Tag Archives: ross macdonald

Prop Links of November

The Master of Paper Props – Great Big Story visits Ross MacDonald’s shop to see how he makes paper props for movies and television shows. This video delves into his process and into the power of paper props in general. If you haven’t seen Ross’ work before, this blog has covered him many times over the past nine years.

Want my job? with Khadija Raza, set and costume designer – Khadija talks with Voice about her job as a theatre designer in anticipation of TheatreCraft, the UK’s largest theatrical careers event for 16-30 year-olds.

Shrinking the world: why we can’t resist model villages – Simon Garfield ponders why we are drawn to miniature urban landscapes and why model builders feel compelled to create them. Along the way, he treats us to many photographs of some of the world’s finest examples of miniatures and model towns.

Original Big Bird, Caroll Spinney, Leaves ‘Sesame Street’ After Nearly 50 Years – In case you missed the news a few weeks ago, Caroll Spinney is retiring from Sesame Street after its 50th Anniversary special. Spinney has played both Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch since the show’s inception, making him one of the last original cast members to leave the show. The New York Times has this fantastic retrospective of his career.

Mortal Artists – The Craftsmen | Episode 3 – The upcoming Mortal Engines film features massive mobile cities that prowl a post-apocalyptic landscape. This video looks at all the prop builders who constructed the imaginative weapons and devices that make up this world.

Props on the Agenda

The Collaborator Party 2018 – This Sunday is the Tony Awards, which means it’s also the 4th annual Collaborator Party. Be sure to attend if you are in NYC or one of the satellite venues. One of the co-hosts this year is Jay Duckworth, props director at the Public Theater. Props people are finally getting their due!

Prop Master Russell Bobbitt Reveals Movie Secrets Behind Iconic Props – This short video is mostly an ad for Zippo lighters, but it is still great to hear Russell talk about how props are used in movies. Russell is the props master for the Marvel Cinematic Universe, so he is responsible for such modern-day icons like Captain America’s shield, Thor’s hammer, and the Infinity Gauntlet.

How Peak TV and DVRs Raise the Stakes for Period Props – The Hollywood Reporter talks with Ross MacDonald, Hollywood’s “go-to” for graphics props.

Zer0 Sword Build – Casey Gartung writes a step-by-step guide to building this glowing sword from the Borderlands 2 video game.

Did You Know Lex Luthor and Obi-Wan Kenobi Shared a Prop? – Now you do. The trunk that Obi-Wan kept his lightsaber in is the same trunk that Lex Luthor used to store Kryptonite.

Props and Fine Art From Movies, Television and Theatre

The following is the press release for an exhibition I am a part of:

Props and Fine Art From Movies, Television & Theatre and Working Objects: Props by Ross MacDonald Open at The Beard & Weil Galleries, Wheaton College, Norton, MA
March 1 – April 13, 2018

In film, television and theatre, a hero prop is any item intended to be held or used by one of the main actors. Examples of hero props might include Shylock’s money box, as used by Al Pacino in The Merchant of Venice at New York’s Public Theater; the Red Apple Tobacco tin used in Quentin Tarantino’s film Hateful Eight; or the Mendl’s chocolate box from the film The Grand Budapest Hotel.

All of these objects, plus watercolors from La La Land, sketches from Moonrise Kingdom and other beautiful works of art, appear in Props and Fine Art from Movies, Television and Theater and Working Objects: Props by Ross MacDonald, opening in the Beard & Weil Galleries at Wheaton College in Norton MA, March 1 through April 13, 2018.

On March 1 from 5:00 to 6:00 pm, Haas Visiting Artist Ross MacDonald will give a talk about his work, followed by an opening for both exhibitions from 6:00 to 8:00. The public is invited to attend.

Curator Elizabeth Keithline commented that “prop makers are required to make objects that integrate perfectly into the action, both historically and aesthetically. Prop makers often have deep background knowledge on their subject, yet to create something that would take audience attention away from the action would be the worst kind of mistake. Hidden in plain sight, the props and artwork in this show often remained unnoticed by the audience, yet they drove plot completely.”

Props from the television show Boardwalk Empire by Ross MacDonald
Props from the television show Boardwalk Empire by Ross MacDonald

In the Weil Gallery, Working Objects

Ross MacDonald illustrates for Vanity Fair, The New York Times, The New Yorker, Newsweek, Time, Spy and Rolling Stone. He has authored and illustrated 4 children’s books, as well as the adult humor books In and Out with Dick and Jane, (with co-author James Victore) and What Would Jesus Craft?. MacDonald recently designed the bandana worn by Justin Timberlake in the 2018 Super Bowl halftime show.

Yet all the while he has led a secret double life designing and fabricating props for over 40 movies and television series. He has made everything from the book Bradley Cooper’s character throws out the window in Silver Linings Playbook, to the titular Book of Secrets for the second National Treasure movie; Jennifer Lawrence’s mop patents for Joy; baby’s favorite book in Baby’s Day Out; Nucky Thompson’s checkbook and Arnold Rothstein’s calling card for Boardwalk Empire; the morgue toe-tags in The Knick; the Pawnee town charter for Parks and Recreation; the Red Apple Tobacco tin in Tarantino’s Hateful Eight; Versace’s book in the latest season of American Crime Story and thousands of other props. For more information: https://www.ross-macdonald.com/.

