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.

Nothing a Property Man Can Not Make, 1871

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

Bona-fide stage furniture is easily distinguished from the kind that people use in real life. In its ornamentation it is especially rich and rare. The idea in manufacturing this species of goods is to avoid a conflict with any given age or time, and in this it is successful, for it is unlike anything that is or ever has been. Wonder has often been expressed concerning the makers of this furniture. It is the joint handiwork of the Property Man and the stage carpenter; and when it is remembered that oftener than not these worthies know as much about cabinet-making as they do about the economy of the steam engine, the wonder really should be that the furniture is as good as it is. But there is this peculiarity about a Property Man, that there is nothing he can not make—after some fashion. In the Adrienne case above mentioned the man had not time, or he would have manufactured a set of “Louis Quatorze” furniture calculated to make that monarch turn in his grave. There would have been plenty of paint and Dutch metal upon it, and a great many people would have thought it a great deal finer than the real thing.

It is hard to say what class of work gives the Property Man the most trouble. When a burlesque or show piece is produced there is a quantity of special preparation to be made, which at first sight would be the most troublesome of his labors. Take such a piece as the Naaid Queen. All the masks, the marine productions of every sort, are furnished by the Property Man. Of course they have to be made, for no shop in Christendom deals in such wares. Such things are often quite elegant in design, and show the Property Man to be something of an artist, just as he is at other times carpenter, machinist, and chemist. To no man can the legend, “Jack of all trades, and master of none,” be applied with as much propriety as to him.

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

Hollywood Below the Line: A Prop Master's Perspective by Steven M. Levine

Book Review: Hollywood From Below the Line: A Prop Master’s Perspective

When I was writing my Prop Building Guidebook, I gathered together all the other books I could find that dealt with the world of props. I looked at everything from antique books to self-published pamphlets. While I could find many books on theatrical props, I found nothing written about film or television props. Sure, there were books showing pictures of the props, or maybe a bit of “behind-the-scenes” stuff tucked into a “making-of” book about a specific movie, but no books existed that were written by a film props master or for a film props master. So when I heard Steven M. Levine was publishing a book about his life as a Hollywood props master, I pre-ordered it and eagerly awaited its arrival. Continue reading

Friday Links

Head on over to Carnegie Mellon to see Jon Ward and his props team in action.

Folkenstal has a cool build log for an orc helmet from Elder Scrolls Online. He uses an interesting technique of wrapping Worbla around card stock pattern pieces.

In episode 6 of the Woodlawn production diaries, Will Drummond, the props master, shows how they turn an empty storefront into a period barbecue restaurant, complete with smoking ribs.

Screws by XKCD
Screws by XKCD

Interview with Patrick Drone

The following is one of several interviews conducted by students of Ron DeMarco’s properties class at Emerson College.

Patrick Drone

by Dorcas Thete

Patrick Drone
Patrick Drone

How long have you been at the University of Michigan?

I have been here for nine years. I’ve had three different job titles. I have been the properties manager for two and a half years, which entails more of the administrative side of props, where I deal more with students and professors. Before that I was the associate properties manager for four years. I worked hand in hand with the props master; we would rotate on shows to cut down on burnout. I was hired at UMich as the properties artisans manager, I worked more on individual projects. Continue reading

Making and finding props for theatre, film, and hobbies