Just concluded production design on Richard Haredia-Arriaga's film, Borderlines. The short subject film is about a mysterious stranger who encounters some locals over an ill-fated game of cards, and takes place in 1896 at an old west saloon. The chance to do a western was what initially drew me to the project. This is also the first time since Argos that I've gotten to work with the fantastic Bianca Davies.
The direction from Richard for the look of the film was very straightforward, something I always appreciate: "Simple yet authentic."
This is the design I came up with for the set:
Aside from a belt-tightening budget (which I'm used to) there were some interesting restrictions we had to work around. First, we would have access to the sound stage one day before shooting began. This meant that the set had to be created elsewhere, and then be re-constructed quickly, and still look convincing. Second, due to budget and transportation restraints, we could not build our own flats, and would have to figure out how to utilize the ones provided at the space without having access to them until the setup day, also without altering them. Taking all this in stride, Spenser and I set to constructing.
Using a borrowed router (thanks Greg!) we cut grooves in 3.5x4ft panels of salvaged plywood to create wainscoting, and capped the top and bottom with old lengths of redwood fence boards for molding. These were then masterfully painted and aged Bianca and her helper Danielle. The rest of the 10ft flat was covered with wallpaper backed by large pieces of cardboard so they could be transported and quickly stapled up.
The bar was constructed with ply wood and 2x4's, and the foot rail (which became just the bar rail because it looked better higher up) was made for $12 out of PVC pipe and some brass metallic spray paint, and then aged. The booze shelves took some scrounging, but after many trips to the recycling center, I had gathered enough bottles to make a convincing supply of liquor. It's strange how many odd, and even well dressed scavengers you meet when frequenting dumpsters.
Dirt for the floor was a quick and cheap solution, as well as a nicely fraying rug from the props department. But something Spenser and I were most proud of were the olde tyme saloon doors we created out of 1x3 and lathe strips. Due to a shortage of wallpaper I decided to improvise and make it look as though the bar had recently encountered a bar fire. I was going to put a charred looking "no smoking" sign as a joke, but didn't put it up in time. Spenser also painted an awesome backdrop on some sewn-together sheets (thanks mom!) with spray paint:
I was never really that into the western thing, but now I have to admit it's grown on me. Dusty, rusty, ramshackle and unvarnished; rugged charm with a hint of class. Definitely a fun and worthwhile production, great crew, great actors, and I learned one can make moonshine from turpentine, ammonia, and gunpowder. Not that I ever will (muaha).