Tag Archives: ephemera

Have You Seen These Links Before?

How a Wes Anderson movie prop maker helped develop That’s You! – Annie Atkins is one of Wes Anderson’s go-to prop makers, and has been featured on this blog before. She also designed the “props” for That’s You!, a new video game for the Sony Playstation. This article is an interesting look at how the skills and talents of a prop maker are still vital even in a purely digital environment.

Etching Brass Plaques – “Switch and Lever” produced a short video where they experiment with three different ways of etching graphics onto brass, and compare the results. Brass etching is something I’ve always wanted to try, but I’ve never gotten down to it. I’ve gotten down to brass tacks, but not brass sheets.

Vintage Ad Browser – Two interesting sites came over the S*P*A*M email list this week. The first is Vintage Ad Browser, a collection of over 100,000 print advertisements. They are organized by subject matter and by decade. I’ve always found ads useful for period research, not necessarily for the subject matter (which is often idealized), but for what is going on in the background. For instance, an ad for a stove will also have pictures of pots and pans, and serving bowls and utensils, so you get a quick sense of what was typical for the time period.

Cover Browser – The second site collects over 450,000 covers to books, comic books, magazines, video games, and more.

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.

Friday Night Links

Tomorrow, August 17th, I will be exhibiting some props at the Burlington Mini Maker Faire in North Carolina. I wrote up some more details about it a few days ago. There’s going to be Stormtroopers, robots and even a space launch. That’s right, they are going to launch a balloon into (near) space from the mall parking lot. I never thought I would live to see the day I could type the previous sentence.

The Library of Congress has a massive collection of digital images and photographs from throughout US history. It is an incredible resource for finding or creating specific paper props or for general research. I use their newspaper collection quite a bit.

I’ve linked to a few of blacksmith Tony Swatton’s videos in the past; he has a new one up where he creates Link’s Master Sword from the Legend of Zelda series. The result is an amazingly accurate replica of a sword which exists only in a video game, built out of the materials which a real life sword would be made from. It is far more intense than the Master Sword I created a few months ago, but then again, I don’t have a whole team of specialized metal artisans working in my shop.

Here is an article on Patrick Drone, the props master at the University of Michigan. In recent years, he has begun working at Henry Ford’s Greenfield Village, where he maintains a fleet of early Model T and Model A vehicles. He says the work is not unlike that of a props shop.

The guys at Tested recently visited The Hand Prop Room in Los Angeles to tour through their 1,000,000+ props. I often wish I lived close by to a props rental house that contained everything; then again, I probably don’t have the budget for that. I guess I’ll have to make my own.

Friday Rehearsal Notes

Tony Swatton, who we’ve seen on this blog before, has a new video where he builds a set of Wolverine’s claws from scratch. They are 18-gauge steel, and they are SHARP!

Vermont Public Radio has a story on 50 years of the Bread and Puppet Theatre. I first saw these guys around 1998 or so, and again just last year. Their performances are fun but compelling, and the design and construction of their puppets have almost certainly influenced many contemporary puppeteers.

Speaking of puppets, a few months ago, puppeteer Emily DeCola, of Puppet Kitchen, was struck by a cyclist while crossing the street. Her injuries left her with crazy medical bills and the loss of her sense of smell. Her fellow puppeteers have organized a puppet cabaret fundraising event for her TONIGHT, so if you’re in New York City, why not check it out? If not, you can always donate to the cause. Emily worked on a number of shows while I was at the Public Theater and Shakespeare in the Park, and her work is always amazing.

Propnomicon pointed me to this great two-part tutorial on making a shrunken head. It steps through the molding, casting and finishing of a clay model.

Finally, enjoy this small collection of 19th-century collector cards featuring various trades, such as woodworking and blacksmithing.

Links for a Taxing Weekend

You have only a little more than two weeks left to enter my Prop Building Guidebook Contest! Don’t wait until the last minute to enter. I also wanted to point out that a week from Monday (April 22nd), you can start voting for your favorite prop in the contest; tell your friends they can vote for your prop once per day until the contest ends on April 30th. In addition to winners in each of the individual categories, the prop with the most votes will win its own prize category, so vote early and vote often! And now, onto the links.

Here is a fantastic article about the guys at Spectral Motion, one of Hollywood’s finest creature shops. They’re responsible for most of the monsters in the Hellboy films, as well as for work in X-Men: Last Stand, Blade:Trinity, and this summer’s Pacific Rim. The article is replete with information about how they got started, what kind of work they do, and what inspires them. It is also heavily illustrated with photographs showing their workshop and the inner workings of some of their creatures. I especially love the following quote about why practical effects are still necessary in an era of digital mimicry:

“A lot of times people turn to digital solutions. That’s also good, if the application is correct. But, you know, a lot of directors that we talk to are of the mind that a practical effect is far better for exactly that reason–because the actor does have a co-actor to work with, to play off of, and to have feelings about.”

I came across this short interview with Mickey Pugh, prop master on films such as Saving Private Ryan and Last of the Mohicans.

From the prop masters email list this week comes Click Americana, an ongoing collection of vintage photos and ephemera from all decades of American history. You can search for specific topics or just browse through by decade, from the 1820s to the 1980s. It has a whole section dedicated to recipes, too, great for when you need to provide period food.

And finally, if you missed my Tweet this week, I shared this video looking at the blood effects in Trinity Rep’s Social Creatures, a “zombie” play now running. Production director Laura Smith and assistant props master Natalie Kearns show us how they make the blood and organs squirt and fly.