The DSG-ME, as all the cool kids are calling it, is a ten minute dash through the logistics and fiscalities (if such a word there be) of filming things wot are tiny. For any filmmaker contemplating a traditional models-based approach to special effects, this featurette provides a plethora of practical advice including how to choose a scale, what format to shoot on and how much it will cost. I share everything I learnt about working with miniatures 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).
What there wasn’t room to include – and also I didn’t want to digress too much into Soul Searcher (a fear I don’t have in this blog, home to many a digression [in fact, case in point, just look at how much parenthetical digression there is in this one sentence]) – were pyrotechnical considerations, since model work and blowing things up go hand in hand. First off, you should always get a properly qualified and licensed pyrotechnician. They will come with their own insurance, and will know the proper procedures, like informing the police and so on. Even if they agree to work for free, you will have to cover the costs of the explosives themselves, and the specialised transport to deliver them.
You will definitely need to shoot on film, as now you’re not just trying to make the thing look full-size, you’re trying to make it look full-size and in slow motion – necessitating ultra-highspeed shooting. Make sure you protect the camera from flying debris; styrene sheeting from a DIY store will do the trick. Build your miniature extra large, since even with the styrene you won’t want to put the camera very close, and a long lens will make the model look smaller.
All in, unless you’re able to borrow the film equipment, expect it to cost about a grand for one or two shots.