Tuesday, January 17, 2023



Author Javier Ramos Altamira


El Campello (Alicante)


Received on September 9, 2022

Accepted on November 29, 2022

Resume. One of the most important elements when making a film are the sets. Generally built with ephemeral materials, their purpose is to create the setting and scenarios necessary for the development of the plot that is narrated in each film. They can be simple or complicated, small or grand, ephemeral or lasting. Most are usually removed as soon as filming ends or end up disappearing over time. However, many others are simply abandoned and manage to remain standing for many years. Some of them are associated with mythical films, which are already part of the culture of Spain. The question that arises among film and culture fans is whether these sets deserve to be preserved or not, whether they are considered cultural heritage or not, and, finally, whether there is legislation that protects them or whether it is yet to be developed.

Keywords. Sets, Heritage, Conservation, Western, Legislation.

Abstract. Set construction is one of the most important processes for film production. Often built with ephemeral materials, the purpose of set construction is to create the ambience and scenery necessary for the development of the plot narrated in each film. Sets can be simple or complicated, small or grandiose, ephemeral or long-lasting. Most of them are usually removed as soon as filming is over or disappear with the passage of time. However, many others are simply abandoned and strive to stand up for many years. In Spain, some of them are associated with mythical films, belonging to the country's identity. The question that arises among film fans and culture in general, is whether these sets are worth preserving or not, whether they are considered cultural heritage or not, and, finally, how to legally protect them.

Keywords. Film Sets, Heritage, Conservation, Western, Legislation.

Cinema is a cultural industry that emerged at the end of the 19th century with the purpose of narrating stories or events, through sequences of images that produce movement. The success of this new art (popularly known as the Seventh Art) was almost immediate, developing unstoppably throughout the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st. As a result, cinema has inevitably ended up becoming one of the favorite forms of leisure in today's society.

The main objective of this art is to entertain, to tell stories in a visual and attractive way, so that the viewer forgets for a while about everyday problems and gets involved in the story that is being told. The cinema tries to stimulate the public's imagination by transferring them to all kinds of situations, places and times, without leaving the projection room.

To achieve this objective, in addition to the work of the director, the actors and the technical staff, it is very important to create a setting or scenario that is as real as possible where these stories take place. The three ways to achieve this are: 1) finding a suitable landscape, building, town or city, 2) creating the place artificially using a set, or 3) recreating the setting using a computer program.

Despite the fact that computers are used more and more for these tasks, for many years, the main system used by film production companies to carry out their shootings was by building a set.

The set is usually designed by the art director or by the decorator, according to the film script and following the director's instructions. Normally the sets are made for a single production, so they are not made with the intention of lasting. This implies that to build them, flimsy materials such as wood, stucco or papier-mâché are mainly used. Sometimes, more durable elements such as stones, bricks, plywood or metal pieces are also used, with which to reinforce the structures. These types of sets are usually built in a specific location, outdoors or inside a Film Studio; and they can be from a small cabin to an entire town, as happened with the western town of Esplugas City.


  [The western town of Esplugas City (Barcelona), © pirineosenguerra.blogspot.com.]

As a general rule, once the film is finished, the sets are usually dismantled and disposed of, or stored somewhere. In the case of those raised in outdoor locations, these are simply abandoned after collecting the most important elements of the set. With the passage of time, weather and looting gradually eliminate, and as happens in any other abandoned construction, the weakest parts of the structure. Despite this, some elements can be preserved for many years, as a testimony of what was done there.

Another case is that of film sets built to be used in more than one production. These are usually more solidly built, with the goal that they can last and be used in different films, simply by changing the external appearance of the set. For this, more durable materials such as brick, cement, stucco, wood or plywood are used, with which the structure is made. All this is covered and completed with more flimsy elements, with which the final appearance of the stage is given.

As with ephemeral sets, once their exploitation phase is over, these types of sets are usually dismantled, destroyed, or simply abandoned. Over the years, if there is no maintenance or if they are reused for tourism purposes, degradation is inevitable, condemning these places to disappearance.

[Remains of the old town of the West in Daganzo (Madrid), © Photo of the author.] 

[Reprinted by permission of Javier Ramos Altamira]

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