Prop Links from the Past and Present

Prop Master: How a “Star Wars” Superfan Scoured the Earth for Space Debris – Collectors Weekly has a fascinating article about Brandon Alinger and how he amassed a large collection of movie props from iconic 80s blockbusters. He got his start at age 17 when he convinced his parents to take him to Tunisia to scour the desert for props and set pieces left behind from Star Wars.

San Diego Opera to sell studio to help stabilize finances – In order to reach a more sustainable budget, the San Diego Opera is selling the building which holds their scene and paint shop. It sounds like they were not really using the whole building, so they are selling it and then leasing the portion they actually need. From what I’ve heard online, none of their staff are being laid off either.

Talking Craft Beer With the Prop Master From HBO’s ‘Silicon Valley’ – This interview with Jared Scardina, the props master on Silicon Valley, delves into how much thought and effort goes into choosing what kind of beer a character should drink.

Props, Past To Present – Ian McPherson looks at prop building skills from the past and present and wonders if they can exist side-by-side. This article comes from the new “Theatre Art Life,” which features articles written by live entertainment industry professionals.

Odin Makes: Thor’s Helmet from Thor: Ragnarok – This video shows how Odin makes a super-quick and super-cheap foam version of the helmet from the upcoming Thor: Ragnarok. He goes from patterning to painting in this one.

Papier-mâché Stage Properties, 1905

The following instructions for creating props from paper-mache comes from a 1905 book, but the techniques remain virtually unchanged over a hundred years later:

Papier-mâché, as its name proclaims, is of French origin. Good examples are still to be found in many French buildings of the sixteenth century. The grand trophies and heraldic devices in the Hall of the Council of Henri II. in the Louvre, as well as the decorations at St Germain and the Hotel des Fermes, on their ceilings and walls, are executed in papier-mâché. In 1730 a church built entirely of papier-mâché was erected at Hoop, near Bergen, in Norway…

Papier-mâché Stage Properties.—Modellers and plasterers often find employment in the property rooms of theatres in modelling, moulding, and making masks, heads of animals (the bodies are made of wicker work), and architectural decorations for solid or built scenes. Papier-mâché properties are produced from plaster piece moulds. Large sheets of brown and blue sugar paper are pasted on both sides, then folded up to allow the paste to thoroughly soak in. The first part of the paper process is known as a “water coat.” This is sugar paper soaked in water and torn in small pieces and laid all over the face of the mould, to prevent the actual paper work from adhering. The brown paper is then torn into pieces about 2 inches square, and laid over the water coat, and coats of sugar paper are laid in succession in a similar way until of sufficient thickness to ensure the requisite strength. The various pieces of paper are laid with the joints overlapped. Care must be taken that each coat of paper is well pressed and rubbed into the crevices with the fingers, and a brush, cloth, or sponge, so as to work out the air and obtain perfect cohesion between each layer of paper, and form a correct impress of the mould. After being dried before a fire, the paper cast is taken out of the mould, trimmed up, and painted. A clever man can, by the use of different colours and a little hair, give quite a different appearance to a mask, so that several, taken out of the same mould, will each look quite different. The use of different coloured papers enables any part of the previous coat that may not be covered to be seen and made good. Some property men do not use a water coat, but dry the mould, and then oil or dust the surface with French chalk to prevent the cast sticking to the mould. Others simply paste one side only of the sugar paper that is used for the first coat…

Paste is made with flour and cold water well worked together, then boiling water is poured on, and the mass well stirred.

 Millar, William. Plastering: Plain and Decorative. 3rd ed. London: B. T. Batsford, 1905. Google Books. 14 July 2011. Web. 20 June 2017. <https://books.google.com/books?id=iOVZAAAAYAAJ>. P399-400.

Friday’s Favorite Prop Links

From bloodied volleyballs to memory loss neuralyzers: designers’ favourite film props – A number of designers in the graphics, architecture, and advertising world talk about their favorite prop from a movie. It’s an interesting look at the design of iconic props from the perspective of those in design fields outside of film and performing arts.

Stranger Things VFX Supervisor on Making Monster Mayhem – This interview with Marc Kolbe, supervisor of the visual effects team, delves into the bizarre and unique world of Stranger Things. As with many visual effects teams these days, Marc is in charge of both the practical and digital effects, which allows him to use both to their full advantage and have them play off each other.

My Career as a Freelance Prop Maker – Melanie Wing has been a freelance prop maker in the UK for the past 12 years. In this interview, she talks about her training and how her career began.

Replica ‘Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’ car stolen from theater supply company – A TO Z Theatrical Supply and Service in Kansas City built a replica of this iconic vehicle to rent out to high schools and community theatres who perform this show. It was stolen from their warehouse last week. So if you see this car flying through the air, let them know.

New Source of Blood, 1828

The following comes from an 1828 newspaper article. I’m guessing this sort of thing is frowned upon these days:

The following anecdote is told of a certain irritable tragedian. He was playing Macbeth, and had rushed off to kill Duncan, when there was no blood for the Thane to steep his hands in. “The blood! the blood!” exclaimed he to the agitated property-man, who had forgotten it; the actor, however, not to disappoint the audience, clenched his fist, and, striking the property-man a violent blow upon his nose, coolly washed his hands in the stream of gore that burst from it, and re-entered with the usual words, “I have done the deed – didst thou not hear a noise?”

“Tragedy.” Eastern Argus [Portland, Maine] 24 Oct. 1828: n. pag. Elon University. Web. 14 June 2017.

Friday Prop Links

How to be a theatre animal prop maker – The Stage talks with Paul Robbens, who makes animals for companies like Royal Shakespeare Company, Royal Opera House, and Shakespeare’s Globe. Also check out “How to be a costume prop maker for theatre” if you can make it past the paywall.

QUAKE 3 Railgun Replica Prop – BricoGeek shares a video of how he constructed a real-life version of a railgun from the Quake 3 video game. The body is mostly 3D printed. The electronics inside are impressive, with lights and sounds taken directly from the game. I also love how well-thought out the assembly process was, leaving all the electronics accessible.

How U.S. Counterfeit Laws Impact Hollywood Prop Money – Here is a good history of how movie money evolved to remain legal under counterfeit laws. These hold true for theater as well; make no mistake, the Secret Service has paid a visit to more than one theater in this country.

Use a Vinyl Cutter to Design Stencils for Spray Painting – Make Magazine presents tips and tricks for creating paint stencils on a vinyl cutter.

This Insane Dungeons & Dragons Model Is a Work of Art – Ryan Devoto has constructed a vast and intricate fantasy world for use with Dungeons and Dragons figurines. Though I’ve heard some nerd criticisms that this model is not actually playable, you can still spend hours just examining every detail.

Making and finding props for theatre, film, and hobbies