Mendl's Chocolate box from the movie Grand Budapest Hotel by Annie Atkins
Mendl’s Chocolate box from the movie Grand Budapest Hotel by Annie Atkins

In the Beard Gallery, Props and Fine Art from Movies, Television and Theater

Annie Atkins specializes in graphics for filmmaking, which means that she makes any graphic pieces outlined by a period film script—like postage stamps and banknotes to help create Wes Anderson’s fictional State of Zubrowka in the Grand Budapest Hotel; or shopfront signs and fake passports for Steven Spielberg’s New York as depicted in Bridge of Spies. Other films she has worked on include Box Trolls, Wonderstruck and Isle of Dogs. For the Mendl’s chocolate box exhibited at Wheaton, Ms. Atkins also credits the artists Wes Anderson, Liliana Lambriev, Jan Jericho and prop master Robin Miller.

Buist Bickley – According to Crains New York Business, “Bickley is one of the most in-demand prop supervisors on Broadway.” Current productions include Spongebob Squarepants, Frozen, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Dear Evan Hansen and Fun Home. In the February 4 Playbill, Bickley was quoted as saying “Picture frames, rugs, chandeliers, sconces, any picture on the wall—those are all props… I always say that the ceiling, the floor, and the walls are sets. Everything that makes it what it is, is a prop.”

Krabby Patty from SpongeBob SquarePants: The Broadway Musical provided by Buist Bickley
Krabby Patty from SpongeBob SquarePants: The Broadway Musical provided by Buist Bickley

Jay Duckworth is props master at the Public Theater in NYC. In over three decades in theatre he has worked from an old Mule Barn up to Prop Master on Hamilton. He’s founded the Prop Summit for all properties people to meet, network and learn; given keynote speeches for KCACTF and USITT. He is currently curating the first Props Lab at USITT’s National conference, he is a contributor to Stage Directions Magazine and is a Professor at Pace University. Jay’s website, the Proptologist, can be explored here: https://www.proptologist.com/.

Eric Hart has been building props for theatre, opera, retail display and other industries since 2003. He is currently the props master at Triad Stage in Greensboro, North Carolina, and a professor at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts. His props were built for theatres both on and off-Broadway, New York’s “Shakespeare in the Park”, the Santa Fe Opera, and the Actors Theatre of Louisville, among others.

Eric also writes about building props and other things. He is the author of The Prop Building Guidebook: for Theatre, Film, and TV, and The Prop Effects Guidebook and writes regularly for his blog The Prop Agenda: http://www.props.eric-hart.com/.

Randy Lutz is the Properties Director for the Santa Fe Opera, where he has held various positions since 1979. Lutz often presents workshops at regional and national theatre festivals and conferences. Lutz serves as a responder for allied crafts and prop construction and design for the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival.

Under Randy’s direction, the heads on loan from the Santa Fe Opera were created by Anna Warren, Hannah Shoemaker, Robin Lu Payne, Eileen Garcia, C. David Russell, Chastity Collins and Nancy Allen.

Carl Sprague is a designer working for film and stage as well as special, site-specific projects. Career highlights include art direction on The Royal Tenenbaums, concept illustration for Academy Award Winners The Grand Budapest Hotel and Twelve Years A Slave. Carl is currently developing a feature adaptation of Edith Wharton’s 1916 classic Summer.

Visit the Wheaton College event page for more details.

End of the Week Props Links

Inside The Deeply Nerdy—And Insanely Expensive—World Of Hollywood Prop Collecting – Wired takes a look at some of the most expensive movie props ever sold and the collectors who bought them.

Found: A Treasure Trove of Candy Wrappers Dating Back to the Depression – Eric Nordstrom found a sweet collection of 1920s candy wrappers while exploring Chicago’s Congress Theater. Be sure to follow the links to his Facebook where he posts more photos in the comments to his original photo.

Off-Broadway Producers and United Scenic Artists Create First Ever Agreement for Off-Broadway Designers – I’m interested to see what this means for prop designers. USA does not seem to cover prop designers; I’ve never seen anyone credited with “prop designer” in a theater under USA’s jurisdiction. Off-Broadway has never been under USA’s jurisdiction until this week, and that is where you find the bulk of credited prop designers. Will that continue?

Ross MacDonald: The Best Set Props Go Unnoticed – An interview and photographs with Ross MacDonald, prop builder on Joy, Boardwalk Empire, Hateful Eight, and so many more.

Welcome, Links of 2016

The New York Times’ Vocations column interviewed James Blumenfeld, the props master at the Met Opera. He runs a staff of 35(!) and has been there since 1983.

The Algoma Mop Manufacturers were pressed into service to make the 500 mops needed for David O. Russell’s latest film, Joy. They had one of the few machines needed to recreate the Miracle Mops from the 1990s that figure so prominently in the film.

And since we’re talking about Joy, how about this article on creating the vintage singles’ ads from the movie? Ross MacDonald also made the children’s book that appears in the film.

Sticking with Ross, he has a whole lot of information on his latest props; he made tons of vintage packaging and paper props for The Hateful Eight, Tarantino’s latest film. He also designed the vintage packaging for Red Apple Tobacco, Tarantino’s signature brand that appears in all of his films. You can read more about that in my interview with him last year.

The Rosco Blog shows how Techland Houston made a foam model of the Starship Enterprise. Just in time for The Force Awakens!

Fox 12 in Portland catches up with Portland prop master Greg McMickle. McMickle is currently the props master for The Librarians, but his work has also been seen in the Twilight franchise, Wild, and Twin Peaks.