“A prop has infinite possibilities.” This video on how to use props in film is geared toward filmmakers, but it’s great for props people to see how their work contributes to the larger production.
Graham Owen makes bugs for films. Since 2006, he has been constructing realistic insect replicas for films such as The Amazing Spider-Man, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Salt and more. He made the fly in that one episode of Breaking Bad. Talk about a creating a niche for yourself.
Make has 5 indispensable shop hacks. Some I’ve heard of before, others I need to try out soon. They’re mostly woodworking related, but Make has plenty of other articles on shop and tool hacks you can get to from here.
Today’s post is guest written by Jay Duckworth. Last Saturday was the yearly New York City Props Summit, which Jay has been hosting at the Public Theater for the last seven years.
Musings from the Prop Summit
by Jay Duckworth
That very familiar “buzz, buzz” hits my phone: “I’m leaving. Don’t abandon Rebecca, okay?” It’s Sara, the prop shop manager.
“I’ll be down shortly. Thank you for all your help.” The Props Summit started 20 minutes ago but I ran away to the upstairs bathroom because I was getting panicky with social anxiety. I love talking to students; students actually want to hear what you have to say, and they listen to each word. But downstairs were my peers: Broadway prop masters, The Metropolitan Opera, SUNY Purchase, Yale, Emerson, the theater where I first prop mastered, crafts people, Julliard, Rosco, Spaeth, Costume Armor… it was a lot of people. I finally came downstairs, grabbed a juice box and snuck in.
After an hour of wine, beer, and way too much cheese, we went into the Newman theater and took over the first couple rows of seats. I welcomed everyone to the 7th annual Props Summit, and we went around and said who we were and what we did. We usually have speakers, but this was the first year in seven that I was able to take a two week vacation; I apologized that I was so lax this year and asked for volunteers to help with next year’s Summit.
I opened the doors to questions or concerns that the group had. Some of the younger people were worried about getting work once they graduated and Buist Bickley immediately said that if you are good and pleasant to be around, you can get work. Scott Laule, the props master at MTC, interjected with, “You also have to be on time for God’s sake, and at least be a little normal.”
Other people spoke about internships and getting work outside of regular theater. Emily Morrisey, who works at the event company Imagination, said they are looking for crafts people all the time. It was the same with Spaeth.
Chad Tiller from Rosco spoke about fire retardants and how to approach situations where people don’t have a great concept of what it means to make something fire-retardant vs fire-proof.
Jen McClure spoke about how encouraging it was to see so many young women out and asked them to push themselves out of their comfort zone and go for jobs that seem well out of their reach, because in the end they may not be. That lead into a brain storming session about resumes and what to include and to be as honest as possible. No one is going to be everything, but be honest about your skills. If you are a good portrait painter, don’t say you are great; you will waste time and give yourself a bad rep. We hit on a few more topics and then adjourned back into the props shop for more wine, beer, and cheese.
Every year it just gets better and better. We meet more people and the prop world becomes a little smaller. Ron DeMarco gathered up his students and former students to take a picture; I wish I had done the same with my former interns. It seems that sometimes I only get to see some of these good folk at the Summit, and the rest of the year we communicate with phone calls and emails. I hope that if you haven’t come out to the Summit, you do next year. I’ll most likely be late to it, but now you know why.
Cassandra West talks with Greg Poljacik, inventor of Gravity & Momentum, which may be “the finest stage blood in the world.” I’ve heard from other prop masters that it truly is a remarkable fake blood, and washes out of nearly everything.
This article originally appeared in a 1920 issue of Hettinger’s Dental News. Yes, it was actually a longer advertisement to update your dental equipment.
“All the world’s a stage,” but-thank goodness-we can choose our own “props.” Stage props, properties-if you will insist on full-grown English-are all the movables on deck-the flying trapeze of the Figuaro Family, the glass tank of the Diving Venus, the revolver which barks out the villain’s doom in the last act, the chaise longe, the Victrola, the floor lamp, etc., which indicate: “Living room of the Van Flatter’s apartment. Time: present.”
Now suppose you went to the theatre to see that play in which the Van Flatter’s apartment figured in the story. Suppose there were an accident, or misunderstanding, or something behind the scenes, so that when the time came for the stage hands to shove on the chaise longe, Victrola, etc., they couldn’t be found; and they had to hurriedly run on an old set, of the Hazel Kirke period.
The actors would come on in their 1920 attire. The indiscreet Mrs. Van Flatter would lounge back on an 1880 horsehair sofa, smoking a cigarette, and say to the too attentive young Reginald; “Step on the accelerator, Reggie. Give us some jazz.”
And Reggie would step center-left to a brown walnut parlor organ, full of gingerbread trimmings. Then he’d pull out a few stops and do the Zippanola-Rippanola Rag in hymn time-the only tempo the old relic could wheeze out.
Of course such a ridiculous thing couldn’t happen-at least it’s not apt to; and what has this all to do with you, anyway? Just this:
It’s just as ridiculous to try to perform 1920 dentistry with “props” of 1880 as to perform a twentieth century play with nineteenth century stage settings.
“1920 ‘Props’ for 1920.” Hettinger’s Dental News Jan. 1920: 4. Google Books. Web. 25 Aug. 2015.
Greetings from tech rehearsals for the first show of the season here at Triad Stage. We’re starting off with Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. The props are very pretty. But let’s talk about what the rest of the internet is doing.
Did you know Abercrombie & Fitch used to sell camping gear? They did. And Internet Archive has one of their catalogs from 1916 available for viewing online. If you wanted to know what kinds of duffel bags or what sort of provisions they carried in the early twentieth century, this is your resource.