More realistic, less expensive, more ecological movie sets?

  • 28.04.2016

Of course, the industry has its limits: it is complicated to guarantee stocks, and there is sometimes a lack of information on the origin of certain elements, but there are very common materials that are easy to use, whose supply is not a problem, and which are ultimately safe. Bricks, pavers and clinkers are among the preferred materials. However, they are far from being the only ones that Rotor promotes.

In addition to its recovery work, Rotor has also developed an “exhibition” section, and above all a “research” department to see to what extent its action can be implemented at the political level. In this context, the members of Rotor examine what is already being done abroad. In England, an organization called Scenery Salvage deals with the recycling of theater and film sets. In the United States, the ‘reuse people’ of America, the group that inspired Rotor, once salvaged 2,000 tons of wood from the filming of The Matrix.

Rotor would like to emulate this approach. This is one of the objectives of Aude-Line Dulière, who spoke to us about this project during a meeting organized by the ACA. She has worked as an assistant designer in the film industry and would like to encourage designers to take an interest in this field.


For the moment, cinema produces a certain amount of material that ends up in the landfill in one way or another. A VAF study found that about 30 percent of a film’s ecological impact comes from this department. It is the second most polluting sector. However, if in terms of transport, efforts have been made to reduce the impact of 40 to 20%, this is not the case for decoration. So there is work to be done.

Rotor has already partnered with the film industry by providing equipment recovered from the dismantling of buildings for filming. These materials are essentially of two types.
In the Rotor stock, there are some exceptional elements, coming from the imagination of famous Belgian designers like the staircase of Jules Wabbes recovered in the old buildings of Fortis near the Royal Park, or pieces of Christophe Gevers,… Some improbable and unusual elements too, like these six dissection tables found at the university of Ghent and dating from 1960.

But most of the available parts are generic, recent material, in large quantities. These elements would not have been recovered by demolition companies, as the careful treatment of these materials would take too long and is not compatible with their mode of operation and business model.

The other issue that remains critical is the cost of inventory. It is sometimes higher than the actual material. This is the main concern encountered by all such initiatives. If you take a long time to sell off carefully retrieved and stored items, the selling price is ultimately less than the actual cost of the operation. This is especially evident for those generic items that make up the largest portion of the inventory.


When Rotor dismantles offices, for example, it recovers piles of identical partitions that can be easily reassembled. These are relatively modern materials, available in large quantities, which give the decor a touch of authenticity. Rebuilding them from scratch would be long and futile. Rotor also has modern hardware, light fixtures, switches, door handles, all ideal for contemporary or near contemporary settings. All those things that antique shops will not have or in smaller quantities and that it is useless to buy new in the store, especially if it is to use them only once and only, apparently, as cosmetic value.

The film industry already has a form of informal recycling channel: the teams organize themselves spontaneously, renting as much as possible, reselling and recycling a little. However, we still see a lot of material ending up in the containers. Rotor can also recover these materials. This is still a difficult process because of copyright problems related to the design of the sets, toxic materials or the cost of stock.

Rotor Deconstruction’s inventory is large, but film professionals will discover other addresses that will help them work with reused materials on the Opalis site, another Rotor initiative.
Can the Belgian film industry in turn benefit from this innovative and more ecological sector?

For more information, please visit the Rotor website HERE