The Dark Side Guide to Building a Set

Essential viewing for any producer or director considering shooting their next project on stage, this featurette covers all the issues you’ll encounter in planning, building and striking a set – including the all-important question: how much will it cost? I share everything I learnt about working with sets while making the demo sequence for my fantasy-adventure feature The Dark Side of the Earth, starring Benedict Cumberbatch (Sherlock), Kate Burdette (The Duchess) and Mark Heap (Spaced, Green Wing).

The Dark Side Guide to Building a Set

The Dark Side of the Earth: Workshop Tour

Step back to November 25th 2008, halfway through construction of the set for The Dark Side of the Earth’s pilot scenes, and take a tour of the workshop. Featuring an interview with the elusive Ian Tomlinson, production designer extraordinaire. Filmed by Gerard Giorgi-Coll.

The Dark Side of the Earth: Workshop Tour

The Dark Side of the Earth Podcast #5: What to Wear

Production of the insanely ambitious British fantasy adventure movie The Dark Side of the Earth begins with a single pilot scene, set aboard an airship travelling to the dark side of the Earth. Costume designer Katie Lake explains how she came up with the look for the leading lady’s dress.

The Dark Side of the Earth Podcast #5: What to Wear

The Dark Side of the Earth: December 5th, 2008

A stressful day. A couple of things almost didn’t get sorted out before close of business, either of which could have left us seriously screwed. But everything’s okay now.
All the pieces of the set are in place, the 35mm stock has been delivered and Ian’s crew only have 101 things left to do before the cameras roll on Tuesday. The Swordsman watches wryly through his monocle, patiently awaiting his screen debut.
Yesterday Kate Burdette (Isabelle) and Benedict Cumberbatch (Max) had costume fittings and it was great for me to see the characters finally rise from the pages of the script. It was also exciting to go through the shots on set with Ollie and his director’s viewfinder, choosing the best lens for each angle.

The Dark Side of the Earth: December 5th, 2008

The Dark Side of the Earth: December 3rd, 2008

How is it that my to do list gets longer as the shoot approaches, not shorter? Surely that it is contrary to all established laws of the universe.
Most of the set is now in place on the stage, although some of it is still laid flat for painting. The amount of work left to do is quite daunting, but I know Ian and his crew will get it done if it kills them.
Yesterday I was able to do some basic rehearsal of the Swordsman with two of the puppeteers, Sheila and Lois, trying out the overhead ceiling rig and the trolley which replaces the puppet’s lower portions for waist-up shots. Again the technicalities proved daunting.
My confidence was signficantly restored by the production meeting last night. The quality of crew that Ian’s artwork has attracted is very impressive. Andrew McEwan as 1st AD is the newest recruit, and along with Abbi (stunts), Ian and Ollie (DOP) we discussed some of the challenges we’re going to face next week getting sixteen set-ups every day.
I can officially confirm that Panavision is hiring us the camera kit used to shoot The Dark Knight – a ridiculously lovely 35mm package with anamorphic lenses, which will make the pilot look very slick and expensive indeed.
And Isabelle’s sword, thanks to Abbi’s efforts with a friend at Pinewood, will be none other than the rapier used by Robert Deniro in Stardust.

The Dark Side of the Earth: December 3rd, 2008