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The evolution of a cheap set

Mark Pirro February 5, 2015

When you’re an independent filmmaker, you have to pull in whatever resources you have available, since you don’t have the luxury of endless funds to realize your cinematic vision.  So brings us the saga of backyard set building.  The picture below is a jail set that was built for our 2014 movie, “Rage of Innocence,” and although it has served its purpose, I just can’t bring myself to tear it down yet.



We originally built a set in this spot back in 2007 for our Biblical parody film, “The God Complex.”  As some of you know, the set was redressed again and again and used 11 times for that film.  The video below shows the evolution of the set from that movie.


What's left of "The God Complex" set

What was left of “The God Complex” set.  This is what we started with.

The jail set under construction.

The jail set under construction.

The jail set a little further along.

The jail set a little further along.

...and as it will look in the finished film

One of the angles of the jail set as it looked in the finished movie

Of course, building sets in back yards and garages are nothing new here at Pirromount.  The first set we ever built was a castle set in a friend’s garage for our 1983 comedy, “A Polish Vampire in Burbank.”  Back in 1983, we were in our early 20s and very few of us owned houses.  However, one fortunate member of our ensemble did own his own house, and he graciously allowed us to commandeer his garage for several months to build our castle set.  We took particle board, cement, a few candles and a cobweb spinner, and created a nearly passable room from a Gothic castle.


Pirro building a castle for “A Polish Vampire in Burbank.”

Pirro, Gant, Fields

Marya Gant, Mark Pirro and Hugh Fields in the inexpensively constructed castle set used in 1983’s “A Polish Vampire in Burbank.”

2 more castle set shots

Back in 2012, we went back to the garage that we had shot in 30 years earlier. The house is no longer owned by the friend who let us film there, but to my surprise, part of the set wall was still standing, as you can see by the video below.

I have no carpentry experience.  I couldn’t even build a spice rack.  But the cool thing about making sets for your indie movie is that it doesn’t have to be secure or even functional.  It only has to look good for the time you’re shooting your movie.  After that, nothing matters.  Of course, it’s always fun to look at it a few years later and reminisce about all the fun you had filming with it.

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Mark Pirro is the Owner of Pirromount Studios.