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The Man Who Fell To Earth 

Large Scenic Props

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The Man Who Fell To Earth is a television drama sequel to the 1976 Nicolas Roeg cult classic film, which starred David Bowie as alien Thomas Newton, visiting Earth in search of water to save his dying planet.  Written and directed by Alex Kurtzman, this new production is set in the near future, with Chiwetel Ejiofor as the latest arrival, Faraday, descending to Earth at a turning point in human evolution.

Project Breakdown 

Artem were asked to make large scenic engineered props, which were key both to the plot and the production design – The Wedding Cake, The Glass Slabs and a Quantum Fusion Machine.

The Quantum Fusion Machine (QFM)

Central to the action, and most spectacular both in size and complexity, was a prop cold fusion power generator - the QFM – which comprised several elements. At the bottom of the inner structure was a ‘boiler tank’, complete with pipes, tubes, vessels, a large gate valve, pressure gauges and a fuel canister arrangement – all made or moulded from lightweight materials and art-worked to resemble aged metals. A central column with discs and sections led up to a one-metre-wide, segmented torus, made from clear plastic with a mesh covering and ribs, housing a two-part removable canister. (We also made a spare central canister and a broken-down version and components for bench-top work shots.)

The Faraday Cage 

The QRM inner structure was enclosed in a 6.1m wide spherical Faraday Cage structure, spreading out from the apex of the central column and partially disappearing under a suspended steel floor. The dome structure had eight ribs, with a hexagonal geodesic mesh linking the steel framework. Production electricians fitted 688 bulb fittings onto the cage for a truly spectacular effect.

Assembling the Faraday Cage at Artem

The Faraday Cage on set

Cage segments

Canister in torus

Faraday Cage on set

Black plastic pipes artworked to become rusty metal

WIP detail

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The Wedding Cake 

Faraday finds his predecessor’s work hidden in the ‘Wedding Cake’ in a deserted building. Artem designed and built a cylindrical display unit c2.6m diameter with ten double-skinned clear acrylic screens, arranged on a carousel that was rigged to rise up out from a suspended steel floor. The whole unit was fitted onto a telescoping base tube, mounted onto the studio floor c4m below the set. The screens could be rotated by hand and two of them were mounted on sliding mechanisms, so that they could be pulled outwards horizontally, away from the hub. Art Department fitted the ten screens with LED strips pointing inwards along the vertical sides. Artem made 240 dummy bolt heads to fit the top and bottom of each panel.

The Glass Slabs 

The ‘Glass Slabs’ prop – a sort of steampunk/alien whiteboard - comprised eight 12mm clear acrylic screens approximately 1.8m tall x 1.4m wide, mounted on easel-like steel support structures with castors on the bases. The bases were designed to fit together quite closely so that all eight of the screens could be arranged in a line. The slabs had LED edge lighting along the tops and bottoms of each screen and a clutch lock swivel at the central pivot allowing at least 20 degrees of movement forwards and backwards. One of the screens was modified to take sheets of toughened glass for breaking on set.

Sixteen folded steel boxes with attached angle brackets were mounted on the tops and bottoms of the Glass Slab units. The boxes had an opening at one end for an aerial to protrude and were designed to house a set of batteries and remote control unit.

Canister Interior

Faraday Cage on set

Faraday Cage and atmospheric effects

Torus and Canister

Torus from above

Torus through cage

Work in Progress detail

Work in Progress detail

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All three props were designed, built and art-worked on site at Artem, before transport and installation on set by Artem technicians.

The Man Who Fell To Earth is available on Showtime in the US, and on Paramount + (direct or via Sky Cinema) in the UK.

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