How to make summery Spain look like frozen Russia, and other peaks back on a century of movie set design
February 4, 2011 1:21 PM   Subscribe

Hot wax, cold water and marble dust, bags of authentic newsroom trash, and left-over sets burned to the ground, all parts of the old movie magic. Designs on Film is a book that highlights the design behind films, from the ice palace in Doctor Zhivago, to the highly detailed recreation of the offices of The Washington Post on a soundstage in Burbank, CA (related: docu. in parts on YT: 1, 2, 3) for All the President's Men, and burning Atlanta scene in Gone with the Wind. The book also covers the styles and fashion made in movies and used from real locations, such as Cameron Diaz's Wallace Neff house that was featured in The Holiday.

There are more peaks into the book from the Art Directors Guild and on Amazon.

And if you'd like more information on real houses used in movies, check out I am Not a Stalker, a location re-scouting blog that covers the simple residences as seen in Mask, to the more remote locations as found in Kill Bill.
posted by filthy light thief (8 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
Great post!

"Several tons of chipped marble and melted wax were used to simulate ice."

Wouldn't it have been cheaper to make a really big fridge?
posted by mhjb at 1:32 PM on February 4, 2011

Zhivago was filmed in '65 or so, so I guess they didn't have things like refrigerated warehouses back then. Today, yeah, that would be a lot easier.
posted by GuyZero at 1:45 PM on February 4, 2011

cool stuff. I love 'Chinatown': "The absence of water"
posted by clavdivs at 1:57 PM on February 4, 2011

I think shooting film in a refrigerated warehouse with lights would be far more trouble than chipped marble and wax.

CSI: NY shoots in my downtown LA neighborhood, which never fails to delight me.
posted by Ideefixe at 2:10 PM on February 4, 2011

I think shooting film in a refrigerated warehouse with lights would be far more trouble than chipped marble and wax.

The lights alone would make it like trying to combine your refrigerator and your fireplace, and have both work at the same time. And doubly more difficult considering that stage lights from the mid-60's were almost better heaters than lights. Back in high school, we had a bad enough problem rigging maybe a dozen or so lights that were bought in the 60's, when our high school was built. It was like being under a buffet heat lamp after an hour or so. Then, when the aged bulbs blew, trying to replace them without directly touching the bulbs or getting burned... painful memories.
posted by chambers at 3:19 PM on February 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

Tr├Ęs cool.
posted by Splunge at 3:52 PM on February 4, 2011

This is a really, really excellent post. I'm going to have all kinds of fun with this.
posted by TooFewShoes at 8:58 PM on February 4, 2011

I'm gonna go ahead and dump this from a never finished submission on Emilio Ruiz del Rio, matte painter and modelist for Dune, Doctor Zhivago, Spartacus, Pan's Labyrinth and many more films.

He died in 2007, but not before appearing in the documentary "el ultimo truco", a testimony to a career that spanned 65 years.
posted by valdesm at 4:13 AM on February 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

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