The DIY movement and small, creative businesses are becoming more and more important to the economy as a whole. Many props people either freelance as their own “business”, or run side businesses making things (such as selling things on Etsy). Save Us. Be Creative! takes a look at this growing trend.
On the other side of the coin, traditional theatre work is still worth fighting over. This past week saw the end of a particularly intense strike by IATSE stagehands at the Philadelphia Theatre Company. This article delves into the reasons behind it and why young theatre technicians spent two weeks outside in the cold and snow to protest their concerns. Coincidentally, the play the theatre was putting on was The Mountaintop, which imagines Martin Luther King, Jr.’s last day as he prepares to address a crowd of striking workers. The company could not find any workers to break the strike, so they tried to run it without any technical elements; this included having an actress sit in a folding chair and read the lighting and sound cues (“Thunder and lightning! Crack!”).
Here are seven short (under 10 minutes) films about obsolete occupations. I think as prop makers and prop masters, we are called on to do the work of each of these occupations at least once in our careers.
The TK560 discussion board is geared towards making stormtrooper armor from Star Wars, but they have a large section devoted to general tips and tricks for vacuum forming (including instructions for building vacuum forming machines of all different sizes and budgets), molding and casting, and working with plastics in general. There is a treasure trove of useful information here.
I’ve seen discussions of dying plastic in the past as an alternative to painting it, especially with plastics that refuse to take paint (such as polyethylene). Here is a good step-by-step description (with pictures) of dying the case to a MacBook computer.
I like this article with interviews of the original creators and operators of Jabba the Hut. It’s unfortunate that, these days, he is made entirely in CGI. At least you can still find giant puppets in theatre,.
Speaking of How to be a Retronaut, I’m adding it to the sidebar as a permanent link because it continues to be so incredible. It’s constantly updated with photographs and video from throughout history, in particular color film from periods you didn’t know had color film. At the site, you can search their posts by decade too. It’s not the most comprehensive source for research imagery, but it has a lot of pictures you can’t find anywhere else.
Playbill has an article on Charlie Rasmussen, the oldest active member of IATSE Local One. At 85, he is still running 8 shows a week of Sister Act as the head carpenter. He gives a great answer when asked why he chose show business: “An old-timer told me years ago that if I was going to work with my hands, I should go where I’m going to make the most money.”
Things continue chugging along here. King Lear began previews. I’m furiously preparing the first four chapters of The Prop Building Guidebook to submit to my publisher at the end of the month. Yet I still have time to find fun things on the internet.
Here’s an interesting story on how a film prop (technically, a mask) became a real-life prop used in protests around the world. This article on the V for Vendetta masks shows who is behind them and how this all came about.
Christopher Schwartz, former editor of Popular Woodworking Magazine and current founder of Lost Art Press, has published 14 principles of shop setup which he has developed over 20 years of woodworking.
In the same vein, Jamie Hyneman and Adam Savage of Mythbusters’ fame have 15 DIY Workshop Tips, including an ingenious nesting work table and indispensable tools to have.
In our current production of King Lear, we needed to provide them with a paper bag. Not just any paper bag. Only a specific size would do. I eventually found a place online we could order a close-enough size, provided we cut a few inches off the top. So I thought this history of the paper bag posted on the MoMA site was particularly apropos to the situation.
I don’t mean to nerd out, but did you know there’s a whole club of people who build R2-D2 replicas? I haven’t signed up to view the forums, but you can still browse the galleries, and read a few issues of the online magazine they publish.
Happy July, everyone. And to my US readers, happy Fourth of July weekend. I’ll keep this brief as most of you are off work and school, or drifting away to vacation. Unless you’re in summer stock, in which case, you should be building props rather than reading my blog!
Here is an interesting story for those of you who make replica props: DC Comics Sues Gotham Garage Over Replica Batmobiles. Prop replicas live in a murky area of copyright and trademark law, and this lawsuit has a lot of specific factors (and it hasn’t been settled yet). It will be interesting to see how this plays out.
This past June, Dave Lowe celebrated the 30th anniversary of Raiders of the Lost Ark with thirty days of posts about the movie. In a post titled “The Temple of Dagobah“, we learn how the vines from Yoda’s planet in Star Wars ended up being reused for the temple Indiana Jones steals the golden idol from in the opening of Raiders.
Dream Now Reality: A filmmaker from Victoria wins a contest to make a movie from his script. His script is about a ten-year-old girl who builds a robot friend from old VCR parts. The filmmaker suddenly realizes he needs to build a robot. Luckily, he has Paxton Downard on his team, who built props for Stargate and Fringe. Man, I wish this article had photographs; still, it’s a cute story.
Finally, Make Magazine has an interesting editorial by Saul Griffith called “DIT: Raising Our Collective Barn“. He writes about the importance and benefits of collaboration when making things, and describes it as DIT—do it together—rather than DIY.
Making and finding props for theatre, film, and hobbies