How to get into the prop making industry

Discussion in 'Replica Props' started by Unimatrix01, Mar 29, 2012.

  1. Unimatrix01

    Unimatrix01 Member

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    Hi all,

    I came accross a post by someone who works for the BBC on Doctor Who but can't find it anymore lol....Anyway, I'm wanting to get into the prop making side of things as a career but have no idea what courses I'd need to take or basically what to do with regards to having this as an actual job......I know the afore mentioned person had ther own website as they were going freelance.....think I'd been looking at sonic screwdriver threads at the time but need some help/ advice..... I'm in sheffield in the Uk so have no Idea what to do other than ask the elite...that being the peeps on here :). Craig
     
  2. EyeofSauron

    EyeofSauron Master Member

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    what you need: skill, contacts in the film business and luck.
     
  3. Riza

    Riza New Member

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    His name is Nick Robatto. He's on here as Rubbertoe and his website is rubbertoerayguns.com
     
  4. NormanF

    NormanF Master Member RPF PREMIUM MEMBER

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    I was going to throw out some random thoughts about shop and metal working classes, but I think this should really be answered by people who do this for a living. Try to find some people on here or elsewhere on the internet and see if you can find out from them what they would look for when they hire someone.
     
  5. TheNickFox

    TheNickFox Sr Member RPF PREMIUM MEMBER

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    I'm no expert, but my approach would be to look at it like any other business and ask yourself where you can get in. Unless you have built-in connections to the film or TV world, it might be difficult to get there. However there are always people needed to make props for theaters, haunted houses, amusements, independent films, school plays, etc. Those all have lower/easier points of entry, and can be as easy as a quick phone call or an email offering your services.

    Obviously, you need the skills so that you can put together a portfolio of your work. Then you can use that to approach various places that might need prop work done. You may have to offer some local theaters to do the work "at cost" the first few times just as a way to build your portfolio, but in the process, you'll also be building rapport and your network which can help later.

    Once again, I'm not a prop guy, but I am a business guy and that's my business advice. (The prop business is a business after all) Someone with specific industry experience can chime in with the particulars, I'm sure, since every industry has its own peculiarities.

    Good luck!

    -Nick
     
  6. Black Thorn

    Black Thorn New Member

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    The above comment is very good advice imo.

    Until I became ill I used to work in TV making props etc on such shows as Classic Who, Max Headroom, Spitting Image, Harry Potter etc, and It's now a very crowded industry to get into.

    Getting a wide range of skills and good contacts is a must imo. Sending your CV to as many effects firms as you can get your hands on helps, as does making contacts in other ways such as maybe trying out as a runner for some production/effects companies.

    If you want it badly enough you'll get there in the end.

    Good luck. :D
     
  7. BrundelFly

    BrundelFly Sr Member RPF PREMIUM MEMBER

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    WHY would you want to do that?

    No Health Care, no Stock Options, no retirement.

    At least not out in CA. Everyone I know in the industry burns out with the departing gift of cancer or such disgust for the movie industry they never get to enjoy a movie again.

    Keep it a hobby. More money and enjoyment in it... TRUST ME.


    Even then...You still get sick of doing it.
     
  8. abaddon1974

    abaddon1974 Active Member

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    Make things, make lots of different things and build up a portfolio.
    No one will take you on with just a qualification, but if you can show lots and lots of kick * work then you may be in with a chance.
    Also the people I know who work in the tv and film industry have all started at the bottom, so get good at making tea and coffee.

    Craig
     
  9. clonesix

    clonesix Sr Member

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    I'm with Brundlefly on this one. Why would you want to? If you talk to people in the industry, they will tell you that you work under impossible deadlines, and get little enjoyment from the job.

    If you are thinking about a career, plan ahead and pick an industry that will support you for 40 years.


    Then, build props and models as a hobby and enjoy it.
     
  10. BAK55

    BAK55 Well-Known Member

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    I think I can understand the appeal of the "wow factor" and the imagined glitz of having one's work in a Hollywood production. But I agree with what others have said.

    But if you're determined to persue this, just be prepared to work under extremely tight, "I want it yesterday" deadlines, complete changes made or additional work added on the project at the last moment and only get paid what the bid had been regardless of the additional work or materials may have cost, and dealing with childish behavior from your clients.

