Tag Archives: interview

More interviews with props people

Today I wish to present you with a number of interviews with prop masters and makers in theatre, television in film. It’s good to get perspective on the job from other people. For most of the interviews, I’ve pulled out some select quotes which especially struck me. Enjoy!

An interview with Sarah Bird, prop master on On the Levee. Sarah is a New York City-based prop master, and this is a nice little video about the work she did at Lincoln Center Theatre.

An Interview with Ken Hawryliw, prop master on Battlestar Galactica, which is notable for being the BEST TV SHOW EVER:

What he taught me is the attitude that someone has spent a huge amount of money, sometimes hundreds of thousands maybe millions of dollars, to design an object that you can now buy for a few dollars. Why not take that object and use it; build it into a prop because the design is great already. You’re incorporating it into something that has to function and the ergonomics are already built into it, so it makes a lot of sense to do things that way. It’s very economical.

Prop Talk with BURN NOTICE’s Charlie Guanci, Jr.:

Usually it’s reading/breaking down scripts and jumping right into the next day of work, but I do try to find out what are the latest interesting pieces and what I can bring to the table so if I’m asked or I can provide a solution to something from doing my own research through the Internet or talking to people or seeing something on YouTube. You hear about things, I get feedback from other people saying, “Hey, have you seen this, have you heard about this?” I book-log that and it’s like, “Let’s try to do that.”

Interview with Graham Coutts, propmaster on Friday the 13th.

You never have free rein, everything involves collaboration and approval, however, I think the Designer has a high degree of confidence in my ability.

MPPC Exclusive: Rick Gamez – Jack of All Trades, Master of Most. Prop maker on films like The Rocketeer, Men in Black, Independence Day, et al.

It’s getting smaller and harder to make a living at this due to so much emphasis on computer generated imagery. What once was to provide a ton of weapons for an army now is just a handful who are copied and pasted onto a battlefield. There will still be a call for Hero props but the mass amounts are gone. Shows keep looking for cheaper ways of making shots happen. They tend to look mostly where they can get the best tax break and shoot there. The trickle down of budgets affect every department and so it does with mine as well. The days of the skilled worker is changing to the skilled computer artist.

Importance of Photographing your Work

If you excel at something, it can be hard to describe in words how you differ from someone who is merely competant at it.

A photograph of a finely-made table in your portfolio has a much larger, and much more immediate impact in a job interview than listing the word “carpentry” on your resume.

It can be difficult and sometimes impossible to get photographs from a show you’ve done. Even when you specifically ask someone to take pictures for you, it may take weeks or even months to track them down and get copies of the pictures. The only way to guarantee photographs of your work is to take the pictures yourself; consider the photographs you get from other people to be a bonus surprise.

What goes for production shots goes even more so for process shots. Taking pictures of your prop through it’s various stages of construction are a great way to show an interviewer how you work and how you think. It also gives tangible proof that you know what you’re doing (and eases the mind of those suspicious that you did not do the work yourself). Interviewers love to ask how you achieved something, and having a visual road map of the process in your portfolio can be easier than attempting to describe vague concepts through words alone. Sometimes, you may even teach a new trick or technique to an interviewer, and props people love learning new tricks.

The important thing to remember is that no one will be taking these production photographs for you. You need to make it a habit to take pictures whenever you get to a new stage of your prop’s construction. It will certainly behoove you to learn how to take photographs of your work. It is especially true at the beginning of your career, when you have less of a network and bank of experience to point to your abilities, and the pictures in your portfolio are the sum total of what you have to show for your skills. Sometimes, it can come down to a single interesting and well-documented prop in your portfolio to convince the job interviewer to take a chance on you. That’s certainly happened to me; even when the season has come to a close, the prop master will remember that one prop I had in my portfolio that impressed him.

Set Decorators Society of America

comic by Terry Hart
comic by Terry Hart

I haven’t done any film or television prop work, so I was unaware of them, but the Set Decorators Society of America has quite a handy website. First off, they show off the decor in films which their members have worked on. These are extensive photo-essays showing the sets from these films, often without actors in the way. You can also read interviews with their various members.

They publish many of this in their quarterly magazine. Luckily for you, you can download their back issues in PDF form… for free!

They also have a list of resources for shopping, as well as a healthy list of books to check out. Also, the comic above is by my twin brother; click on it and you can check the rest out!