Comments: 38 • Responses: 16  • Date: 

hillbilly_bobby11 karma

How did you get started in that position? Is it hard to get your foot in the door?

vancityfilmer14 karma

It's really understanding the steps to take, and having someone point you in the right direction that matters to get a job in our department.

The main union across North America for major film production is IATSE. You can check out their website, look at the department you want in, and start following the steps. Some departments are more complicated, but I was really brought in by some greensmen noticing my work ethic when I was a PA. When the union hall is empty, they can start getting anyone their days to membership.

Bit more info how I got my foot in the door: https://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/3yra1v/iama_greensman_redneck_movie_set_decorator_i_work/cyfz3zo

workedog9 karma

Thanks for doing this. So you're aware, reddit does not work like a traditional forum. Top-level posts will move around in the display of this thread based on age and votes so referencing a post's position is somewhat meaningless. If you want you can reference posts with a permalink, I would recommend linking to the question so that your answer is shown underneath it.

vancityfilmer1 karma

Gotcha, cheers!

azuredrake5 karma

This job sounds amazing, and I'd never heard of it before. What is the most challenging set you've ever put together (that you can talk about, anyway)? Also, I'm a huge Arrow fan - what's your favorite Arrow setbuilding story?

vancityfilmer9 karma

Well Arrow Season 1 was pretty cool, the airplane crashed in the jungle build was pretty badass, but for the most part it was stand-by greens. Hiding things here and there, lights in the background, a tent, etc. Actually, the coolest part was I had to source out a 50 foot tall tree, then come in on the weekend with a logging truck, a crane, and an arborist to chop it down and transport it. It was quite a unique piece for a TV show but they really wanted to sell their studio build with the tree in it, with what they actually shot on location (that had a similiar tree).

TasbirM5 karma

Are you allowed to take pics of the set?

vancityfilmer12 karma

Photos on set is always a huge concern for productions. Some people (like myself) can get away with it because I need reference photos for how the set is dressed, in case we have to move something and put it back. But larger shows now they often need to have permission to take photos on your crew pass now. Crews are always taking photos, but people don't spread or post them, because they know their job is on the line. I've seen misunderstandings about photos get people let go.

Kikuchiy04 karma

Are you native to Vancouver? I've been working in film for almost 5 years and am interested in relocating to Vancouver. I'm non-union so I'm looking for any resources I can find to get a foot in the door. Any advice you'd be willing to offer would be appreciated. Nice reel, by the way.

vancityfilmer1 karma

Thank you! I grew up in a small town nearby, but moved ofter around 9 years ago. Get your application in to the unions ASAP, the new year is going to be slamming busy when pilot season hits, and Maze Runner 3, Planet of the Apes, and Power Rangers are amongst the few big ones that'll be filming.

What type of experience do you have in film, and what type of job are you looking to do?

FireDragon794 karma

That is super cool! How did you get a job like that? What is the most complicated part of your job?

vancityfilmer12 karma

-I was a Production Assistant on The Last Mimzy and the Greensmen were behind and needed a hand. They liked my work ethic, so they got me 2 days as a greensman. The 2 day paycheque as a greensman was more than my five 15 hour days as a PA. I said, so I just need a truck, then bought one for $500? And then I started working on SHOOTER with Markie Mark, until the union hall got me in trouble and I had to get all my shit in order.

The most complicated part is usually sourcing out materials like plants, a certain color of dirt, etc. that might not be available locally.

Drunk_Sensai3 karma

What's to process of building a green set from story board to actual building it, do you guys get creative leeway or are the directors usually calling all the shots? And what do you guys do with the set after filming?

vancityfilmer1 karma

It starts with a conversation between the DIRECTOR and PRODUCTION DESIGNER of how the director thinks it should look. The PD and his art team will often find sample photos from around the work, make concept drawing, and keep bringing that to the director until there's something he likes.