    I wouldn't wish that kind of stress on anyone.
     
  11. TylerHam

    TylerHam Well-Known Member

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    Itll take more "Connections and luck" than skill - More than likely you will have to start as a PA or runner, or whatever the entry level title is and work your way up.

    I have been in the film industry (in Visual Effects not prob building) for 12 years and I can echo the above also that if you do it for a living, you will have a hard time doing it for "fun" outside of that world. PLUS - there is never a guarantee on what you will be working on... You could get an awesome gig on Dr Who for 2 months, then spend the next 2 years working on breakaway glass bottles for dumb romantic comedies, etc... You will more than likely be part of a group or business, and "assigned" films or shows to work on... ANd WORK takes on a whole new meaning when you are talking film hours... The last film I was on set for was all overnight shoots - 6pm to 6 am for MONTHS -

    Dont want to dissuade you if its your dream, but I wish I had gotten more "honest" opinions about the industry before I got into it..
     
  12. TylerHam

    TylerHam Well-Known Member

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    Oh man I could go on for HOURS..... its been RAD <sarcasm> not having a 401k or reliable medical insurance for the past decade...
     
  13. propnoob74

    propnoob74 Well-Known Member

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    Just a couple of questions for you, I'm new to the prop making hobby , (since I can remember) making stuff was something I like, not to the prop level but little paper robots, spaceships etc. By any chance is that something you like to do?, have you play around taking stuff apart and assembled them back again? those are questions that may help you decide if that path is the one you want.

    Now as related to education, art classes, sculpting, electrical classes, computer software may be what you need to start, if you can draw really good, and have the right tools you may be one of the few lucky ones that make it on that career...

    Try to look for an internship if possible, that way you can get a good view of the skills you need, and also it can become a good source of contacts for you later on. But remember, you have to pay your dues, keep going and don't give up...
     
  14. propnoob74

    propnoob74 Well-Known Member

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    And like abaddon1974 said, a portfolio is key...
     
  15. planet

    planet Well-Known Member

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    I had a friend who worked on
    a long running CSI like show on TV . Guy wanted to be a film or tv show writer . He did the coffee stuff Kissed major a** basically was a slave to get his foot in the door. After years they let him write one episode he was on top of the world he thought he was going to be the next Tarantino. It happens it was the shows last year .

    The guy is like 40 yrs old now living in LA. BROKE! He has NOT worked in 5 years living in an apartment being supported by his wife and goes to Starbucks talking all day about films its insane. I saw him a couple years ago at a friends wedding he looked like he was a hobo sad but true.
     
  16. gobler

    gobler Sr Member

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    Spot on... Worked as a prop maker and make up effects and after 9 years of bad food, sleep depravation and the toxic crap we use I had a heart attack. I had saved to buy a house and all that went for medical bills. I continued to work another 4 years before getting sick of the BS film industry...


    Sent from somewhere in space & time...
     
  17. MattMunson

    MattMunson Master Member RPF PREMIUM MEMBER

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    I did an interview with my buddy Tim, who is not only a member of this forum but also a veteran of the film industry. Watch all three parts of this interview, as tim gives some GREAT insight into getting into the film industry, and why you might not want to do it.


    Tim Arp Interview - YouTube

    I'm pretty much in agreement with all of the skeptics in this thread. I'm sure it sounds fun, and maybe you'll want to give it a shot for a year, just to get it out of your system, but it's really not a very smart career path.
     
  18. BrundelFly

    BrundelFly Sr Member RPF PREMIUM MEMBER

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    I worked in a shop once, and the owner came and, had a COMPLETE melt down for no reason, and threw a scale at myself and the two guys standing next to me.

    They said nothing, as it was a typical day for them.
    I said, "do that again and I will beat you over the head with it"

    For some reason that was my last week there.

    I share this, not to confirm Im a psychopath, anyone who knows me, knows I tend to Speak my Mind, sometimes to my own detriment ( Not a welcome trait in that industry.
    Former Naval Officer, I tend not to tolerate BS. )

    I share it to give you what I experienced my first exposure to the wonderful industry.
    It made a lasting impression.
     
