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Five unusual standing sets for film and TV production

Sometimes it is necessary to shoot on location but often a studio or green screen can help you create the look you need. However, building a set is costly and why would you bother to build one if you can just rent them at a much lower cost?

These so called 'standing sets' are permanently constructed or stored on location and re-built to create an authentic replica of a particular location.

Not only can these sets save you money on transportation and set design, they also offer other benefits such as noise and time reduction.

To give you an idea of the type of sets out there, we have put together an eclectic mix of sets available around the world. So next time you are in need of the Irish-built Titanic in Mexico or a built-to-scale Mecca in Morocco, you know that actually this isn't as impossible as it sounds.

Jerusalem – as seen in Morocco


Initially used for the production of the movie Kingdom of Heaven (2005), this standing set at CLA Studios takes you to the ancient city of Jerusalem without having to get any sort of filming permission. Taking advantage of Moroccan tax breaks and lower production costs, shooting Jerusalem-set scenes in the North African nation is also a lot more cost-effective.

New York – as seen in Bulgaria


No need to get permits to close the streets, no release form trouble with ‘innocent bystanders’ but still the perfect NYC street scene? It’s possible with the help of the Nu Boyana Film Studios. The studios are one of the most popular production locations for both European filmmakers and Americans looking to save some money on shooting costs. You can see the set in Oscar-nominated Norwegian film Kon-Tiki (2012) and in upcoming American feature Eliza Graves (2014) with Ben Kingsley and Michael Caine.

This New York set has one little downside though: buildings can’t be taller than 20 meters, so there are no skyscrapers in sight without extra animation.

The White House – as seen in Toronto


Getting permission to film in the Oval Office might be tricky – as you would probably already expect it to be. However, in the Canadian state of Ontario they have found a solution to the problem.

CineSpace’s Kleinburg Studio features two 10,000 square foot soundstages with standing White House sets. There’s the Great Hall, the Halls of Justice, reception and dining room, the Oval Office along with its surrounding corridors, offices and an elevator, and the front façade from the House of Representatives.

To top it off, your 'president' or his aides can also be filmed in the cabin of the 1960’s-era Air Force One as well as in front of the White House’s gate.

As Toronto is a major production hub with good tax incentives this set can be a solution for those who do not want to leave the city to finish their film. If you want to see how the set works on screen than take a look at Kevin Spacey in Casino Jack (2010).

Airport (including various planes) – for those afraid of heights


Bridesmaids (2011), Flight (2012) and Kill Bill (2003) all needed scenes shot at airports and airplanes, but the logistics of this, alongside the permissions and costs, would have been a ‘royal pain’ had it not been for the services of Air Hollywood.

A variety of planes, a departure hall, baggage reclaim and various cockpits set at the studios are used frequently to film various films and television productions.

Sci-Fi space ship – because you never know when you might need one


For those looking for something larger than life, this is the set for you. If your Sci-Fi script involves a spaceship, but your accountant tells you that due to your budget your ideas need to stay ‘down to earth’, then film it in LA. You have your own warp-speed multi-transformer cabin (or whatever you want to call it) and the ship is suitable for a variety of space invaders.

Also, did you know…

Did you know that in recent months you could buy a real-life replica of the British House of Commons eBay? UK-based Wimbledon Film & Television Studios put up their famous set in order to make room for other sets. After an unsuccesful sale, the studio is now attempting to get rid of the benches via an auctioneer.

The exact replica has been used in TV shows such as Law & Order UK and the BBC’s State of Play, and in 2011, producers of feature film The Iron Lady used it to shoot a key scene featuring Meryl Streep as the former Prime Minister.

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