As indie filmmakers, we're used to making do with what is easily, readily, and/or inexpensively at our disposal, and many times the locations we need don't fit within those criteria. However, with a little bit of know-how and a few bucks (about $170), you could construct your own flats (the fake walls used on films and theater sets), which would not only allow you to film in the location you want (a mock version, at least), but it will take the stress away of having to shoot in someone else's space. Matt Brown is here with a tutorial to show you how to saw, hammer, and drill your way to making flats that'll be perfect for any project.
Knowing how to build flats is a great piece of information to know off-hand as a filmmaker, because the possibility of needing one eventually is so high. How many times have you shot scenes in your friend's mom's house, tiptoeing around, feeling like an unwelcome guest, all because you needed a living space that looked nicer than your crappy one-bedroom duplex? (Sorry, was I projecting, again?) Knowing how to construct flats relatively cheaply and easily (perhaps not as cheaply as shooting in your friend's mom's house for free, but whatever) will open up new possibilities in storytelling for future projects, and could even up the production values, too.
Now, I'm no Bob Villa-esque charpentier with a perfectly sculpted beard to match, but the construction of these flats is simple enough for pretty much any skill level as long as you know how to safely operate a saw -- and a hammer -- gotta watch those phalanges, guys. Making the jacks, the pieces of wood that'll hold your flats up (Brown likens them to the little bit of cardboard on the back of a picture frame), will probably be the most complicated thing about this build, since you'll have to cut out a gouge for hanging sandbags. As long as you have a jigsaw (you could probably get away with using a Sawzall, too, but be careful), this should be too much of a challenge, though -- it's not like it has to look pretty.
Check out the tutorial below:
Now, knowing how to build flats is only the beginning. You still have to dress it up and make it look like whatever location you're aiming for, which is a much more challenging task than merely sawing and nailing pieces of wood together -- but at least you're off to a good start.
[Drill image by Flickr user cactusbeetroot]