Prop Time Links

Warner Brothers has a huge prop and costume warehouse hidden somewhere outside of London. CNN brings you some of the first pictures from inside, showing us props from films such as Harry Potter, the Batman series and Gravity. Don’t forget to check out the video as well.

Propnomicon does a great job showing us some of the best props from the Cthulhu mythos and similar realms.  But this one time, he found this faux-antique vampire-killing kit that was so horribly done that he just went to town criticizing every aspect of it. From the random screwdriver gouging and haphazard use of a blowtorch, to the over-reliance on upholstery tacks, this prop has it all. It is actually a good lesson on what not to do when ageing your props. It’s very distressing.

Olivia O’Connor used to be a prop maker in Sydney, working on films such as The Wolverine and Mad Max: Fury Road. But she’s given that all up and now carves rocking horses out of wood on her parents’ farm in south Gippsland. It’s amazing what you can do with the skills you pick up as a prop maker.

The Spaeth Design website has a whole slew of videos up giving a behind the scenes look at their shop. They have a couple of episodes of “Making Magic at Spaeth Design”, where they look at the various departments and people who work there. Spaeth Design is the New York company that builds animated window displays for companies that include or have included Macys, Lord & Taylor and Saks Fifth Avenue.

Hand Props, 1871

The following is taken from an article which first appeared in The Daily Evening Telegraph in 1871:

We have left ourselves little room to speak of the “hand props.” They are literally almost infinite. Whatever is used in life is needed to show the “very body of the age” upon the mimic scene. The depository of these cheap wonders is always on the prompt side, and as near the first entrance as possible. It is called the property-room, and while in it the subject of our sketch owes no allegiance, or at least pays none, to the stage manager himself. There are other rooms for the storage of larger articles, and such things as are not continually in demand.

Unless the Property Man is a person of great method, the “props” are apt to become scattered all over the theatre. There are such numbers of them, and almost every fresh piece so adds to the numbers, that unless they are ruthlessly weeded out at short intervals, they fill every available corner of stage room. Some property men are like certain housekeepers—they hate to destroy anything, thinking that some time it may turn to be of use. In that case the man keeps on filling up the place until he can’t find anything or can’t turn around. He then leaves in disgust, and another official coming in has a grand house-cleaning.

As regards “hand props” our man has a nightly list of articles, on what scene they are to be used, and by whom. The call-boy furnishes these articles to the proper parties, and collects them afterwards and returns them to the property-room. The rule is that calls shall be made in the green-room, and that the boy shall hand the “props” required to the individual at the time of calling him. In fact, however, the actor prefers to personally look up his props, so as to have a little more margin of time than the call would give him. But green-room matters, although important, scarcely belong to the subject under consideration.

Originally published in The Daily Evening Telegraph, Philadelphia, May 12, 1871, pg 5.

Super Fun Link Time

Creative England interviews props master Michael Betts. He worked on a number of television and film projects over in the UK, most notably the entire run of A Touch of Frost, which aired for nearly twenty years. He talks about his career and gives advice to young props people starting out. For those of us in the US, their studio system seems vastly different from what we are used to, and the comparison is quite fascinating.

“Super-Fan Builds” follows prop maker Tim Baker as he leads a team of builders who constructs one-of-a-kind items for the homes of superfans. His latest is a doghouse modeled after the house from Up, complete with floating balloons.

For a bit of fun, see how well you do in this quiz to match the sofa to the sitcom. It is interesting to see set photos of well-known sitcoms sans actors, so you can really focus on the design and selection of all the props and set dressing.

Finally, we have two stories on houses lost in time and preserved until the present. The first is this great series of photographs on the “Cloud House”, a Welsh farmhouse which has been abandoned for years and contains trinkets and artifacts from decades past. The second is this 1950s kitchen which has been pristinely preserved all these years without any updates or modifications.

Friday Rehearsal Notes

Vulture visits the set-building factory for Saturday Night Live. Check out some great photographs and insights into how Eugene Lee and his team of designers create sets from scratch in only a day or two.

Tested visits the Jim Henson Creature Shop and gives us this great sixteen minute video. What I love about the Creature Shop (other than how awesome their puppets are) is how Jim Henson started out with simple hand puppets in the mid-50s, and today the company is on the leading-edge of animatronic creature design.

Rania Peet has some great projects over on her Instructables page, where she shows off the work she does as a Halloween haunt builder. I particularly like this chasing marquee “Freak Show” sign and these giant mushrooms.

If you love getting obsessive over the details on your paper props, check out the Passport Stamps and Visas group on Flickr. It’s chock full of interior pages of passports from around the world, as well as a few exterior covers as well.

Making and finding props for theatre, film, and hobbies