In the case of today’s “Water for Elephants” the movie set was quite literally being held up by tent poles. The Robert Pattinson and Reese Witherspoon romance is set in a circus environment in the early 20th century. The circus tent is not a CGI illusion – it’s quite real, thanks to the skilled workers at Aberdeen’s Historical Seaport’s spar shop.
The shop turned out poles for the big top and animal menagerie tents used in the film by Twentieth Century Fox.
The shop took just 28 days to produce the 122 Douglas Fir poles ranging from four inches to 12 inches in diameter and up to 52 feet in length. The contracts between the shop at the filmmakers called for a “distressed” look. While the rest of us try to use the sharpest tools possible the spar shop used dull cutting tools to achieve the look.
The spar shop worked with Precision Pipe Fabricators in Aberdeen to manufacturer some of the hardware required by the production. The work was completed a year ago, in time for filming.
“It was pretty hectic for a while, but we delivered what our customer wanted on time and on budget,” said Kent Wall, spar shop manager.
“Water for Elephants” tells the story of a veterinary student (Pattinson) who abandons his studies after his parents are killed and joins a traveling circus as their vet.
NOTE: Yes, I misspelled Aberdeen in an earlier version of this post. It’s especially embarrassing because my mother is from there. Yes, I am ashamed and deserve your slings and arrows.