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Breakaway Props

Alrighty, I just got commisioned to build a breakaway barstool for a short film. The stool will not be sat upon, but will be picked up and broken over somebody's back. I'm a mid level carpenter and have access to a well equipped shop, so the actual building of the thing should go pretty smooth. I'm just wondering how these things are usually built. It would be nice if it could be put back together for multiple takes. So if I cut the stool into interlocking keyed pieces and then maybe drilled and glued magnets in the center to help keep it together would that work out? Muddy this is your department, got any tips? --Trey


Hi Trey: Here are two ways of doing it. The least expensive method: Buy several inexpensive bar stools that match. You might find them at Big Lots. You score the wood on ONE side almost all the way through with a jigsaw or something. Do the scoring on THREE of the legs so that the actor using it has a leg that will not break in his hands. Unless you want the actor to grab the seat and swing it that way, then score all four legs. As for the crossbars, I would either leave them alone as they will keep large pieces together OR I'd cut them off, drill them out and replace them with Balsa wood dowels found at ANY hobby center. Scoring should resemble the look of a comb with cuts made side by side. Do some tests on a punching bag or tree before you sign off on it. The actor getting hit should wear a protective piece on his back under his costume to protect his spine. This should be a piece of metal, hard plastic or wood with a foam backing. You can cut slots in the side and use belts or similar items to secure it to the actor's torso. Hopefully, the shot will be set up where the actor's back will be away from camera so we see his face and NOT the protective piece. The expensive method: Get balsa wood bar stools made or purchase them from a Breakaway FX company. I know of no bar stool rig that you can reset. The realism should be the small pieces that fly. That and the target's reaction will sell the gag. Make sure the A.D. runs a safety routine and everyone knows the blocking before it's shot. Make sure the camera has a Lexan shield built and that NO ONE is on that set unless he or she is needed. This applies specifically to the Director, D.P. and Scripty...they should watch the action at the monitors - out of harm's way. Also make sure to have AT LEAST a set medic or nurse standing by just in case. Also, I might film the tests and document how you scored them and how it broke apart.

Hey Trey... How is it comin' along?

So far I've bought a stool to start working on. I'll begin cutting it up probably on Monday. --Trey

Any updates about the bar stool gag?

Yeah, I finished the project. The tests looked great and then I handed everything over to the director. I think he's shooting it this weekend. Maybe I can get a clip from him and post it. --Trey

VERY COOL!!!! Right on.