If your film is set in the 1940s (or any period), does the audience believe it? Obviously the costumes are part of the overall production design, so don't skimp on making it look real. Do online research for photographs from the period. Much of the clothing up until the 1950s, were made of heavier cloth and certainly not the stretch fabrics of today. 1940s military uniforms were akin to wearing sackcloth. Trips to Salvation Army or other thrift stores yield absolute bargains and you will often find 1960s era coats in a heavier fabric.
Costumes on a low budget
Accurate WW2 costumes are hard to get and the reproductions, whilst accurate, are fairly expensive for a complete ensemble ($350-$500 for a German outfit). We team up with local military reenactors who are very well versed in all the minute detail needed for WW2 era uniforms and kit. Many reenactors will rent their gear and we used two on our Scheldt feature film to act as coordinators for German and Canadian background cast. We also rented gear from IMS in Vancouver who ship military costumes all over North America.
Do actors know how to use their gear?
Make sure you train your cast how a soldier should use and handle their gear including how to adjust web gear, helmets. Its easy to see the films where an actor is only wearing the costume vs being a soldier. Another key point, much like actors really reading a book or drinking real coffee - equipment with foam in the pouches looks just like that. Military web gear is heavy when fully loaded (35lbs and up!) so fill the packs and pouches with weight.
They look too clean!
This is a common complaint. Many films show soldiers who look like they just came from a training depot rather than having spent 4 weeks in a trench. Have your cast wear the costume all day. Don't hang it up after each day - just leave it in a crumpled pile or in a garbage bag. Wrinkled clothing with sagging pockets is the most authentic. Don't overdo the mud and dirt either! Soldiers are particular about trying NOT to get dirty - they have to live in muck and filth so they try their best to avoid it.
Military costumes, War films, period costumes
Make Movie Prop Gun Realism Without Breaking the Bank
We've all seen amazing movie prop gun fx and blank gun shootouts that look and sound amazing. Think of the gun battle scene in Michael Mann's 'HEAT' or the beach scene in 'SAVING PRIVATE RYAN'. Ok, these films used mega budgets and real weapons with blanks, managed by skilled weapons handlers and not little Indie films. Small productions can however achieve similar results with a few small and inexpensive methods:
Talent Firearms Training
Talent who are not comfortable or don't know how to realistically handle prop firearms are both unsafe and look bad (unless the character is supposed to be a gun noob!). Our tips are:
Realistic Prop Guns
Obviously a dollar store $2 plastic toy is going to look like an el-cheapo film prop. Different weapons have nuances when the operated. Automatic pistols have a slide that moves back and forwards when fired; automatic rifles have a bolt that moves; hunting rifles need a bolt to be operated and so on.
Help your Post FX Artist
As seen in the image above, some real weapons have a massive muzzle flash in low light conditions. In daylight, the same weapon may have zero or minimal muzzle flash.
Check out the folks at ParaLightWorx in Germany who do great work with replica weapons for WW2 short films. Their 6 minute single take video is one of the best we've seen lately for weapon effects (all 5.1M views!) which are all VFX (except the grenade explosion).
When you cover a tank in sheets of white cardboard to make it look like a United Nations vehicle, you pray it doesn't rain. But it does.....all day long on your only shooting day! Luckily the budget set dressing doesn't fall off and you manage to get all your scenes of an indie war film.
Making Indie films is hard enough. Making indie war films are even harder, especially when you try to do more than a few pals running around the woods in reenactor uniforms. Here are a few tips of the trade for budget war films.