This week’s must-read comes from The A/V Club, who interviewed props master Chris Call. This very in-depth conversation takes a look at his career, propping everything from Brooklyn Nine-Nine and Alias, to The Closer. The article takes the time to really dig into the nuts and bolts of a TV prop master’s job and Call’s career path, going far beyond the standard “what’s the craziest prop you’ve ever had to make?!?” kind of questions.
What did Kermit the Frog look like before the Muppets? Collector’s Weekly takes a look at the history of the Muppets, including photographs of a pre-Sesame Street Kermit, and delves into Jim Henson’s journey from five-minute sketches on a local TV station to a worldwide empire of puppet and creature manufacturing.
Fast Company has an article on five dream jobs that will make your inner child extremely jealous, and “prop master” is one of them. Yes, being a prop master is on-par with running a cat-café or being a chocolate scientist. I’ll have to remember I’m living the dream the next time I’m cleaning a mouse nest out of the bottom of a stove or lugging a sofa up three flights of stairs.
Happy August, everyone. While the “regulars” still have some summer left, those of us in theatre are already gearing up to work on all the new shows for the fall season, not to mention those of us in the academic world getting ready for the new school year. But there’s still time to read about props stuff on the internet, so enjoy the following:
Priceonomics has a short history of fake money in the movies. It delves into some of the more high-profile cases of fake movie money making it into the real world, and the resultant crack-downs by the Secret Service. It goes into detail of some of the rules of using money on film and how the top prop houses modify their fake money to follow those rules.
Finally, Credits has a great piece on building The Guardians of the Galaxy. Though it only briefly touches on the props for the film, it does delve into a lot of the physical and design work that went on in a number of the departments. Plus, it looks like a really exciting film.
It was a fairly big week here at the Hart household. I finally returned to North Carolina from Santa Fe, and I began my brand-new job as the Properties Master at Triad Stage. It’s a great theatre to be working at, and the first time for me to run a department full-time. But enough about me, let’s see what everyone else on the Internet is doing:
Hey, who wants to be Adam Savage’s intern? Right now there’s a contest where you can win just that. Actually, you get to hang out with Adam for a week in his studio, so it’s not that in-depth of an internship, and the process to get there sounds a bit like a reality show in-the-making, but it still seems like a fun idea.
The Closet Geek Podcast has an interview with Bill Doran of Punished Props. Doran builds replica props from video games, comic books and films, and works largely out of his own home, building items for people and companies around the world. The interview delves into how he got started, some of his current projects, and his views on cosplay and fan conventions.
As a gentle reminder to theatre people everywhere: don’t throw away your fake bomb props in a garbage can in a major city. When I was in NYC, I was paranoid just to carry “weapon-like” props around, especially on the subway, where my backpack was routinely searched. I would usually keep stuff like this in a disassembled state, or packaged up so it just looked like I was shopping.
The team behind the film Pacific Rim has a lot of behind-the-scenes videos showing their work. They are all pretty cool, but the one I’m showing below of the cockpit for the giant robots is particularly interesting for props people. The film actually used a lot of practical effects in addition to CGI. It’s really cool to see how they first built a mock-up of the whole thing from foam core, than went through with more sophisticated techniques to build the real thing from the patterns.
I totally forgot to remind everyone this Wednesday (July 24th) was Propmaster’s Day. At the moment, most of the US prop masters are at their annual conference in Kansas City; I couldn’t make it this year, but hopefully I can share some of it next week. In other news, today is my last day at the Santa Fe Opera. I’ll be able to share some more things I built here in a month once the operas close. For now, enjoy these links from around the Internet:
At this year’s San Diego Comic Con, Adam Savage dressed as Admiral Akbar, with a mask built from the original movie molds. Check out the epic voyage of molding and casting it took for him and a team of skilled artisans to get there.
In the same vein, here is another intensive tutorial on sculpting, molding and casting brought to you by the creators of the indie film, He Took His Skin Off For Me. This one shows you how they made an actor’s arm appear to have no skin on it.
Disney Research is developing software to help design mechanical creatures and automata. They have videos and animations to help explain it better, but basically, you tell the program how you want something to move, and it shows you wear to stick hinges, pivots and motors to make it happen.
Rich Dionne has a great post up describing how to keep your painters happy. The simple rules he lays out are essential for getting the show up in time and not making everyone miserable in the process. Even if you don’t have a separate team of painters for your prop shop, these are good rules to make a mental note of while planning out the build and finish of each prop.