You may have noticed I missed last week’s Friday blog post; we were in the midst of a big ice storm here in North Carolina, and I didn’t have any power or Internet and trees were falling all around me and it was crazy. Anyway, a lot of cool stuff has shown up in the world of props since then:
Wes Anderson’s latest film, The Grand Budapest Hotel, came out last week, and fans of his work know that he loves his props. Here is a great article giving the back-story of 10 of the most memorable props from the film. It shows the obsessive devotion Anderson has to every object in his movies, and his recognition of how a prop’s details can help tell the story.
Finally, large-scale prop maker Shawn Thorsson is working on a full-scale ED-209 from the original Robocop film. This is a massive seven-and-a-half foot tall fighting machine, and he’s trying to get it complete for the Maker Faire Bay Area in May. The link has some photos and a video showing the beginning of his process; it will be interesting to see how this progresses.
It’s another Friday, and another September. This always seems like the busiest time of the year for the whole entertainment industry. Some of you may have gotten a four-day week this past week, but for most of us, it was an eight-day week. So take a seat, relax, and enjoy these links for a few minutes:
Huffington Post has an interview with props master Peter Bankins. Bankins has been a prop master in film for the past 25 years, working on movies such as Young Guns, Grumpier Old Men, Erin Brockovitch and many more.
On the other side of the pond, Farfetch has a short photo essay called “Our Day With Thomas Petherick“. Petherick is a young prop maker and set designer working mainly on fashion photography shoots.
Finally, here is a familiar face; I was displaying some of my props at last month’s Burlington Mini Maker Faire. Coffey Productions was going around filming the various exhibits, and shot this video of me talking about my props and my book. Check it out!
Creative Choices has published a fantastic article about Antony Barnett, the Head of Props at the Royal Opera House. He has been working at the ROH since the mid-1980s. Incidentally, the ROH remounted a production of Cendrillon in 2011 that I worked on back in 2006; I built some pretty cool props for it, including Prince Charman’s throne, and it’s nice to see how well they have stood up.
The New York Times has an in-depth look at how the Metropolitan Opera stores and maintains all the sets for their repertory productions. I find this stuff fascinating, particularly since I’ve been reading a lot about how the Met’s technical department worked 100 years ago. The locations of their storage units may have changed, but the amount of work and organization they have to do to put up a different opera every night remains the same.
Bill Hunt has a “virtual tour” of Bob Burns’ massive movie prop collection. Scroll to the bottom of the article to see a slideshow of all the historical film props he has in his collection. Burns has been collecting for decades, and has quite a few unique pieces, including the only surviving King Kong armature from the original 1933 production.
Here’s a shorter interview of a working prop-maker; Rosie Tonkin is a UK-based freelancer and artist. It’s an interesting comparison between a young prop maker at the start of her career like Tonkin and a seasoned veteren like Barnett up above.
Finally, at last week’s Burlington Mini Maker Faire, I was making a miniature Dr. Who TARDIS out of paper, and handing away sheets to people to make their own. If you didn’t get one, or you couldn’t make it to the fair, you can download and print your own TARDIS, complete with instructions.
Model makers from Industrial Light and Magic gathered at this year’s Maker Faire and discussed their favorite tips, tricks and techniques for building models. Tested has the complete story, filled with lots of great photographs. There’s a ton of useful information here, as well as lots of good stories from the filming of the various Star Wars films.
Jay Surma has been documenting the build of a new sculpture of a Dungeons and Dragons character in great detail. In the seventh part, he tackles the mold making process. It’s a great look at a two-part matrix mold. If you’ve never seen a matrix mold being made (I don’t think I’ve ever seen one being made in person), check it out, because it’s a handy technique to keep in mind.
Popular Woodworking has a whole article devoted to sweeping, with the wonderful title “To Sweep; to Sweep: Perchance to Clean“. It makes the good point that apprentices are often tasked with sweeping so they can get to know the shop and see what everyone is working on.
For those of you in North Carolina, the Maker Faire NC is happening tomorrow at the State Fairgrounds in Raleigh. I won’t be there, but the Alamance Makers Guild (where I am a member) will have a copy of my book you can peruse through. And of course, being a Maker Faire, there will be tons of other cool things to see and do.
How to be a Retronaut has a few cool photographs from behind the scenes at Madame Tussaud’s in the 1930s. Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum is still going strong today, and I’ve known prop people who work there, maintaining all the statues.
Tony Swatton makes stage combat swords for stage and film. Here is a video where he forges the sword from He-Man. And then he destroys a car with it. I’ve linked to this web series before; every week, he has a new episode showing the creation of a sword or other weapon from film, TV and video games. It is a very insightful view into all kinds of metal working techniques.
Making and finding props for theatre, film, and hobbies