In the world of film and television, every single element you see on screen is purposeful and planned. We often admire the use of camera angles, storylines and performance when we watch our favorite films, but how often do you give attention to the set design? It is often assumed that everything you see is true to scale and a real place, but more often than not, the world is completely fabricated by a team of talented prop designers.

Now, if you grew up to become a passionate scale modeler, you may have been raised in a household with a little TV and a large DVD collection. Or maybe you just simply grew up as someone who admires the connections between model-making, film-making and cinematography. In the film industry, model making is often one of the most valuable aspects of creative storytelling. Even in the world of CGI and Artificial Intelligence, the intricacy of hand-made scale modeling is often key to creating the most authentic and detailed props on film sets.

The craft of miniature modeling is a special effect that the film industry has relied on since the beginning of television itself. The level of creativity and attention to detail needed to create scenery for film is impressive and can often be overlooked by the viewer.

In this blog, you’ll discover the impact left on the film industry through the eyes of three inspiring modeling and prop makers: Simon Weisse, Simon Atherton and Adam Whitney Savage.


  1. Introduction to Film Modelling and Prop Making
  2. The Builder behind Asteroid City: Simon Weisse
  3. The Creator of Weapons and Armour: Simon Atherton
  4. From MythBuster to Prop Artist: Adam Whitney Savage
  5. Did You Know?
  6. Summary

The Builder behind Asteroid City

Let’s start this blog by giving credit to a film director who is renowned for using dioramas and handmade miniatures in his films, Wes Anderson. In Anderson’s films, the use of miniature models is essential to the creation of his highly recognisable cinema aesthetic and set design. The person behind the creation of these delicate, detailed and hand-crafted models is Simon Weisse. Weisse was born in 1962 and raised in Berlin, by a father who knew his way around a film studio. After attending art school, Weisse took ownership of his very own model making studio, which gave him the tools needed to make some of his very first models used in film. In 1994, some of Weisse’s first pieces were used for the film The Neverending Story Part 2. He continued to produce miniatures for a variety of other films before meeting Wes Anderson prior to the production of The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014). Since 2014, Weisse has worked on a list of highly successful Wes Anderson films, including Isle of Dogs, The French Dispatch and his recent film, Asteroid City.

Image: Simon Weisse and the miniature model of The Grand Budapest Hotel.

The Creator of Weapons and Armour

Another noteworthy “Simon” in the film industry is, Simon Atherton. Artherton is an armorer who is known for making weapons as props in a variety of famous movies, including the 1992 film Alien 3, Saving Private Ryan and Gladiator. The weapons he worked on included: guns, swords, backpacks and crossbows.

Artherton was born in Britain, starting his career as a film and television armorer at the age of 16 when he was living in England. He scored his very first job in the entertainment industry in 1977, where he worked on the television series ‘Secret Army.

In the 1980’s, Artherton then joined Bapty & Co, the prop house known for working on Indiana Jones and Aliens. During the set designing for Aliens, Atherton was the principle model designer and builder of the famous Pulse Rifle which was used throughout the film. Atherton also works alongside the stunt department to ensure his weapons and armor is realistic and practical as if it were a real-life, fully functioning object.

Image: The Pulse Rifle: Prop designed by Simon Artheron

From MythBuster to Prop Artist

This may not come as a surprise, but we can't complete this blog without mentioning the man of many talents, Adam Whitney Savage. Beyond his role as a co-host on the popular TV show “MythBusters”, Savage is a talented prop builder with an incredible attention to detail and a passion for creating realistic special effects.

Adam Savage was born in 1967 and decided to go down the path of graphic design in the 1980’s before moving to San Francisco in 1990 and continuing his work on prop design and miniature modeling. In the late 90’s, Savage worked on the set design and props for films including: Galaxy Quest, Bicentennial Man, Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones, The Mummy. Further working on The Matrix Reloaded, and Space Cowboys in the early 2000’s.

In 2003, Savage became a co-host on the new show MythBusters, a show by which Savage demonstrated his ability to make functional prototypes and run scientific experiments. MythBusters ran from 2003 through to 2016.

Savage is a winner of many Emmy Awards and has undoubtedly left a mark on the film and television industry.

Image: Adam Savage Tested-One Day Builds

Did You Know?

  • The model of the The Grand Budapest Hotel seen in the film was considerably larger than imagined at; 4 meters wide and 3 meters tall.
  • Simon Weisse and his team of model makers spent months building 20 models for The French Dispatch.
  • For the film “Clash of the Titans”, Simon Atherton modeled and designed more than 900 different weapons with his team.


It is evident that the model makers behind the scenes remain unseen, however their incredible talents and craftsmanship has always been respected in the world of miniature modeling.

In the end, it's the dedication and commitment that goes into the art of prop building and set design that truly gives filmmakers the ability to transport the audience into the world of storytelling. Next time you watch The Grand Budapest Hotel, Aliens or Star Wars, take a moment to remember the faces of Simon Weisse, Simon Atherton and Adam Savage.

All miniature modelers and prop designers must start somewhere, which is why Ninesteps industries is here for you no matter your passion or your experience. Beginning a new hobby starts with having the perfect tool kit. You can find our range of affordable and quality tools here.

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