Now that Faceoff is into its third season it is safe to say that SyFy has found a niche and filled it. They have added to their roster of unscripted reality competition shows another one that goes behind the scenes of the film and television industry; that of production design. Following the same format of Faceoff, Hot Set pits two production designers against each other in the competition format. The series has its premiere this Tuesday night, September 18 at 10/9c.
In the show two production designers and their teams have three days to turn a small space into a predetermined design of the judges' choosing. With a budget of $15,000, access to special effects houses in Hollywood and the limitations of their own creativity they turn these spaces into a working movie set. A film crew then films the scripted scene and the judges then choose the best of the two and the winner walks away with $10,000 prize money.
The three judges are Curt Beech (The Social Network and Star Trek), Lilly Kilvert (The Last Samurai and Legends of the Fall) and Barry Robison (X-Men Origins and The Chronicles of Narnia). Curt and Barry have been Art Director's Guild nominees and Lilly has been an Oscar nominee. They have a clear idea of what they expect from the competitors and look for it when judging the finished sets at the end.
In the premiere episode the competing designers must create a hostile alien landscape; the site of a devastating crash landing. A lone surviving astronaut surveys the scene around him and comes to the realization that he is all alone on this alien planet. The concepts are radically different. Luckily both designers take different approaches to building their sets so we get to see two different methods to building a set. I love the practicality of it all; building something from scratch with real building materials. When so much can be done with a computer these days I appreciate that this show focuses on practical building techniques.
I said in my preview of this year's Faceoff premiere that I was always fascinated with the behind the scenes working of film making so a show like this, outside of the banality of the reality competition aspect, scratches that old itch. I wish a show like this was around when I was in high school because who knows where its influence would have lead. Had I come to the understanding of the creative processes involved in effects makeup and/or production design earlier in life I may have been able to pursue that. And now, for someone like myself in a younger generation, who could spend hours upon hours doodling and imagining crazy creatures, landscapes, tech and hardware, who knows what influence this show may have.
Yes, I am lifting this show up above the muck and mire of its reality television format but if home video extras can do it, influence someone to take up an art form, then why not a reality competition show like Hot Set?