What Does a Prop Master Do? A Conversation with Elisa Malona – Elisa Malona is the head of props for The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. In this great interview, she talks about how she got started in props, how her career led her to The Tonight Show, and some of her greatest successes and fails in churning out crazy props on a daily basis. You can’t see it on any of the photos, but my book is sitting on her bookshelf.
Glossary: Dunsels, Nurnies, Greebles, Gundans, and Fuidgets – Christopher Noessel goes into the history of these terms, used to describe various decorative details on models, sets, and computer screens in sci-fi films. If you delve deeper into the history of design and art, you can see these are all just modern forms of diapering, which is the use of decorative patterns to break up a plain surface.
This Monday, July 24th, is Propmaster Day! Propmaster Day was first recognized in 2009 when the Mayor of Louisville presented a plaque to the attendees of the annual S*P*A*M Conference recognizing their hard work.
Making The Lich King Armor for Blizzard! – Frank Ippolito and his shop constructed this fantastic suit of armor for a video game company, and Tested has a video showing the whole process. It is fully chromed and features light and smoke effects.
Maui’s Hook – Moana – DIY PROP SHOP – I just stumbled across the DIY Prop Shop show, which has a handful of videos showing simple ways to build props from pop culture. I like this one on building Maui’s giant bone hook from Moana using insulation foam and Worbla.
Fake guns, real problems at Comic-Con – Comic conventions are increasingly cracking down on realistic prop weapons, including fantasy weapons like swords and laser guns. CNet looks at some of the latest news stories and interviews a number of cosplayers to delve into the details of this trend.
This Sonic Amplifier Replica from Overwatch Actually “Shoots” Music – John Edgar Park built a replica of this video game prop, and Make Magazine has a three-part video series showing the entire process. It features a ton of electronics and microcontroller programming, so if you’re interested in what those devices can achieve, check this out.
The following comes from a 1914 issue of Popular Electricity and Modern Mechanics:
How Expensive Properties are Made
As an illustration of the rapid strides made during the last few years in the production of motion pictures, a sight-seeing trip through the Universal Company’s studios in California uncovers the fact that twenty-five classes of skilled artisans are at present employed in making the properties for a feature film production. It is stated on good authority that half of the expense in producing pictures of the pageant type is incurred before the actual staging of the drama begins. Upon the screen the spectator sees armies in conflict, reproductions of ancient cities wrecked solely for a camera spectacle, streets of forgotten cities swarming with people costumed in conformity with historical record and all properly fitted out with the accouterments of war and habiliments of peace.
But behind all these shows of pageantry is a large corps of technical experts, craftsmen, mechanics and workmen who transfer these pictures of ancient life from historical records and cuts to so many replicas of the things themselves. General knowledge is all but useless in such productions. When the multiple reel production of “Damon and Pythias” was planned, every detail of scenery and of properties was not only planned and designed upon paper, but everything was modelled in miniature. A replica of the stadium was made of pasteboard. The interiors and exteriors of houses were modeled. Every property was brought down to a definite basis when it was put to the two tests of historical accuracy and adaptability to the camera. During this stage of the work the drafting and the designing rooms had the appearance of a toy shop and would have brought delight to the heart of any child.
Specifications completed, blue-print designs and colored models were distributed to the various workshops. Helmets, greaves, shields, javelins, breast-plates, short-swords and the smaller household articles were manufactured in the papier-mache department. This work requires considerable time and only expert labor can handle it. The papier-mache department was busy for three months in manufacturing some of the properties for “Damon and Pythias” alone.
Twelve extra seamstresses were employed in the costume department for two months and aside from costumes for the principles, complete outfits were made for five hundred soldiers.
On the company’s ranch, situated in the San Fernando valley, Greek streets, detached dwellings and a stadium grew up and assumed shape and color within a month after the first ground was turned.
The joining and carpenter shops were busy with the wooden properties and frame-work for the large pieces of scenery. Twenty-five chariots were turned out within a period of two weeks. The carpenters work completed, the properties are turned over to the scene painters and decorators, and where iron work was required, to blacksmiths and ironworkers.
In many scenes of this production it was necessary that large pieces of statuary be in evidence. This statuary was made in the company’s shops and only skilled alabaster workers could even attempt the work.
Shops for the manufacture of all description of properties used in motion pictures are something new in the industry. Not longer than two years ago, when a big production was to be made, as few properties as possible were manufactured on account of the extra expense of this work. In those days all properties that could be obtained were rented and the others were improvised.
Thus the advance in this branch of the industry can be appreciated when the fact is brought forth that every property with one exception for the “Damon and Pythias” production was manufactured in the company’s shops. The ancient sets of harness to be used with the chariots was manufactured outside the company’s shops.
“How Expensive Properties Are Made.” Popular Electricity and Modern Mechanics. Ed. Austin C. Lescarboura. Vol. 29. New York: Modern, 1914. 153-55. Google Books. 11 Dec. 2008. Web. 24 May 2017. <https://books.google.com/books?id=1_HNAAAAMAAJ>.
At the Stage Door with Lori – The San Francisco Opera shines a spotlight on their prop master of nearly 20 years, Lori Harrison. Find out how she got there and watch the video to go backstage in the props shop.
Giant puppets for “BFG” stage play – Gavin Worth recently made these giant puppets with a group of students at the International School of Lausanne in Switzerland. Check out the image gallery for pictures and animations of how they were built.
More Stranger Things! More Stranger Things! People are in love with the show and want to know more about the props. This week, we have two podcasts that talk with props master Lynda Reiss. First is a short 7:40 interview on CBC Radio. Second is an hour-long episode of Pop Culture Confidential with both Reiss and Shannon Purser, the actress who plays Barb.
Variety has a special feature on “Artisans So White”; while a lot of attention is paid to the diversity of directors, actors, and writers on films, the below-the-line craftspeople and technicians remain overwhelmingly white and male. Though this article deals with film, the same trends can be found in theatre. They even include a quote from Clint Ramos, a costume/set designer familiar to many in the theatrical world. It’s a thorny issue to deal with, and part of the problem is that so much hiring at companies is done informally, with jobs going to friends and acquaintances of people already working there.
Making and finding props for theatre, film, and hobbies