Having lead the art departments for both a short film and now a music video, I can safely say, going green in art is not only great for the environment, it's also great for the production budget! If you have no idea where to start, here are five ways you can make sure you not only cut your budget costs, but also decrease waste in your department, while getting a great end product.
I'm sure there are many people who already take this step, simply because it is a cost cutter. But if you think about the fact that you aren't buying new clothes or props, you are already helping by diminishing the amount of new fabrication that you are taking into the production.
I would suggest taking this a step further. Instead of going just to your favorite thrift store, go to as many as possible, and even stop at garage sales (or stoop sales if you're in the East Coast), which may have hidden treasures for you. It does take a lot of time, but if you are willing, you can find some amazing things at a fraction of the cost.
I have been incredibly fortunate to have found out about my local industry specific recycling place Film Biz Recycling, where I was also a part time employee for some time just before working on Rickstar's Been Around the World music video. I was able to spend hours going through the shelves to find exactly what I needed, even if I didn't find it all there it was still a huge help because they tend to receive items that other thrift stores just don't get. At FBR I found everything from a racing car bucket seat, which I was able to convert into a space chair, as well as dozens of glass viles and cylinders that worked perfectly for our mad scientist room.
Attempting to do a general Google search for other similar industry specific recycling centers proves to be a little difficult, BUT they are out there! Not to mention, you can actually widen your search by including general recycling centers as they sometimes also have shops set up on the side to sell re-furbished materials (for example E-Waste centers). These types of places are also really great for alternative art pieces whether they be for a quirky character in a film, or for a personal project. It may take a little digging, but it'll be worth it!
This is one of those things that I think gets overlooked a lot simply because of the kind of reputation CraigsList has accumulated over the years. While, yes, you still need to proceed with caution, there are still some really amazing items you can find in their free section.
The couch pictured left was not found on CraigsList but it was left in an office building I frequent and I was able to snag it for FREE because whatever office didn't want it had posted a sign on it and left it in the hallway (people in Brooklyn often leave things for "free" on sidewalks for people to take which is pretty awesome). It was perfect! Instead of having to go out and buy a couch I would have to destroy for the purposes of the video, I was able to give this couch an eternal life on screen...and eventually I did have to dispose of it, but I saved a ton of money, and re-used it for this purpose instead of letting it go completely to waste as no one would take the couch in the end I'm sure.
On this particular shoot, I'll admit I lucked out. I was incredibly fortunate that the look we were going for was very grungy and dirty, which allowed me to use materials that are often over-looked. That being said, I still had to do quite a bit of re-imaginning and re-inventing, but this also allowed for me to use low cost materials.
The best material I used on this shoot were pallets which I fastened together to extend one of the pre-existing walls, and I also created a shelving unit out of a quarter piece of pallet. Not only did this give us more room to play with, but the DP was also able to light it from behind to create an awesome added look for the video.
Pallets tend to be a throw-away material and a lot of people over-look them, which is why I was able to get these pallets for FREE. Not only did I give them a second life, but I was also able to make them beautiful in the scene.
This is the most important part, and it is also one of the most difficult. After spending weeks, or months on a project, the initial instinct is to jut "get rid" of everything. I know the feeling, I've been there before. But if you've already spent so much time accumulating all of the wonderful little pieces that made your production special, you should be just as excited to give those things a second life, whether that be at a shelter, thrift store, or even Craigslist. You will be able to walk away from your project without the guilty conscious of having disposed of everything via the garbage.
Below is the music video for Rickstar's Been Around the World which consists of around 80% recycled materials, most of which were donated right back for future use at Film Biz Recycling.