're not) should be a consideration when deciding to use the owner's furniture or objects as key pieces.  As cool as it is to be able to say to your friends, "Meryl Streep sat right here on my sofa!", you might instead be pointing out the stain that someone made on it when something leaked or the damage that was done when something fell.  The good news is that any reputable company would have purchased a new sofa--assuming it was replaceable. I always prefer a blank slate if there is to be a lot of filming done inside someone's home especially if they are "virgins."  There are some homes who rent out often enough that know the pitfalls and aren't overly worried.  There are also those nightmare locations that begin with the owner saying to us "No one told us you were going to take out all our furniture and crash a car through the picture window" and the location manager's cell phone is conveniently out of range in the jungle somewhere.  Set dressers are the first to arrive and the last to leave.  We discretely advise that perhaps their collection of porn we find under the bed might be better off elsewhere or also not mention the bug and rodent graveyard under their sectional after we move it for the first time in 3 years.  This is why having an experienced crew is so important.  As the set dressing crew is also responsible for restoring afterwards, it's always handy to have at least a location assistant at the site.  We are blamed for all sorts of scrapes, and dings, and chips that may or may not have been caused by our film company.  In many cases, replacing food in an unplugged (because of sound) refrigerator or finding broken window glass behind the drapes get dumped on the poor guys who are just trying to put the furniture back in the room.  

STUDIO SETS:  Permanent Sets - Swing Sets  Permanent sets on a soundstage are set dressers best friends.  Other than basic maintenance and restoring after shooting, all we do is cover and uncover them.  The more permanent sets the better.  In case of rain, sickness, script problems, these sets are just sitting there waiting to be filmed.  There may be a lot of pain and angst creating them in the first place, but they can last for years and leave time for other sets.  Magnum was really great for that reason.  Even when other temporary sets were added, the style of the permanent sets was so strong that it was easy just to plug into that look.

Technically there can be swing sets that are "permanent" in that they are taken down when not in use and then set up again if used infrequently.  Even Rick's bar set was considered a swing location set as it always required dressing at the beach location.  Swing sets can just be new sets that are created in space on the soundstage for the particular episode--sometimes even inside permanent sets.  We frequently did that once the large living room set was built and often incorporated actual walls from the permanent set.

Well, that's enough rambling on a question I'm not sure I even understood!

The "Cooler Kings" pilot that was supposed to be prepping this month seems to have cooled and another project may be taking its place.  Funny how "The Circle of Life" from "Lion King" just popped into my head.  Maybe because 2 years ago I was halfway through being the lead male dresser for 99 performances--or maybe because the projects just keep almost coming and then fade away?

Aloha,  Rick


Mike (N1095A) said...

Thanks Rick!
I don't know if this has been asked before, but when Magnum came along in the 80's no one ever thought about people 30 years later examining the the scenes by pausing and reversing a DVD. Even capturing still frames and in some cases lookig at scenes fram by frame. Has the advent of DVDs, or rather, knowing that this would be likely to happen in the future, resulted in a conscious effort in making set decoration more sophisticated than years ago? Time was an audience would see a set for a few minutes of screen time, and in some cases a few seconds. Then it would never be seen again unless there was a rerun. I know there many reasons as described in your posts about things that passed 30 years ago not making it today, but how much of a reason for this is due to DVDs?

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the post Rick.


cmcatena said...

I know someone who owns the tusk, how do you know that it's plastic?