‘A duck decoy doesn’t need to look like a duck. It just needs to look like a duck to a duck’. [1]

– David Mamet


That’s what I keep telling myself as I go about finding items on the strange and surprisingly lengthy list of locations, sets and props needed for the film.

Some are easy enough; a graveyard, some flowers… several square metres of turf? Do I even need turf?
This isn’t just a funked-up treasure hunt though, it’s also an ongoing exercise in cost management. For the low budget film maker, and to anyone really, for anything there is not just a financial cost but also the cost of your time. Is a prop really free if it took 8 hours out of your day to collect/make/beg someone?

a) somebody somewhere has what you need and the chances are they are open to giving it to your for free or very little (aka Get used to asking people for favours), b) what you had in mind originally may not be as good as the alternatives you find along the way, c) for some things there really are no alternatives and you should stick to that.

All the while I try to remember that it only needs to look like a duck to a duck. Do we need a whole room or would a one walled set do? Do we need a whole rotting skeleton or just a head? And where do you find a decaying human head anyway? Do they charge for shipping?

What has been unexpected though are the sticking points. why laying my hands on a selection of wig is easier than getting hold of a supermarket trolley [2] I don’t know.

The filled boxes on the ‘Items To Get’ tick sheet are starting to out number the unfilled ones. There are still quite a few things to find before it’s all ticked off though so until then I’d better find a lining for a coffin.


1. “The Audience: Or, lessons from duck hunting”. (Bambi vs Godzilla, David Mamet, 2007). A great collection of essays on the film industry and more, written with enviable concision and insight. Git.

2. Legitimately. They’re frustratingly ubiquitous otherwise.