Loving your props

As a backyard film maker you will have to wear a lot of hats. This includes prop maker, one of my favorites. This is actually why I make films, so I can craft props.

So, I am writer/director of the camera shots also. Well, with that brings an odd situation.

Let’s write a film scene. Hero returns home, flips on the light in the kitchen, hears a noise, and walks to the other room where he finds aliens battling it out with his pet werewolf.

So now we have a story, script, and storyboards and we begin on the props. Did you see that part where it says hero flips on the light switch? Well, let’s do a 2 second shot of the hero’s hand closeup as he flips the switch. Then we will cut to the old flickering fluorescent light in the ceiling to add tension. So….you and I both agreed to show a 2 second shot of the light switch. Great.

But, we don’t have a light switch so we send the request over to the prop shop to make us one. Which in our case is also us. So, we spend $15 in parts, and about 10 hours in labor making this light switch. We are really super proud of how it turned out. Everyone on facebook is impressed on how perfectly the prop light switch looks on film.

So….here is the issue. Now we have something we are really proud of, and since we are also in charge of the writing, and directing, and cinematography we decide to make the script say 13 shots of the light switch, with dazzling lighting, and different poses, and views. Boy oh boy does our prop look great on film.

my super awesome light switch prop

my super awesome light switch prop

So., instead of a alien/werewolf battle film, we have a film that should in fact be called “I have a light switch”. We have lost our vision of our film by giving a prop/location/costume piece etc way too much attention.

In one of the Pirates of the Caribbean films, they built this huge amazing boat and they took it out to sea and really filmed it. Well, in the film, you can see how proud they really are of it. It is in about a million shots. The film should be called “I have a boat”.

hey everyone, I have a boat

hey everyone, I have a boat

In the Lord of the Rings, it is a hobbit house, or it is a beautiful mountain. The film should have been called “I have some beautiful landscape”. When you find yourself in the middle of a film checking your phone or scrolling facebook, it is because the writer/camera guy lost your attention. After 20 shots of the same light switch we are all wondering why we are so bored.

So, if the shot requires only a 2 second shot, then make a prop that only needs to hold up to a two second view and move on. Don’t put so much labor and money into this one prop. Save your money and time for the alien/werewolf scene. OR….do like I do, go way overboard on the prop because you love details, and you love making props, but realize you cannot show it off in the film. Post pictures of your incredible light switch prop on facebook, in a light switch forum, etc. If I was your director/camera guy, I would take your prop, thank you for it, and then shoot my two second closeup and then move on.

Watch my film again.

At the 00:26 mark there is a blacksmith hitting some metal on an anvil. That anvil is a wooden film prop that I made. It took 2 days, and I am super proud of how it came out. But the film is not about “My wonderful anvil”. It on the screen less than 3 seconds. No one probably even noticed it. I will share some pictures of it here in my blog later because it is freaking cool.

Don’t make a “I have a boat” film. Or we will as the audience will be checking our facebook every time it shows up again on the screen.

Go ahead, make a mess, have some fun. Don’t love your props too much.

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