Here is a special Friday night blog post. I couldn’t write it earlier, because I am in tech for one show, starting rehearsals for another, and oh yeah, my baby just came home after 14 months in the hospital. But here are some fun prop things to read and watch:
I don’t know anything about this, but Comikaze Expo 2015 in LA is having a prop making contest. It looks like you may need to be there in person to show off your prop if you’re selected.
Creative England interviews props master Michael Betts. He worked on a number of television and film projects over in the UK, most notably the entire run of A Touch of Frost, which aired for nearly twenty years. He talks about his career and gives advice to young props people starting out. For those of us in the US, their studio system seems vastly different from what we are used to, and the comparison is quite fascinating.
For a bit of fun, see how well you do in this quiz to match the sofa to the sitcom. It is interesting to see set photos of well-known sitcoms sans actors, so you can really focus on the design and selection of all the props and set dressing.
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.”
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.
Just a reminder to enter the Prop Building Guidebook contest if you haven’t already. You have until April 30th to send in a photo or video of a prop you’ve made; there are already dozens of really great entries.
NYC Past has gigantic black and white photographs of New York City throughout history, from the early twentieth century through the 1990s.
When you have the time, take a listen to this interview of Christina Haberkern, a film prop maker. She mainly does graphics and illustration for ISS, and has made props for films such as Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Argo, Inception, and J. Edgar. It’s a much more in-depth, down-to-earth and personal glimpse into the life of a working prop maker than most of those behind-the-scenes “aren’t props fun and crazy” fluff pieces that are often produced.
Finally, as a nice break before the weekend, check out this video where famed prop maker Dragon Dronet (Star Trek shows and films, Babylon 5, Eraser, and many more) is challenged to recreate a prop gun from District 9 in only 3 days. It’s a fairly quirky film that ventures into the surreal, but it does a great job showing Dragon’s process, and the result is a really cool prop.
This short blog post up at Popular Woodworking taught me some interesting things about how British table saws are different from American ones, particularly in the safety features. I think the fence that stops at the blade is an interesting concept, and would love to try it out.
Have you heard about this? A team of people out in Tennessee are building a full-scale replica of the Millennium Falcon from Star Wars. That’s a 114 foot long spaceship for those who don’t know. What’s great is that if you look back through the blog, you can see that work began on this over six years ago, and now there is some hard-core construction going on nearly every single day. It looks fairly certain that they can pull this whole thing off.
I tweeted this earlier in the week, but if you missed it, NPR had a great story about faux food artisan Sandy Levins, who recreates historical dishes for display at George Washington’s Mount Vernon estate, New York’s Lower East Side Tenement Museum, and many other museums and historical sites.
Making and finding props for theatre, film, and hobbies