Have you ever wondered what it takes to create movies sets? Behind the scenes at the movies is almost as interesting as watching the movie itself.
It is an Entire Industry
Mega movies require a mega number of people to create the scenes. Construction of these sets can take literally hundreds and, in some cases, thousands of people to construct and the cost can be phenomenal. In some movies, entire towns are constructed.
Just like with regular construction costs, the type of materials that are used to construct these mega backdrops can vary. You may be surprised to find that steel frames are often used in movie set construction. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, steel frames can cost about 5%-7% less than other building materials like concrete or wood. Additionally, erecting a steel frame building can mean it is easier to dismantle.
Keep in mind that everything that is constructed for these mega movies has to be removed when the film is done shooting. These workers have to be very quick at what they do and they have to always keep an eye on safety.
The last thing a movie director wants is for one of their top stars to be injured on a set. An injury can set back the completion of the movie for months. About 22% of slip and fall accidents put people out of work for about 31 days. On a movie set, losing 31 days of filming drives up the budget of the movie and is simply not acceptable.
The people behind the scenes of movie sets are highly talented professionals that are an integral part of the success of the movie. There are an estimated 54,000 people that work on movie sets and theater sets which is small in comparison to the 12.5 million people that work in manufacturing. These highly skilled professionals are who make the real magic happen. The set of a movie is just as important as the content and the acting in the movie.
The Cost can Be Phenomenal
We talked a bit about the cost of constructing a set for a mega movie. However, there needs to be more said. Construction costs for a movie set can easily run into the millions. When people hear about the cost of making a movie, they attribute much of the cost to the actors and production itself, when in reality, construction costs can take a big chunk out of the budget.
For example, the set budget for Pirates of the Caribbean was $4 million. That is a huge chunk of change but clearly well worth the investment. The movie wound up making over $100 million in theaters alone. There are high stakes when it comes to set construction because the set creates the scene and makes it more believable.
Set Construction Has Evolved
In the early days of movies, sets were basically a simple backdrop. Further down the line, sets were simple facades. Think of old westerns shot in towns. The building’s façade was really the only thing you saw. You rarely see the inside of the building and if you did it would be a saloon. Facades were big for a long time. Today, sets have evolved to become more complicated, more realistic.
Scouts will pick locations and, in some cases, construct a legitimate entire town to fit the needs of a movie. In other cases, green screen technology is used and construction is kept to a minimum. In all cases, today, sets are complex and believable thanks to the people behind the scenes who design and build them.
Mega movies have huge budgets and often a big part of the budget is dedicated to set construction and staging. Going behind the scenes of these movies can be very enlightening but be careful a pick behind the curtain can steal away some of the magic.