The Making of a Mad Scientist Laboratory

Last September, when I set out to make my own Frankenstein short film for a film festival contest I was entering, I had just under a month to write a script, order props, rally a cast and crew, complete the filming and editing, and submit a finished product for consideration. Right from the start I knew I was in for quite a formidable challenge mainly because one of the biggest visual payoffs of a film of this type (at least from my perspective as not only the writer and director, but also a classic horror film fan) is an elaborate laboratory sequence where the monster comes to life. However, since I had a very limited amount of time and money with which to construct my own lab, and was neither electrically or mechanically inclined, I had to improvise and spent quite a bit of time combing through images on Pinterest for ideas. I also purchased a number of items throughout the month to assist me in my quest from Amazon, eBay, Michaels, A.C. Moore, Target, Home Depot, Lowe’s, and a Spirit of Halloween store – although several key items I’d ordered did not arrive until couple of days after filming, I managed to make do with what I had on hand.

After cleaning out my 500-square foot garage and taking some measurements, I decided to  create large metal equipment racks by taking several plastic shelves I’d assembled, covering the front of each shelf with cardboard, and then spraying them with a couple of coats of metallic paint. Here are several pictures capturing these steps from the 10th and 18th of September:

It was definitely a laborious process, not to mention stressful, and I spent many late nights in my garage after work to get it ready for filming . . . which is probably part of the reason why I ended up in a hospital in Baltimore with acute chest pain at one point and had to take a brief break – not the scare I was looking for! Luckily, on the evening of 23 September  (also the eve before we filmed), my friend Micheal Conlon, a special effects artist and set designer whom I’d previously worked with on other film projects, came over to my house to assist with set dressing that also included assembly of an Adirondack chair in which my monster would be seated. Per his ingenious suggestion, we punched holes through the cardboard covering the fronts of the shelves from behind and pushed the bulbs on strings of lights through so that the wires would remain hidden, thus helping to create the illusion of lighted panels. We finished everything around dawn and received further assistance from the cast and crew in setting up all of the flasks and beakers on tables a few hours later. Additionally, Thomas Ferguson, another friend I had the fortunate opportunity of working with on a feature-length film and a short several years earlier, was able to help and acquired a badly needed supply of dry ice for the lab sequence!

In spite of having some doubts about whether or not I was going to be able pull of the mad scientist lab I envisioned, I was jumping up and down once the actors and crew were in place . . . along with the flashing lights, bubbling liquids, and smoke spewing forth in an angry hiss from the mouth of the fog machine. I felt like a kid on Christmas and Halloween combined, and couldn’t have been more pleased with the results given my limited time and resources.

Here a few pictures I’ve since taken of that set before I dismantle it to start of my next project . . . enjoy and thanks for reading!

Best Regards,

Charles M. Kline

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