shot in color, desaturated in post

Although only a 3-minute short, "ARM WRESTLING MACHINE" posed certain design challenges. 

Basics: 30's slapstick silent film set in a bar. Its heart and centerpiece, an enormous homespun arm wrestling machine.

Here's the low-down on making it work on a budget!

Co-writer/producer Cean Okada's outdoor cabana was converted into our bar, requiring a new paint job. We maintained a basic color/value scheme, despite desaturating the film in post.


AWM rear sketch.jpg
shooting script

shooting script

"Arm" has a live  monitor

"Arm" has a live  monitor

A theater flat with a hole in its center was positioned against the far corner, making a "fifth" wall. This dark nook became a defacto control room, complete with monitor to oversee the action.  

The Arm

The Arm

Building the AWM took first priority. Brian Ludmer and I spent the better part of a Sunday building the base structure, improvising dimensions to accomodate the actor (me). The table-top is mostly MDF, with a luan back-piece. The outer framework, 1x3 and MDF. The entire upper half removable for travel purposes.

Next came adding a skirt to mask the bottom half, using the same material to paper the backboard (a cheat to avoid painting it)

set JR gets in character.jpg
set bottles.jpg
AWM mockup.jpg
AWM letter cutouts.png

This caught up with me later when the decal graphics refused to adhere to the fabric. Solution: Foam core backing and carpet tape, producing an unplanned raised lettering effect, which played nicely under the lights.

AWM arm cutouts.png
AWM main title card 100717.png

Rounding out the set were miscellaneous knickknacks and wall-hangings, the latter just printouts mounted on cardboard and framed with black tape. Two-dimensional renderings of bottles hopefully add a little poor man's trompe l'eua

For the end result, watch the movie below!