Tag Archives: auction

Friday Prop Notes

I just finished tech on my first show this year (with opening night tonight), so the links are a bit sparse this week. But all of them are great, so enjoy!

There is a fun article up this week about Jim Bussolati, prop master at Louisiana State University. It also has a wonderful video showing off their storage and shop.

Matt Munson has a great blog post up called Materials, Time and Creativity. He talks about why custom-made props cost so much money. It’s a worthwhile read, whether you are a freelancer or work in a shop.

2StoryProps has quite the extensive post up about building a “Deadmau5 Cheese Head” (a helmet used by a Canadian DJ). There are photographs and videos galore, so it will take some time to get through this one, but it is well worth it.

It is sad, but not too surprising: New York City Opera is liquidating their warehouses. Their collection of props, costumes, lighting and other equipment from over eighty productions are being sold through an online auction until January 30th (though the website isn’t quite ready yet).

First Links of Spring

Happy Spring everyone! I’d like to say that in the week since I’ve returned from USITT, I’ve found time to write even with tech rehearsals for the new Tony Kushner play and prepping for rehearsals of Shakespeare in the Park, but I haven’t. To paraphrase a great quote I heard in Charlotte, I’ve been busy making fake houses for fake people. Nonetheless, I have some links for you to spend your time reading and filling your head. With knowledge.

The Restraints Blog is a whole blog dedicated to historical means of restraints, such as handcuffs, padlocks and the like.

Last month, Popular Woodworking ran an important article entitled, “How Not to Hurt Yourself on a Table Saw“. It was the culmination of a series of posts looking at recently released data on the number of table saw injuries in the US (also worth reading). It is a good read for anyone who uses a table saw, beginners and seasoned pros alike.

Toolmonger asked the question, “What’s the best book for a N00b machinist?” The readers’ comments are filled with a number of great book (and video) suggestions for getting started in using machine tools for shaping and milling metal.

The Prop Blog features a number of auctions of screen-used film props. Though I do not talk about buying and collecting props on my site, I do love the pictures at The Prop Blog; quality photographs of cinema props can be hard to find, but this site has them in spades!

Top Prop News of 2010

With the end of 2010 fast approaching, I thought I would take a look back on some of the major news stories which have affected the world of props. The world of props is not really a fast-changing industry, so changes in the world are slow to impact all of us working in props. Still, a few stories this year have enough of an impact to be worth mentioning here.

SPAM website relaunches – The Society of Properties Artisan Managers is the largest organization of props masters and directors in the United States, with members from most of the major regional and educational theatres and operas. In the past, information about them or how to contact them seemed shrouded in mystery (though not on purpose). That changed in March with the launching of a new website, www.propmasters.org, which is more geared to props people seeking information on them and how they can get involved.

StageBitz software enters beta testing – This story just squeezed into this past year, and I don’t have much to report on it. StageBitz is a new (and possibly the first) online tool for professional props management. We’ve seen several minor attempts at software aimed toward the props master, though many of us end up adapting more general software, such as Microsoft Office, FileMaker Pro, or Google Docs for our needs. I’ll be beta-testing StageBitz through next March, and letting you all know how it is.

E-cigarettes – E-cigarettes continue to be in the news. As one of the few viable alternatives for on-stage cigarettes in many venues, prop masters and directors should be interested in the current legal state of using them. This past year, I summarized their current situation, which began with a July, 2009, report by the FDA on the potential health hazards of e-cigarettes. They were attempting to classify them as a drug-delivery device, which would allow them to enact a ban and prevent their importation, as opposed to a tobacco product, which would be regulated similarly to regular cigarettes (and not banned). Last January, the FDA attempted to block the shipment of e-cigarettes into the US, but a federal judge ruled against it. In September, they again attempted to classify e-cigarettes as a drug-delivery device rather than a tobacco product; a drug-delivery device, such as nicotine patches or gum, needs to be “proven safe and effective”, and so e-cigarettes can be effectively banned unless they underwent rigorous (and costly) testing to prove their efficacy as a stop-smoking aid. As a tobacco product, they are subject to far less regulation (a major problem is that many e-cigarette manufacturers insist on marketing their products as “safe alternatives to smoking” and helpful in quitting cigarettes, yet argue in court that they are merely recreational tobacco products. They’re trying to have it both ways). The court stopped the FDA from banning e-cigarettes. Finally, this past December, an appellate court withheld this ruling, and as of the end of this year, e-cigarettes remain legal in the US and most likely will be regulated as a tobacco product.
What’s most frustrating in all of this is that, as a prop, we are only interested in the zero-nicotine versions of e-cigarettes. In other words, we don’t need either a drug-delivery device or a tobacco product; what we want is something more akin to a mini–theatrical fogger.

