Order Up! A Working Ziosk Prop – Jay Duckworth details how his shop built a working computer-ordering system for a booth at a Chili’s restaurant that appeared on stage. It took a combination of a cheap tablet, a 3D-printed housing, and some clever programming and graphic design to pull it off.
SYFY WIRE Fan Creators – The SYFY Channel has created a whole series of mini-documentaries about fans of sci-fi, fantasy, and horror, who build things related to their fandom. It’s a mix of propmakers, cosplayers, artists, and even a baker.
In Memoriam: John C. Taccone, IATSE Stagehand – John Taccone was a stagehand in New York City and a member of the New Amsterdam Theatre props crew for 21 years. His untimely passing earlier this month was memorialized on the Broadway marquee of the New Amsterdam.
The House That Mr. Mayer Built: Inside the Union-Busting Birth of the Academy Awards – This is an oldie, but it was new for me. The Oscars were originally created as a way to prevent the unionization of actors, writers, and directors in Hollywood. It didn’t work. Still, it is a good reminder of how spectacle can often be used to mask some deeper purpose. If you want to know more about the history of unionization amongst the Hollywood technicians, I covered a bit of it in my “Brief History of IATSE” article from a few years back. It was outright war at times.
Perfecting the ‘Burn’: Props Master Jay Duckworth on Styling the Iconic ‘Hamilton’ Song – Is Jay ever not in the news? DC Metro sits down with the prop master of the off-Broadway run of Hamilton to discuss how he perfected the burning of the letters during the song “Burn.”
Shepherding the Show: A Day in the Life of Hamilton’s Stage Manager – Continuing with Hamilton, Playbill shares these great photos of Amber White at work as the production stage manager of the Broadway version of this iconic musical.
When the Actors Are Students, and They’re Armed – In this climate of daily school shootings, how do high school theater departments deal with plays and musicals that feature guns? The New York Times is on it. They showcase a number of schools who take different approaches; some use abstract props to represent the guns, while others use as realistic a prop as possible. As a prop master, you need to be in on the conversation early whenever your production will include firearms.
Meet the Puppeteer: Christina Stone in Manufacturing Mischief – Check out this interview with puppeteer Christina Stone as she talks about the various characters she created and performed in the recently-closed Manufacturing Mischief.
Adding Smoke F/X to Toys Using E-Cigarettes – Make Magazine rounds up some tutorials on using e-cigarettes to add smoke effects to toys (or props). Remember, if you are working on an Equity show, there are guidelines on how much smoke you can use, and the levels need to be tested. There are a few brands you can use without the need for testing, but they cannot be hacked or modified.
The Collaborator Party 2018 – This Sunday is the Tony Awards, which means it’s also the 4th annual Collaborator Party. Be sure to attend if you are in NYC or one of the satellite venues. One of the co-hosts this year is Jay Duckworth, props director at the Public Theater. Props people are finally getting their due!
Prop Master Russell Bobbitt Reveals Movie Secrets Behind Iconic Props – This short video is mostly an ad for Zippo lighters, but it is still great to hear Russell talk about how props are used in movies. Russell is the props master for the Marvel Cinematic Universe, so he is responsible for such modern-day icons like Captain America’s shield, Thor’s hammer, and the Infinity Gauntlet.
How Peak TV and DVRs Raise the Stakes for Period Props – The Hollywood Reporter talks with Ross MacDonald, Hollywood’s “go-to” for graphics props.
Zer0 Sword Build – Casey Gartung writes a step-by-step guide to building this glowing sword from the Borderlands 2 video game.
Did You Know Lex Luthor and Obi-Wan Kenobi Shared a Prop? – Now you do. The trunk that Obi-Wan kept his lightsaber in is the same trunk that Lex Luthor used to store Kryptonite.
Metal 3D Printing Like Never Seen Before – 1st Century Roman Helmet Build – We’re all out of a job! Except that this took months of hand painting and finishing on top of the actual printing. Not to mention you still need to deal with 3D printing just like any other process, where you break your prop down into its simplest components and determine the best materials and methods to achieve those components. Still, this is an impressive looking helmet.
Inside Hollywood’s Prop Food Wonderland – Take a journey to LA’s Prop Heaven, one of the largest independently-owned prop houses in Burbank, California. Nearly a quarter of their stock is devoted to food and restaurant-themed furniture.
Fit For A King – A Nine Piece Rolling Throne – Jay Duckworth details his process of creating a rolling throne for the Public Theater’s mobile production of Henry V. Initially, the throne had to come out in nine pieces and be assembled by the actors onstage, before another actor jumped on the seat and rode around in it. Luckily, it was the only prop in the show!
Propmaster Annette Breazeale Brings WBTT Theater Sets to Life – Check out this lovely photo slideshow of the prop stock at the Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe, where Annette Breazeale is the props master.
How Some Of The Best Cosplay On Earth Is Made – This video details one of the costume armor pieces created by Henchmen Studios, where over fifteen people spent five weeks fabricating every part.
My newest book, The Prop Effects Guidebook: Lights, Motion, Sound, and Magic, is finally getting into the hands of people. If you have bought a copy, please leave me a review on Amazon or wherever you purchased it from. You are also always free to email me directly to let me know what you think! And now, onto this week’s stories:
A Word to the Wise on Resumes & Cover Letters – Jay Duckworth brings us some advice on writing resumes and cover letters from the Public Theater Props Department, which receives 100-200 resumes a year. Always remember to spelcheck before sending one out!
Building a Puppet With The Broken Nerd – Broken Nerd brings us this super helpful video showing how to build a Muppet-style hand puppet. The ending is especially cute.
Why Mary Robinette Kowal Traded in Puppets for Science Fiction – Though largely know for her science fiction and fantasy novels, some of us knew Mary Robinette Kowal back when she was a puppeteer. This is a great little article on how and why she made the transition, and how her theatre background informs her writing.
Secret Cinema – A New Life Awaits You – Cinefex has an interesting article about London’s “Secret Cinema,” which brings an interactive element to watching films. Sets, props, and costumes combine with live performance to create an otherworldly street fair surrounding the screening of a movie. It seems like the kind of thing a prop builder would love to get involved with.