Prospect, the film I worked on last year building and finishing props and sets, premiered nationwide and is now even available to pre-order on Blu-ray or on iTunes! With that, I’ve been given the okay to do a handful of behind-the-scenes posts about a couple of the things I worked on for the movie. One of the worst things about working on a movie is that sometimes, nobody gets to see your hard work – things get left on the cutting floor all the time. While it isn’t the only thing of mine that didn’t make it on screen, this is the thing I was the most proud of that got cut, figuratively and literally – Zed’s Spear rifle. It’s the one hero prop I made myself from scratch, and I think it’s beautiful! Joe is the guy who designed most (maybe all) of the energy weapons for Prospect. I was given this 3D model/blueprint of the base design, given a budget, and told to make it look cool and utilitarian.
Step one was doing a test with some scrap wood to make sure I could do all of the bevels and metal inlays in a way I was confident in before cutting into the good stuff. As you can see the weapon is made of 6 lengths of wood in a hexagonal shape. I did every bevel cut of the wood and aluminum strips with a table saw.
With the budget I was given and a desire for an exotic look, I spent about 30 minutes drooling over the wood at Rockler before deciding (with approval from the Art Director) on purple heart wood. On the left is the wood in my car on the way home from the shop. On the right is all of the strips, cut, grooved, and ready for assembly.
For the blades, because this was a hero prop and not for cosplay, I could use real metal. But I could use aluminum to make it lighter and easier to work with. I cut the base shapes out with a scroll saw and then sanded the curves down on a spindle sander.
Then I glued the blades, pieces of wood, and aluminum strips together with a combination of wood glue and gorilla glue.
Once that was done I got to use a mill for the first time and carved down the flat and rounded parts of the shaft and spear head to match the design.
And with that, the base spear was complete and matched the original design perfectly. As a spear, it was already a pretty formidable weapon. BUT, like most of the weapons in Prospect this was both an energy weapon AND a melee weapon. Figuring out the functionality of the energy weapon piece went to me. The only other design direction I got was that the base should have some mechanism that could charge the weapon via kinetic energy. The rest was up to me.
Part of the challenge here was that Zed is one armed and while the weapon needed to be usable one-handed, it needed to be designed for a two-handed person as well. I decided on a mid shaft trigger mechanism along with additional grips near the head and tail of the shaft. The spear could be used right or left handed, under arm, over arm, and as a thrusting melee weapon by quickly changing hand positions. It could also be charged and fired one-handed. Also, I wanted the hand grips to be natural and organic looking without just being the usual leather wraps on a shaft. Enter my first time using Worbla! I made the three grips and embedded the trigger and wires under the grips to hold them in place, then painted and weathered them.
I don’t have any great photos of the charging mechanism but here you can kind of see it, plus I love the look of wonder on my son’s face checking it out The base has a pad connected to the shaft with 5 large springs and a capacitor in the center. The idea being that the spear is pounded on the ground, generating energy that is stored there until the trigger is pushed and its released down the shaft and our the head.
Here is me on set during production on the day that the scenes with Zed and my spear were going to be shot (yes, that’s right, I wore my own shirt on set). The director wasn’t sure if he liked the spear design anymore and felt it didn’t really fit into the aesthetic of the film. He asked me to go back to the van and add a few more greebles to try to make it a bit more tech/obviously an energy weapon.
Using what I could scrounge up, I put some more blatant electronics onto the spear, but it still wasn’t enough. The director had an idea – let’s just cut the spear head off and make it a pole rifle – rudimentary but still exotic. To his credit he also said he would let me decide. I could leave the spear alone guaranteeing it would not be used, or I could chop it off and he would use it that day.
Killing your darlings will always be the hardest thing you do. Trust me. This broke my heart, but at the end of the day, Zed needed a weapon, and I wanted my hero weapon in the movie.
The final form of Zed’s weapon that actually got used and filmed that day. While it wasn’t totally cut from the movie, the one scene that made it to the screen where he uses it, the weapon itself is 99.9% obscured and so is unrecognizable. But I know its there.