  19. Ashiva

    Ashiva Member

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    I personally would rather those with such great talents remain doing it as a hobby so I, the average person, can purchase those things at a decent budget, as the hobbyists tend to make the same props, or better, then those in the films, and for way less money. Maybe more time making it perfect, but for less to the rest of us who want to purchase their work none the less, and those individuals that do have said talent and do this as a hobby get a hell of alot more appreciation for their work and dedication to a project then in the actual industry. The only thing I wish for is the time and money to make props, and even more money to purchase all of the wonderful things made by so many talented people.
     
  20. Jediwannabe

    Jediwannabe Sr Member RPF PREMIUM MEMBER

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    I've been working in the industry for nearly 20 years and I've loved every minute of it. The saying "choose a job you love and you'll never work a day in your life" couldn't be more true. 19 years ago I was a stockbroker and hated every waking minute of my life. The point is if you love it and can make money doing it then you could be living the dream.
     
  21. DaddyfromNaboo

    DaddyfromNaboo Master Member RPF PREMIUM MEMBER

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    In what position?

    Yes, but I too know too many people who can´t because of low wages and really bad contracts, working long hours and not knowing what the next job might be. It greatly depends on the position you work in, though.

    In addition, the movie business is very demanding on relationships. If you want to work in the movie business you should preferrably be alone or happy with a high fluctuation in life partners ;) Or have a very tolerant one, which is quite rare.
     
  22. Jonny B

    Jonny B Active Member

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    THIS is the "Industry" in a very simple way....

    Put a Director, a camera man and an actor in a sealed room with nothing in it except them. Hand the actor a steal ballbearing as a "prop" and shut the door. Wait five minutes.
    When you open the door, the ballbearing will be broken, no one saw a thing, but it was your fault.
     
  23. JOATRASH FX

    JOATRASH FX Master Member RPF PREMIUM MEMBER

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    While I don't work in films, I have met and talked to enough people that have confirmed my belief that I made the right decision 15+ years ago and steered in a slightly different direction. I actually ended up in the games industry, which sadly has taken on a LOT of the bad similarities of film but is at least a little more forgiving if you manage to navigate through it.

    I read something once that really stuck: If there is anything else you can see yourself doing for a living and being happy, go do it now and never look back.

    The above seems to apply to just about ANY entertainment-oriented career.

    The problem with the "Work with what you love and it will never seem like work"- thing is that ALL work puts stress on you, even if you're having fun. I actually think the "fun" jobs are worse. The danger is that you will burn out and not see any signs until it's too late. You will also be more easily exploited. I've seen it happy many times (and been there myself back when I was green).
     
  24. Jediwannabe

    Jediwannabe Sr Member RPF PREMIUM MEMBER

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    To respond to DaddyfromNaboo, I'm a producer and I have many close friends in every department. I can say the people that stick with it enjoy what they do. The unions guarantee a very fair wage and health benefits. Most of my productions consis of 10 to 12 hour shoot days which are the stamdard worldwide.

    As for the burnout comment from Joe, yes there is stress in any work but it is all kept in perspective. We like to say "we aren't saving lives". I don't see myself ever getting burned out. I feel with exercise and a vacation here and there it's pretty easy to keep a healthy perspective.
     
  25. Jediwannabe

    Jediwannabe Sr Member RPF PREMIUM MEMBER

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    I will note that freelancing does have a downside. There are periods when work seems to dry up and you can be without a job for a while. The people who last in the business are able to keep multiple avenues open so that if work dries up in one area, they can look to another. For example, I find my friends in the art related departments easily bounce from features, to commercials, to television, and even music video.

    As for having to work with people like BrundelFly mentioned, idiots are in every field. I personally avoid working with them. Occasionally I do wind up working with one or two bad seeds and I just know not to work with them in the future.
     
  26. DaddyfromNaboo

    DaddyfromNaboo Master Member RPF PREMIUM MEMBER

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    I see. Well, I´d have almost guessed so ;)
    As a producer you should know that 10 to 12 hour shoot days mean quite a few hours more for a few departments, such as makeup, costume and art department.
    It´s a myth that the 10 to 12 days are a standard. It´s common practice, but that does not make it a standard. In fact, in a lot of countries it´s against the law to have work days that are that long, simply for safety reasons. A work week that consist of 60 hours, probably with night shoots or changes in shooting schedule because of unforeseen events can really exhaust people and make them actually sick. And if this is done week after week for e.g. a feature film, after such a project everybody needs a looong vacation.
    There of course is pressure on the freelance producers, with a lot of new production companies entering the competition and the money being stretched thin (I guess that also has become a common practice world wide), and they are forced to hand the pressure down the hierarchy, but sometimes it´s bordering on criminal activities what I have witnessed in the past.