Then the designer starts coordinating with construction, paint, greens, to see what they can do with their entire budget. All department heads come back with what they can find, source out, and estimated costs and man hours. Then they start building it. The PD will usually have an art director handle your set, so they are the go between the departments and what the PD wants. As progress continues the PD will usually stop by once in a while, and even less so the director. As you get closer to the final stages, the director will start showing up more, and tweaking things to his liking.

Or sometimes, the director just shows up, says "Looks great!" and wants to shoot it. It all depends on how interested in the art elements they are.

We are usually given some creative leeway, in terms of placing bushes, sculpting the environment, etc. When you are told to "hide that sign with some trees", they don't usually care too much about your little forest you just built, as long as it's believeable. When your building a jungle for someone to walk through with a Steadycam following, they are a bit more on top of you.

After we are done filming, we save any plants that are alive, or fake to use again in other sets or movies. Anything dying or dead is recycled and chipped. If we have a large amount of bark mulch, rock, or soil, we usually give it away to whoever has the trucks to come pick it up.

plainjanebanker2 karma

Can you tell us anything about the Warcraft movie? Do you know if there will be a troll ambush scene? Your job sounds awesome

vancityfilmer1 karma

I can't really tell you anything beyond what you've seen in the trailer. At least not until the movies out. I can get in trouble for spoiling stuff.

However, I can tell you it had the most advanced motion capture I'd ever seen. They would record the Orc actors doing their movements on the set with these 3d cameras positioned around set, then they could sit down for a break. Then our camera operator could go in and they would play back the 3D recording of the Orcs, onto his camera, and he could move around them like they were actually there, because the camera was being recorded in 3D space as well. Incredible technology and so neat to see it work.

I do love my job, every day is different!

Twitstein2 karma

Which of the studios/ production companies have a pro-active approach to sustainable and recyclable material and environment use?

vancityfilmer1 karma

Can't name any right off the back, but every show I've worked on tends to recycle their sets and materials as much as possible. Every show in town also recycles bottles, and in the lunch lineups you scrape your food scraps into a seperate bin and seperate plastics from garbage, etc. I hear they do nothing of the sort in LA based off what this produce was telling me.

enigma59082 karma

With unlimited time and money, what would your dream set project be?

vancityfilmer2 karma

Having done everything from the moon, to overgrown abandoned buildings, to crash sites, to alien jungles, that's a hard one. Between Warcraft and Star Trek, I feel pretty damn lucky.

However, I'd love to do a Star Wars movie. It could happen. I believe it.

barracuda1052 karma

What "greenary" was surprisingly difficult to build? Like something a layman would think "oh this should be easy" but is actually extremely challenging.

On the flip side, anything that was really easy, but looked like a mountain of effort would be required?

vancityfilmer1 karma

One of the more interesting things we did was build a forest canopy that could be raised or lowered in individual sections for Warcraft. I ended up being the guy with the blueprint, having to measure out the crossbeam pipes for our trusses, and coordinating with the guys doing the rigging to ensure that our trusses were going up in the right places. Far cry from putting fake leaves on a tree. I ended up cutting and pinching cable, using metal saws, and doing a bunch of stuff we normally wouldn't do. I loved it. There was a lot of work put into it.

Surprisingly, building a tree wall to hide something can be done in a short amount of time, by yourself. People are always "Wow, where'd the forest come from? It must've taken you all day." 15 trees on stands and some sandbags, couple ferns and some leaves, it's actually not that difficult to build a forest quickly.

Alkaladar2 karma


With the increased framerate in the Hobbit films I felt that some sets popped out into view, it seemed created rather than natural. Not to say the sets were bad or or a poor quality. It was as if the higher framed pulled the sets fuether into view and highlighted certain aspects. Do you agree with this? Would you do anything different should you ever be required to work on such film?

vancityfilmer2 karma

I think they "hyper realism" given by 48 frames is jarring myself, and it pulls me out of the film, much like watching TV with Smooth Motion (Soap Opera Effect) on. It's great for sports, but otherwise it doesn't match what my brain expects for movies and the normal motion blur you get at 24fps.

