Last Prop Links in June

Behind the Scenes of the 2017 Season. Episode Two: But What If – The Santa Fe Opera is producing a series of videos going behind the scenes of their summer season. The second episode focuses on production, and features a lot of the people in the props shop that I have worked with and miss greatly.

Pretty Little Liars prop master Chris Vail explains season 7’s sinister hacker device – The Verge looks at some of the crazy prop devices invented for the final season of Pretty Little Liars. I posted a similar article last month, but this one delves into the actual construction methods and specific materials used to build them.

Building a 13-Foot Long Robot Dinosaur “Watcher” Costume from Horizon Zero Dawn – Spectral Motion constructed a giant robot dinosaur costume slash puppet to interact with guests at E3, the popular annual video game conference. The video shows the process from cardboard model to final piece.

Skyrim Dragonbone Sword Prop – How To – Dogless brings us plenty of photographs to show how he constructed this unique weapon from the Skyrim video game. He used MDF, Sintra, and a bit of 3D printing to bring his prop to life.

WWII Provisions

In 1942, Life Magazine published an article on the logistics of supplying the US Army. This is a good glimpse at the items one would find on Army bases and with soldiers during World War II. Many of these items are still easy to find or make, so it makes a short task of adding props and set dressing to your wartime play or musical. Photographs by Myron H. Davis.

World War II Supplies
World War II Supplies
World War II Supplies
World War II Supplies

“Logistics: It Is the Science of Supplying an Army.” Life 22 June 1942: 65-75. Google Books. Web. 27 June 2017. <https://books.google.com/books?id=KFAEAAAAMBAJ>.

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.

Making and finding props for theatre, film, and hobbies