There’s no question that a lot goes into making a movie. You need to get a script, actors, crew, creative team, sound stage, equipment – well, you get it.
But there’s one thing that often goes overlooked in the movie industry. And that’s the importance of props.
Prop is short for “property.” And they have the ability to transform the entire world of the movie.
Let’s say your movie is set in the 1940s. But the actors are still using iPhones instead of a traditional rotary phone.
Kind of embarrassing, huh? Unless it’s a stylistic choice (no judgement here).
But that level of attention to detail is what is required of a prop master. Ready to find out more?
What is a prop master?
We know you probably just want to get to the good stuff: How do I make movie props?
But first, it’s important to look at how movie props must be handled. A prop master is in charge of all props in the production.
This means acquiring them, or making them. Then keeping them organized on that fancy Los Angeles sound stage and making sure they’re used safely.
Seems like a lot to handle, right? Well, below is a quick check-list for what it takes to be a prop master.
Responsibilities of a prop master
You’ll quickly learn that being a prop master is kind of like being a magician. Making up extraordinary things with very little resources.
Remember that 1940s example earlier? Well, this is where movie research comes into play.
A prop master has to learn the history and make of the world they’re creating. So that means understanding what props would realistically look like for that time period and location.
And that means everything from phones to guns. Even soup cans if they’re in the background.
Make a production list
For most movies, a prop master will go through the script. And they’ll take note and learn about every prop used throughout.
They’ll often collaborate with the director, art or creative director, technical director. Yes, lots of directors.
And other departments too, of course. What – did you think making movie props was easy?
Stay within the budget
Not all movies are going to have an extensive budget. And this is where prop masters have to get creative.
Some props are easy to create. Let’s take that can of soup example again.
All a prop master needs to do is trade out the design on a regular tin can. So they can create something that looks like it was made for the time period of the movie.
Sure, special effects exist. But isn’t it pretty special that you can create props like this without the use of a computer?
See Related: How Is Stop Motion Animation Made?
Monitor for prop safety
If props are made by hand, their make might be more fragile. Especially if they’re made as a hand prop where actors handle them when the director calls action.
So it’s always best to check that every prop is accounted for. And safely handled.
Keep everything organized
There’s a lot of organization that goes into props. Besides, the last thing you’ll want is to be scrambling around the production studios for the right prop when the movie director calls action.
(“Where’s the prop gun? I thought I left it over here!”)
Why are movie props important?
A movie prop might seem like a small thing to some. And sure, sometimes the make of a prop is literally tiny.
But props are a great way of establishing the make of the world. And when those props are made by hand, they always tend to bring a certain level of care to the screen.
Remember – making a movie isn’t just about making the next blockbuster hit. It’s about the passion that drives the action of the movie forward.
Alright, the moment you’ve been waiting for! The good news is that making props isn’t necessarily all that hard.
Like that can of soup? A pretty simple thing to create.
If anything, you might want to have a designated space like a rented out sound stage in Los Angeles to make your props in. Just so you don’t overflow your house with miscellaneous items.
But let’s dive into the specific materials you’ll want to be working with. You know, just to make these props extra special.
Standard materials used
There are plenty of different materials that a prop master can use. That’s where the fun comes in!
But below are some that you should get familiar with. Especially if you’re looking to make some epic special effects for your next movie.
These casting resins are great for rigid and semi-rigid props. They also come with fast-setting resins to lock in the look you’re after.
Foam is great if you want to make lightweight objects. So that action star can look super strong without hardly lifting a finger!
Flexibility is something every prop needs. Especially if they’re being thrown around the movie set. So use this rubber to make it durable!
You know that one movie prop that’s a cast moulding of a face? Well, you can thank silicone rubber for those nightmares.
Looks and feels just like glass. But it breaks with just the slightest bit of force. You might even get the perfect shot in one take.
Bonus: What Is CGI Animation?
If silicone rubber isn’t the stuff of nightmares, then latex rubber is. Seriously, you can make a Halloween mask or added prosthetic with this stuff.
These are aluminum-filled, heat-resistant, room temperature curing systems. And they’re the perfect material to get that vacuum compression you’ve been searching for.
With low viscosity, these systems are the perfect way to get general purpose fabrication. That’s just a fancy way of saying added protection to the make of your prop.
Think of this prop material as extreme clay. You know, the kind that’s doughy to start but cures with a solid exterior and stability.
These adhesives are the perfect make for bonding boards together. Not to mention anything else you might want to make sure doesn’t fall apart.
Above all, making movie props is all about creativity. Sure, these materials are used by the best prop makers out there.
But props can be made out of, well, anything. So make your next movie count.
And get creative with the world you’re looking to create. There’s a whole host of materials just waiting to be put to good use.
Keep Reading: What Is A Live Action Film?
Mack Sennett Studios is a historic full-service photography studio, production sound stage, and private event space in Silver Lake, serving as creative home to the Los Angeles cultural renaissance for the last 100 years. Check us out on Facebook, Twitter, Vimeo, Pinterest, Yelp and Instagram.