The Blog of Eternal Prop Links

Hollywood is Running Out of Tombstones, according to this article from Bloomberg, featuring the world’s worst stock photo. So much film and television is being produced these days that prop rental companies are running out of stock, studio spaces are booked to the max, and production crew is impossible to find. If you wanted to work in props, this article makes it seem like all you have to do is move to Atlanta or Los Angeles. Do any of my readers have any first-hand knowledge to back that up? I’d love to hear about it.

Food styling for photography is always interesting, and Tienlon Ho wrote an article about how it is changing. Gone are the days of mashed potatoes for ice cream. Ho talks with master food stylist Delores Custer about the tricks of the trade and how they are evolving.

Playmakers Rep’s production of Sweeney Todd features some interesting paper masks during the masquerade scene. Rachel Pollack details how the costume crafts shop brought them to life for designer Bill Brewer.

Popular Woodworking has a list of the 16 dumbest woodworking mistakes, along with a link to their magazine article where they go into more detail. Let’s see… yep, I’ve done all of these.

The House of Eternal Return in Santa Fe sounds like an amazing experience. Owned by George RR Martin and run by artist collective Meow Wolf, it’s a massive Victorian house that may have just slipped into another dimension. Reminiscent of Sleep No More, with some elements of Escape Games, the house is designed for visitors to freely roam, explore, and interact with all the props and furniture. It’s a prop builder’s paradise.

Prop-a-palooza

Butcher John Wildenborg has become a meat expert for Hollywood. He started with providing meats for Fargo and evolved into becoming an on-set butcher consultant. He now supplies meat and meat-related props to a number of Hollywood films and shows.

Speaking of butchers, two high school students were hospitalized after having their necks cut with razors during a performance of Sweeney Todd.  As with most news stories of prop mishaps, the details are confused. It appears they were using real razors that were filed down and wrapped in duct tape. These stories are always presented the same way; a spokesperson gives all the reasons and excuses why this shouldn’t have happened. They list all the precautions they took and safety measures in place. But the simple fact that an accident did happen points to a problem somewhere. But no one ever reveals what those problems are.

Miss USITT this year? Stage Directions has a lengthy roundup of the conference, along with tons of videos. A lot of them have to do with lighting and sound, which is true of the conference in general. Hey, props may have the skills, but lights pay the bills.

Speaking of USITT, they released a statement on the surprise HB2 bill that recently passed here in North Carolina. They join SETC, who released their own statement last week. SETC is actually headquartered in North Carolina, just down the street from me, and will feel the effects of this horrendous piece of legislation. They did not go as far as Stephen Schwartz, who has banned productions of his musicals (such as WickedPippin, and Godspell) in North Carolina while the bill is in place.

Speaking of bad musicals, Syracuse.com has a great piece on the chandelier in the touring production of Phantom of the OperaIt rocks, it crashes, it has pyro, and it sucks in silks. They have a great diagram of the massive prop, but the image is too low-res to make out the text. Luckily, you can head to the webpage of the diagram’s artist, Jeff Hinchee, to see a bigger version.

No Fooling with These Stories

Cinefex has a very awesome and very thorough look at the use of puppets in cinema.  They cover the history from 1906’s The Witch all the way up to Star Wars: The Force Awakens. The article also features interviews with a whole bunch of practical effects artists using puppets in film.

“Once you have the basic set of tools and know how to use them, your work will dictate the specialty tools you might need.” Chris Schwartz reminds us that the most common tools are the most useful. Rare tools are rare either because they are commercial failures or they have highly specialized uses. When buying your tools, be sure you have the ability to do the tasks you do on a daily or weekly basis before you buy the tools that you will only use once a year.

The New York Times takes us backstage at the Metropolitan Opera in this fantastic photo essay showing the lead up to the first performance of Roberto Devereux.

The Daily Record takes a glimpse into the props stock at Central Washington University. They talk with David Barnett, who runs the stock and props the shows, as well as Marc Haniuk, who teaches a props class every year.