Donmar Warehouse actor shot in face – David Birrell, an actor in a West End production of Sondheim’s Passion, was injured in his eye when a blank-firing replica flintlock rifle misfired, and taken to the hospital. He nearly lost his eye. This incident reinforced to prop masters and directors everywhere that when it comes to blank-firing weapons onstage, you can never be too safe.

Original Stargate auctioned off – Now, props from television and movies are constantly being auctioned off, so I’ll admit this one is included in the list due to my own personal excitement. Still, it does have some more significance than your average prop auction. Stargate SG-1 was the longest-running American sci-fi series, and when it ended, they began auctioning off most of the props and scenery. This past September, the actual Stargate used on location (not the one used on set) came up for sale. It had been created for the pilot episode and was used throughout the entire ten-year run of the show.

Reoccurring prop newspaper – This wasn’t so much a 2010 “event” as it was a thrilling series of investigative journalism that broke this past June. Starting with a compilation of images from TV and film that showed characters reading the same newspaper, the following day, an article in Slashfilm expanded on this and went viral. A few days later, Slate Magazine had tracked down not only the source—the Earl Hays Press in California—but also the reason: getting clearance to use real newspapers takes time and money.

My list ends here. I’ve covered all of these stories on either this blog or on my Twitter, so if you follow each, you’ll always be up-to-date on news that affects you as a props person. I’m sure many other stories happened in 2010 which are relevant to the props practitioner, so I leave it up to you: what are your favorite events, tools, materials or anecdotes that came out of the past year?

Ancient Hallucinatory Device from Stargate SG-1

Original Stargate SG-1 Props

Another blog has pointed me to The Prop Store of London, which has started selling a selection of props from Stargate SG-1. They actually have props from hundreds of films, but if you’re more interested in those, you are strange and uninteresting.

Ancient Hallucinatory Device from Stargate SG-1
Ancient Hallucinatory Device from Stargate SG-1

Many of the props have wonderful detail shots as well.

Ancient Hallucinatory Device detail
detail of carvings, engravings, and painting

This specific device even has a detail shot showing the back with the wiring.

Detail shot showing wiring
Detail shot showing wiring

There are good descriptions as well:

This large heavy piece is made of wood, metal and resin. It has gold accents wrapping around the sides, silver glyphs painted on the top, as well as crystals sticking out of one side. The orange core inside can be seen through clear pieces of plastic to show the internal workings. When plugged in to a power source, the internal core glows orange.

Good stuff. All this for just $1,995. It’s a great site if you’re interested in collecting original movie props (and have the money!), but I find it fascinating to really delve into the construction techniques for a great variety of props in various films.

In addition to props, prop replicas, and wardrobe items, you can also peruse a nice-sized collection of production art. I like to browse the prop drawings.

Production concept sketch for Vo'Cum 3-D Device
Production concept sketch for Vo'Cum 3-D Device

It’s really great when you can find a behind-the-scenes view of films which focuses so thoroughly on props.

20th Century Props Closing

by Marissa Roth for The New York Times
by Marissa Roth for The New York Times

2oth Century Props is one of the larger prop houses in Hollywood, serving much of the entertainment and event industry as the studios closed down their own in-house prop studios over the past two decades. Unfortunately, it is now closing.

It’s a Wrap for 20th Century Props, by Brooks Barnes in the New York Times, details the full story:

Mr. Schwartz, the owner of 20th Century Props, plans to go out of business next month and auction the inventory. Battered by the surge in out-of-state movie production and the demise of scripted programming on network television, the once-thriving business — one of a handful of its type remaining — is failing.

The company’s inventory, about 93,752 items, will be liquidated during the last week of July. They already have an eBay store, where several hundred of their items are currently up for bid.