If I had to work on a movie where the sets were that distracting, I'd make sure to dirty the shit out of them with paint, some spray glue and dirt thrown at it. Grime and discoloration add a lot to believing a world. When your using pristine, clean fake plants everywhere and the camera is looking straight at them, it's a little too fake IMHO.

elap1012 karma

Hey there! I have 2 questions. First one is, have you worked on Lost? If so what was the most challenging set and my second question is what qualifications would you need to qualify for a job like this? Cheers - elap

vancityfilmer1 karma

Unfortunately no, I am based out of Vancouver, and tend to really only work in the BC area.

Most challenging? Probably The Revenant when they shot in BC. We had a small set in the bottom of this gully. It rained, and rained, and rained. Then the crew went in and trampled all over the natural, pristine set and people were losing boots in the mud. We dressed the set with some extra ferns and small trees because the crew had trampled them, but by the time the 12 ladies trying to keep Leo warm until the camera rolled stepped out, we had 10 seconds to try and make the set not look trashed. While it wasn't a big set, it was definitely a high pressure set, where it just felt like we couldn't put our best work in the scene due to time constraints. Any soaking wet working conditions are never fun up here, but this was a different breed of wet. 100mm of rain for a lot of the days.

There have been other challenging sets, but that's the most recent one in memory where you realize it's just a slog of a job sometimes.

Qualifications? Good work ethic. Landscaping experience, a couple easy courses from Worksafe such as AERIAL LIFT and FORKLIFT, your Set Ettiquette courses, and OFA Level 1. Having a couple landscaping references is important.

Stustaff1 karma

Do you build any alien environments? If so what plants get used and how are they altered?

vancityfilmer2 karma

We do build some alien environments. Most of the time the plants are created using a couple silk plants and combining them, maybe this flower with this weird leafy thing. On Warcraft, we bought these weird big leafy plants, then broke them down into their basic parts. We then grabbed some copper tubing and starting bending, and twisting them into this weird cactus style shapes, then sliding the big leaves back on top and covering any copper showing with spray glue+moss. It was definitely unique. A lot of experimentation and creativity happens when it comes to alien plants.

zeldn1 karma

Do you collaborate with the VFX people when a shot requires set extensions and matte painting? Do you have to take into account what is going to be done with virtual sets after you're done?

vancityfilmer2 karma

Yes, a lot of the time. Working with ILM on Warcraft was a great learning experience. Those guys are so, so smart. We were often pulling bushes out of the way to make more room for the large Orcs to actually get through in the virtual world. They usually have a basic matte painting/set extension visible on the day, on the monitors that the VFX guys are pumping into our live video feeds.

VFX will often get plates of our various plants. On Warcraft, my last day there was spent crouched by a variety of plants, spinning them for ILM to get various angles, then finally tipping them over and diving out of the shot so they had these elements of all these plants to plug into the movie somewhere. I'll be looking for my tipping trees in some battle scenes I'm sure.

Kujata1 karma

Are your sets primarily inside or outside?

Is any normal procurement done through the Construction Manager as far as getting a landscape architect or landscaping contractors involved, or is everything really built off the art director and visual fx team's ideas and you just have to go find it out in the wild?

vancityfilmer1 karma

It's a 60/40 split between outdoors and indoors I'd say. We film a lot more outdoors, especially in TV land, but then a big feature will come like Warcraft, and we will do the entire 4 month show indoors because the sets are so specific to to lore/art.

The construction coordinator doesn't hire landscape architext or contractors, that's essentially what we do, but he or his right hand man, will build actual blueprints for large sets. Based off drawings from the art department and VFX, construction will build blueprints with size and everything, that we then go procure, whether its stone from a landscape supply store, or an old tree trunk from way out in the woods. Most of the time involving trees there doesn't need to be an exact sized tree, 12.5ft tall or anything, just something of a decent size where it is in the drawing, etc.