Want to know how to make war movie props? We’ve put together a list of ideas that will help you get started, no matter what your budget.
- In order to know how to make war movie props, you need to make decisions. Which war are you setting your film during? What equipment were the armies involved in the conflict using? Next, plan your budget, and map out your scenes. With a budget set, you’ll know what you can and can’t afford. With the scenes mapped out, you’ll know exactly how many of each item you’ll need. Tip: If your budget is small, don’t plan for epic battles.
- Every solider needs a gun. If you have access to air rifles, use them. Water pistols can be painted to resemble real guns, but if you’re a skilled wood worker, you can sculpt realistic looking war movie props at little expense. If your war film is farcical, use materials that suite sight gags, like construction paper. Tip: For the love of god, don’t use real guns, unless they’re unloaded and you’re well versed in firearm safety.
- Explosive weapons like grenades and landmines are essential to war films. Luckily, with a little paint and some old-fashioned ingenuity, you can make these war movie props. A halved Styrofoam ball with wooden pegs stuck in it, when painted the right color, looks a lot like a landmine. By shaving Styrofoam to the correct shape, you can also make realistic grenades. Things like RPGs and rocket launchers can be made from PVC pipes, Styrofoam, and paint; or, if your budget is stupid tight, soda bottles and cardboard tubes. Tip: If you’re filming a scene with RPGs, inform your local law enforcement and neighbors.
- Most war film tropes can be simulated without expensive war movie props or replicas. Need to shoot up some enemy soldiers? When Steven Spielberg was a teenager, he made a Super 8 war film, simulating machine gun fire by burying small wooden planks in sand. When a soldier stepped on the plank, dirt flew into the air, simulating enemy fire. Similar tricks can be used for explosions. Rather than renting an airplane, add an airplane sound effect, a shot of a soldier looking to the sky, then cut to dirt flying everywhere and bodies littering the ground. Tip: For filmmakers with little to no budget, clever editing is your best friend. Read up on Eisenstein for some pointers.
- If you’re an ambitious, or epic, filmmaker, you’re going to want vehicles. How do you make these war movie props? If your film is a satire, you can get away with cutting tank, jeep, and helicopter shapes out of refrigerator boxes or big planks of wood and painting them. You can also do this in more serious films if the vehicles will be far from the camera. If you have friends with army green jeeps, borrow those and trick them out with cardboard props. If you have a huge budget, there’s a guy in Sichuan, China, who makes fully operational, life size replicas for war machines from any era. Otherwise, we recommend filming mainly interior films of vehicles. Don’t have many for a warplane? Make the interior of one in your basement and use stock photography for the exterior shots. Tip: If you’re using stock photography, make sure it matches the look of your film. Unless, to reiterate, you’re making a farce, in which case you can kinda do whatever you want.
- The proliferation of relatively cheap film software can help loads. If you’re good with computers and don’t have much of a budget, make use of technology: learn how to digitally create war movie props. Some of the world’s biggest filmmakers, from Peter Jackson to James Cameron, got their start making great movies with little budget because they made great use of the technology available. Tip: Make sure your computer effects are well done before leaning on them too heavily. To quote Tarantino: “If I'd wanted all that computer game bullshit, I'd have stuck my **** in a Nintendo.”
Now you know how to make war movie props. Get out there and film us an epic, you maggot-puking weasels!