Tag Archives: ross macdonald

Interview with Ross MacDonald

Ross MacDonald has built period props and vintage books for dozens of films and television shows over the years. Check out his web page for a portfolio of his work. I recently talked with him about making props and working in the industry.

Ross MacDonald. Photograph by Greg Preston
Ross MacDonald. Photograph by Greg Preston

How did you get started doing props?

Weirdly enough, I had been doing some television-related work, even back when I was starting out as an illustrator. I was doing this thing, this was up in Toronto, called the Artisan’s Schools Program. It was a grant program. It was me and a couple other guys, we would go into the schools, and we’d start off performing poetry, I would do big drawings, and the third guy, if he was there, would do music. Continue reading Interview with Ross MacDonald

Valentine’s Day Links

Happy Friday, everyone! For those of you in my part of the country, I hope you survived the winter storm(s) alright. Whether you are back to work or still stuck in your house, here are some prop-related articles for your reading pleasure:

The ever-inspiring prop maker Ross MacDonald has a post on some of the period paper props he has made for HBO’s Boardwalk Empire over the past four years. His props are always well-researched and produced on vintage machines as close to how they were originally produced.

Collector’s Weekly has a great piece on the fifty year history of Easy-Bake Ovens. If you have never checked out their blog, this is a great piece to start on. Their stories are always a cut above the rest, filled with tons of great photographs, and delving into the history of various objects in great detail.

If you are interested in making props while spending barely any money on materials, check out the Cardboard Armory. As the name suggests, this blog details various armor and weapon projects built with little more than cardboard, hot glue and the occasional piece of PVC pipe.

Though directed at woodworkers, Popular Woodworking’s “Top 6 Ways to Become a Better Woodworker” is just as relevant to the prop maker. Ok, it’s actually five ways, since one of the ways is to read Popular Woodworking (though if you build prop furniture from wood, it’s a good magazine to check out).

Alpha Officium makes historically-accurate coins out of real metal. His website has some common coins like Florins and Groats, and he can also do custom orders if you need something more specific.

Friday Prop Notes

Ah, Fall, one of the busiest times of the year to be in theatre. Other than Spring. Or Summer if you work in summer theatre, or Winter if you do holiday shows. We start tech next week for our first show of the season, and tech for our second show the week after. I just got back from North Carolina visiting my wife; we made some LED lighters for her production of Hair, and I got to watch her work on some leather masks as well. And of course, work on my book continues full speed ahead.

I posted this to my Twitter, but it’s too cool to let go unnoticed. Ross MacDonald, a prop maker on shows like Boardwalk Empire and films like The Book of Eli, National Treasure: Book of Secrets, and Van Helsing, gives an interview to “The Atlantic”, sharing his stories and techniques.

Also posted to my Twitter about a month ago, Jodi Bobrovsky, the properties manager at Stages Repertory Theatre, is featured on the Houston Press blog.

Mark Cordory was the head of props fabrication for Dr. Who for a few years, and a freelancer on a bunch of other television shows such as Torchwood which I’ve recently begun watching. The galleries on his site have a wealth of photographs sharing the work he’s done.

I like the pie chart David Lang shares about knowing what he doesn’t know. He has been writing a column on his journey to becoming a “maker”.

Fake Believe goes behind the scenes of Purebred Studio’s projects. They include a lot of glimpses at their designs and tutorials on the props they make (lots of monsters and dead things). Also, it’s am awesome name for a blog.

Ross MacDonald

The Book of Secrets from National Treasure, made by Ross MacDonald
The Book of Secrets from National Treasure, made by Ross MacDonald

I came across the props portfolio for Ross MacDonald. He has done paper props for films such as National Treasure, Mr. Brooks, and Seabiscuit. His portfolio is not only well-illustrated, but contains a lot of information about how he went about creating his props. If you ever think you are over-researching your props, chances are, you haven’t been as obsessive as Mr. MacDonald. Have you ever submitted a Freedom of Information Act to obtain an FBI file from the Lincoln assassination to replicate John Wilkes Booth’s diary? Probably not.