On a movie set, there’s a lot more going on than just the scene that’s being shot. From the green screen, to the props, to the presence of hundreds, even thousands, of extras, there are several fascinating aspects to virtually any movie set.
If you ever find yourself lucky enough to be on the set of a movie, even a low-budget film, there are several interesting things that you are going to want to look for.
The Green Screen
The opportunities of the green screen are incredible. The idea that you can have actors and objects moving across a blank screen, which later transpires to have dragons, city scapes- you name it, in entirely believable and seamless unity with the “real life” objects, structures and actors boggle the mind.
Green screen technology is only getting better, but the humour of how it looks, and the creativity and the adaptability of the actors and producers while working in front of and with the screen, is not something we get to see in the film. Occasionally, you can find behind-the-scenes footage that will show you how ridiculous this can look. It’s a testament to the truly great actors who can make you believe that whatever you’re seeing on screen is what they were seeing at the time the film was shot.
You see people dancing with green props, which, when computerised makes sense as an animal or mythical being, for example, but seeing a compelling and sometimes romantic dance with a green broom is something you should behold, at some point. You can also see people in green suits coming in to help “swoosh” the hair of an actor during a particularly blustery scene.
The props cupboard and props generally around a movie set are a cacophony of strange and exciting things.
Some, specially made for the in-production movie or previous movies are lying about or stored for use, such as believable guns and knives, for instance, but other ones such as robotic dogs, false limbs and heads are as much in abandon. Props can sometimes be created by accident. Other props are seemingly simple at the time of their creation, only to become extremely popular with fans. Some props become so famous, people recreate them. Think of the light sabers from Star Wars.
In fact, many props used in Hollywood, in particular, will appear in more than one film, others get auctioned to a unique array of characters that buy things like the David Hasselhoff boat from the Spongebob Squarepants movie. People are simply fantastic. You can find many famous movie props in restaurants like Planet Hollywood. There are also a number of film museums that feature some of the most iconic movie props in cinema history.
The runner is an interesting being, kind of like an odd-job chameleon. The runner will do and can do almost everything, even if they’re not sure, they will be willing to learn. Many believe runners to be born with several more hands as they adopt a few hundred jobs at once on set.
On big movie sets, if you have a keen eye, you can often see them scuttling with an array of coffees and teas, they will also help with smaller production roles, extra fill ins and prop runs.
The extras are a great bunch. Some are caught nervously trying not to get in the way of anyone, and usually confused as they got a call 30 minutes ago telling them to get to set and dress for a film based in the 18th century. More seasoned extras move about the set like they are Adam Sandler, they know everyone, and they are definitely ready for their pivotal cameo as they waltz past the leading actor.
For someone that enjoys people watching, movie-set extras are the crème de la crème group to sit and watch for the day. The way they nervously adapt to their positions and roles with the total enthusiasm of an A-list movie star is heartening, as well as seeing the relationships they form with the other extras and the conversations of their various cameos they’ve been in over the years.
Many famous actors got their start by working as a stunt performer or an extra. This isn’t lost on some people who turn out to be extras in one film after another, although many simply enjoy the experience of being an extra for what it is. You can find several famous, even strange examples of then-unknown actors popping up for a moment in one movie or another. One interesting example to check out is from the famous 1982 Paul Newman movie The Verdict. Watch closely in the final courtroom scene. Among the extras jurors, you can find Bruce Willis (Die Hard) and Tobin Bell (Jigsaw from the Saw movies) sitting very close to one another!