Yahoo TV talks with John Sanders, prop master on The Walking Dead, to learn more about Daryl Dixon’s motorcycle on the show. They claim it’s “everything you need to know”; I don’t know if that’s true, but it’s certainly all you could possibly care to know.

The Elephant Kicks, 1891

This article first appeared in an 1891 newspaper. The elephant discussed here was built by famed Met Opera technical director Edward Siedle.

Actor DeWolf Hopper’s big elephant that drinks a quart of beer every night and on Saturday afternoons at the Broadway Theater, threatens to become troublesome to the management, says the New York Sun. The elephant has been kicking vigorously for a week past. The kick comes from the elephant’s hindquarters. In order to understand the full significance of the insubordinate behavior it is necessary to explain that in private life the “Wang” elephant is Mr. James Flynn and Mr. Mike Stevens Holahan. Mr. Flynn is the accomplished front legs and beer-drinking trunk of the elephant, and Mr. Holahan is the hind legs, and it is he who initiated the kicking. Mr. Flynn shows a disposition to join in the protest, and favors an elephantine strike.

When he is not the hind legs Mr. Holahan is the property-man of the opera company. He has to look after the costumes and wax candles, spears, bits of cut paper, Wang’s treasure-chest, and a lot of other miscellaneous stuffs used in the stage production. He was requested the other night to work on Sundays, too, and look after the distribution of display posters along Broadway on that day, and to paste the posters on the bill-boards. He intimated that this was crowding him a trifle too much, and that he did not propose to dabble in paste-pots at all. The matter was compromised by hiring a professional bill-poster to do the work.

Mr. James Flynn’s complaint is based on the plain ground of overwork. Mr. Flynn is a strong man, but he asserts that it is getting to be pretty tough work on hot nights carrying Mr. de Wolf Hopper on his head, and working the trunk of the elephant at the same time. Mr. Hopper is about seven feet high and weights in proportion to his towering stature. Mr. Flynn says this weight, combined with a Turkish bath atmosphere inside the papier-mache head of the elephant, and the necessity of keeping track of the innumerable pulleys that operate the rubber trunk of the elephant, gives him a headache every night. Moreover, he says that after he escapes from his half-hour imprisonment in this oven, he has to appear as a dancing master, and lead a dance of Emperor Wang’s twelve Siamese daughters-in-law, and later he has to climb on stilts and become a high priest—considerably higher, in point of fact, than Mr. Hopper himself. Mr. Flynn says that he quits the performance completely played out after his triple achievement. Manager Ben Stevens said last night that he thought he could square matters temporarily by allowing Mr. Flynn to partake of a bumper of beer as generous as that consumed every night by the elephant.

A funny thing in connection with the discontented elephant is that any number of children and adults, too, have written to Manager Stevens to find out whether the elephant is really alive. A Broadway merchant made a bet a fortnight ago, after he had seen the elephant drink its beer, that it was really a live baby elephant. He bet a new white tile on the point.

“The Elephant Kicks.” The Morning Call [San Francisco] 8 June 1891: 7. Print.

Some Good Links for Friday

Hey Foam Dome! Want to learn how to make a foam dome? Evil Ted shows some great tips for patterning and forming a dome shape out of flexible foam rubber sheets.

Make has rounded up five basic hand stitches you need to know and illustrated them with some great diagrams. As a bonus, they have a few other tips for working with textiles.

Batman V Superman comes out this weekend, and DC All Access has a look at the props. They visit prop master Douglas Harlocker, who shows us some of Batman’s weapons and talks about how their design came to be. You have to skip past about two and a half minutes of the ultra-bubbly hosts talking about upcoming comic books before you get to the props stuff.

Chris Schwartz shows how to make custom sanding sticks for smoothing the edges of really hard-to-reach places. I’ve also seen people buy those disposable nail files to achieve a similar goal.

Making and finding props for theatre, film, and hobbies