I just reached a major milestone today with the submission of the last of my chapters for The Prop Building Guidebook: For Theatre, Film and TV. I now have the next two months to edit the whole thing and try to turn it into a usable book. Luckily, I’ve been receiving a lot of help from my technical editor, Sandy Strawn. She’s the author of the very-helpful Properties Directors Handbook, which is listed over on the side of this website. After August, the whole thing gets proofread and designed (I’ve seen some mock-ups of the interior so far, and it’s going to look great). When everything looks good, my publisher (Focal Press) will send it to the printers, and it should hit bookstores next February, right on schedule.
I know that still feels like a long way off (though for me, it feels like it’s all happening very quickly). As a prelude to what you will find in the book, here is a small sampling of some of the photographs that belong with the chapters I just handed in.
It’s been an intense two months of writing here as I plowed through the lion’s share of my book, The Prop Building Guidebook: For Theatre, Film and TV. I am sorry you have to wait until February of next year before you can get your hands on a copy, because it is starting to take shape into something really exciting. Prop building books come along rarely, and having read just about all of them, I can honestly say there has never been a book like this one.
When I first had the germs of the idea for this book way back in 2008, I never knew where it would take me. The paper I presented at the 2009 SETC Theatre Symposium discussed a theoretical approach to constructing props. I also knew I wanted my book to have a lot of practical information; not so much a list of “this is how props people do this, and if you do it differently, you’re not a real props person”, but rather, a survey of the numerous materials and methods used by prop makers all over the country working in all kinds of situations (and budgets). As I’ve typed away for the past eight months, I’ve watched these two concepts—the theoretical approach and the practical methods—start to come together into a cohesive whole. I began writing this book to make the kind of book I always wanted to read, and after the batch of chapters I just submitted, it is finally starting to turn into that.
It is also surprising how much I have been learning while writing this book. I mean, I knew I would have to look up some information and practice some of the crafts I normally do not do, but when it comes to the sheer amount of knowledge that a prop maker can possess, it was like I was starting from scratch. What I didn’t know could literally fill a book—this book. If you come to this blog to learn what I know, imagine what you’ll learn from this book.
The rest of my book is due at the beginning of June, and then I have a few months to edit the whole thing. By the fall, I should have the website for the book up and running, and I may begin posting some of the videos I am making to complement portions of the text. Hopefully between that and this blog, I can continue serving your prop needs until the book comes out.
We are now only one year away from the release of my book, The Prop Building Guidebook: for Theatre, Film and Television. Today, I am submitting the next batch of chapters to my publisher, Focal Press. I now have half of my manuscript submitted, though with editing and rewriting, I feel like I am just getting started. The good news is that pretty much the whole book is outlined at this point. That means I have to focus on every little point, refining the sentences and researching every claim I make. The amount of time it takes me to write a clear and accurate paragraph is the same as it takes to outline a whole chapter, so it feels like progress is slower. But it’s still very exciting to see it starting to come together. Just last week, my publisher sent me a mock-up of the interior design that they’ve been working on. It is very exciting to see a book on prop making finally getting the professional treatment it deserves; it is hard to believe that this will be the first book on props that actually has color photographs! Even if I wasn’t writing this book, I would still be looking forward to it.
Until then, you can check out a few more photographs which will be making their way into the book.
I have an update to The Prop Building Guidebook: for Theatre, Film and Television I am writing, due in stores February, 2013. I submitted the first 25% of my book to Focal Press yesterday, roughly four chapters. Does that mean I am a quarter of the way done? Hardly! Besides editing, I am sure I will continue adding to and refining the chapters I’ve already submitted even as I move forward on the rest of the book.
A lot of the early work has just been organizing and outlining what I want to cover in the book and developing the table of contents. I may be posting that table in the near future as it begins to solidify. I have never liked how previous prop-making books have organized information; one book even places painting first. Painting! Who picks up a book and says, “Well, I can’t build a prop, but at least I can paint it after I finish not building it.”? I think I have figured it out though. I begin with a sort of overview of the world of props in the realm of theatre, film and television, and how the role of the prop maker has developed over the years. I look at the materials and technology of prop making and how that has evolved to what we have today. I go through some more general concepts like safety, adhesives, tools before delving into the principals of prop making, such as determining the needs, breaking it down into simpler parts, and figuring out what problems you need to solve. You may recognize this thesis from my 2009 presentation at the SETC Theatre Symposium. In the book, I expound on this process, and take it from an abstract idea to a practical method.
The bulk of the book touches on the many materials and methods used for making props. I’ve been busy taking photographs and diving into research to flesh out what I already know. Having a lot of pictures is another goal of this book. I hate books that describe something but do not illustrate what the author means, particularly when a picture can clear up so much confusion. Previous props books seem to rely heavily on illustrations rather than photographs. While this is better than nothing, it still leaves a lot to be desired. Illustrations show a simplified and idealized version of a process, rather than what you will see if you are actually trying the process out. It also calls into question the accuracy of what is being presented; can you be sure that the author knows what he or she is talking about, or is the illustration just drawn from a description he or she has heard or read from another source which may or may not be true. By taking photographs of everything I discuss in the book, I am also testing out the accuracy of my statements.
Here are just a few samples of some of the photographs I’ve made for the book:
Good news, everyone! I’ve been talking with Focal Press for the past several months, and yesterday, I found out that my book was approved. It is tentatively titled The Prop Building Guidebook: For Theatre, Film and TV. What’s it going to be about? I am going to lay out all the “whys” of prop building I’ve developed over the years to help you build your own props. Don’t worry; it’s going to be heavy on the “hows” as well. Everything from carpentry and metalwork, to fabric and upholstery, molding and casting, and painting too. It will be the first guide to building props that will feature color pictures. We’re living in the future now!
The Prop Building Guidebook will hit the bookshelves in February, 2013. I know, it feels like a long way off. I will also be developing a companion website and some short videos to complement the book which may debut slightly ahead of then. Until then, you’ll have to continue getting your prop fix from this blog.
So don’t worry about this blog. The world of props is a vast world indeed, and I will continue covering all the news and information here that won’t fit in my book. Some exciting things are on the horizon; the third annual NYC Props Summit is scheduled for August 26th (drop me a line if you are interested in attending). I’ve recently begun interviewing props people, and will post those in a few weeks when I get through transcribing them (transcribing video takes a long time, apparently).
So keep on reading! There’s a world of prop-portunities out there!
Making and finding props for theatre, film, and hobbies