Magazine article Variety

Creating Sets Built for a Disaster

Magazine article Variety

Creating Sets Built for a Disaster

Article excerpt

the rampaging fires, earthquakes and storms of disaster movies present unusual challenges for a production: On top of the normal work of creating a film's lived-in and realistic locations, designers must build sets that the forces of nature can batter, flood and ravage into something completely different.

Take "Crawl," in which a Category 5 hurricane devastates rural Florida and traps a woman and her father in a flooded home infested with wild alligators. Directed by Alexandre Aja and starring Kaya Scodelario and Barry Pepper, the Paramount release presented a very technical challenge for production designer Alan Gilmore.

"We created huge sets on soundstages that had to go from dry to wet - from a normal day in Florida to a day after a massive storm," he says.

Water is a dynamic, unpredictable force, and it can be tough to determine just what it will do in action. "When a huge wave strikes a building, it pushes every object in the most amazing way," Gilmore says. "It's almost like another force in the environment."

To make the damage appear as real as possible, Gilmore looked to actual natural disasters, studying the precise effects of hurricanes on houses unable to withstand them.

"We performed a huge amount of study on water damage in buildings, looking at New Orleans and photo documentaries of how the water affected homes," he says. "We want it to be absolutely realistic, so when the water hits the house on screen, it looks exactly right and causes the right damage and the right effects. …

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