Friday Prop Links

“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-ManThe Curious Case of Benjamin ButtonSalt 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.

Finally, if you like original movie props, check out Tested’s video tour of Prop Store’s original movie prop collection. One day, I’d like to see a video of someone’s original theatre prop collection.

Musings from the Prop Summit

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.

2015 NYC Props Summit
2015 NYC Props Summit

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.

Listening to Carrie Mossman
Listening to Carrie Mossman

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.

Jay Duckworth

Jay Duckworth is the props master at the Public Theater and host of the annual New York Props Summit.  You can see his work at


Friday Props are Tops

Good news and great article: 20th Century Props is reopening. It was one of Hollywood’s largest prop houses when it closed down six years ago, but it’s back now thanks to booming business in LA.

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.

The MacGyver Project has a new interview with Pat O’Brien, the prop master on MacGyver (a show which often serves as a metaphor for a prop master’s job). It’s remarkable how much he remembers about the props on a show that aired thirty years ago.

Though you can find tons of information about building your own R2-D2 throughout the internet, I really like the photographs in 2StoryProp’s build log of this famous movie droid.

Finally, meet Björk’s mask maker. There is not a lot of information on James Merry, but you can see plenty of photographs of his beautiful hand-embroidered lace creations.

1920 ‘Props’ for 1920

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.

Friday Tech Notes

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.

The first big news is that the Society of Properties Artisan Managers has started a Facebook group open to all professional props people, old and new. While the organization itself remains reserved for full-time managers of prop shops, the group is a chance for prop makers and masters of all types to meet and talk shop.

Get Surrey has a news article on Graeme Lougher, a prop maker who has built props for everything from Harry Potter to Red Dwarf.

Make Magazine had two cool sculpting items recently. First, Emily Coleman shows us how to sculpt a fantasy owl with armature wire, Apoxie Sculpt and Sculpey. Second is this great video of Chris Johnson sculpting a monster.

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.

Finally, this is pretty cool if you’re into cosplay. The makers of the upcoming Horizon Zero Dawn have released a comprehensive guide for cosplaying the main character. It has construction details for all the little accessories and clear views of all her props.

Making and finding props for theatre, film, and hobbies