I've made a few short films and one feature, but I've never built a set before. I know there are advantages to building a set on a soundstage versus using practical locations. Hitchcock did everything on a soundstage, and who among us would dare question his methods?
A good chunk of Interplanetary takes place inside Mars Base Two, a small complex built into the side of a Martian mountain. Base Two is really just corporate office space, reinforced so it can be pressurized enough for a breathable atmosphere. But I didn't want to go shoot in an office building, because there should be something about Base Two that looks unusual, like something you don't see on Earth everyday.
So John and Carl came up with a fairly inexpensive way to build Mars Base Two as a set. Then we got lucky and Kyle Holman, one of our actors, offered to let us build the set at Atrox, a huge warehouse in Leeds, Alabama, and home of one of the best haunted houses in the U.S.
The plan so far is to assemble enough flats (4' x 8' wall sections) to create the largest room (the garage) required for Mars Base Two. Then, reusing those flats, we can put together all the other rooms in the Base. The downside of this plan is that we can only shoot in one or two rooms at a time. But not building all the rooms at once probably cut our material costs by 75 percent.
When you're shooting at a practical location, you're usually stuck with what's there. Don't like the carpet? Too bad. I'm finding the opposite to be true with sets. You can do anything. Which is kind of cool, but kind of tricky, too. For example... what color are the walls inside Mars Base Two? Carl and I have been through six different colors so far. But I think we've finally made a decision.
Here's a sample photo, with a light blue barrel and red air compressor for reference. We chose the color on the left for the walls, the slightly darker gray. I know it's hard to believe we spent a lot of time coming up with that color, but it illustrates how more options means there are more decisions to be made. And I bet anyone who has ever made a movie has been overwhelmed with decisions on occasion, even shooting on location.