    Absolutely. But the work force with the smaller paychecks are forced to have a job immediately after the last one to pay the bills. I have seen quite a few people burn out or try to cope with the help of alcohol. Even heads of department. Very sad.

    The thing is, although a lot of people aren´t working as freelancers but as employees, it is the same for all of them. A project may last a few months (over here it´s usually ten weeks for most art department and costume department personnel for a 90 min tv movie, about four to six weeks for grips, lighting, camera), but you never know if there´s going to be a next one.

    Yes, the movie business is one of the toughest.
     
  27. NormanF

    NormanF Master Member RPF PREMIUM MEMBER

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    Wow, this thread has at least got me so I no longer wish I had started making props 25 years ago to get into the business. That and it seems most of the work is in California and I'm not interested in living there.
     
  28. TylerHam

    TylerHam Well-Known Member

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    Well, also - Production jobs like producers, coordinators, etc - Tend to be much more stable. Artists are looked at as "dime a dozen."

    Plus, unions do help, IF you are part of one... Not every shop offers unions, and some unions - like the ones in VFX - really dont do anything to help you.. at all......

    Keep it as a hobby, work on the things you WANT to work on, and get a stable career that pays benefits, retirement, and wont have you looking for a new job every 4 months.
     
  29. DaddyfromNaboo

    DaddyfromNaboo Master Member RPF PREMIUM MEMBER

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    Yes, but not nearly as stable as they were ten years ago. We are actually all in the same boat.

    With new parts of (any) country, but here the U.S. becoming interesting for production companies because of cheaper work force and tax deductions, e.g. the Missisipi area around New Orleans IIRC, the less likely a crewmember will be part of a union. I have read about this already two years ago in a publication by the Art Directors Guild about this. A true conflict, having professionals work on a movie and having to provide housing and transport, member of a union, or only hire an experienced art director and only use locals ...


    QFT :lol Atm I am more than happy that I´ve recently been able to turn down a movie job offer ...
     
  30. Jediwannabe

    Jediwannabe Sr Member RPF PREMIUM MEMBER

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    No, my entire crew is in and out in 10 to 12 hours. That is not just my personal set time. Clearly, I would be aware of it taking a little more time for certain departments to get in and out and my production days account for the whole crew to be in and out in 10 to 12 hours.

    As far as your comment about it not being standard I can say that I produce all over the world and I've yet to see a country that wouldn't give me a 10 hour day at minimum if not longer.
     
  31. Warpaint

    Warpaint Active Member

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    Does that sentiment extend to concept artists?
     
  32. gobler

    gobler Sr Member

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    Unions!! What a laugh. No prop/make up shop I worked at was union. In fact the shop owners have been fighting this subject for decades. I will say some shops are better then others. ADI for instance was one of the best ran shops I ever worked at. We never worked more then a 9 hour day with an hour lunch. That is because Allic & Tom came from Stan Winstons; who had a very well ran shop. On the other end I would say 85% of the shop work you on average a 14 hour day. I was a mould supervisor of one shop (no names) and it was common to put in 16 hour days. Hell, there were times when I slept at the shop cause it gave me an extra hour of sleep instead of driving home and back.

    I still do on set non-union make up work but on set is a different kind of stress and energy.


    Sent from somewhere in space & time...
     
  33. Jediwannabe

    Jediwannabe Sr Member RPF PREMIUM MEMBER

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    What I like about the unions is that they do give structure and a standard (rates and rules) for production to follow. Without guidelines and set penalties, people get abused. I think there should always be a choice between choosing union or non-union...and that is not always the case. I will say that it is very unlikely that you would see a 16 hour day in a union shop and if you had to do a long day you would be well compensated for it.
     
  34. gobler

    gobler Sr Member

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    Oh don't get me wrong, I tried to get into local 706 (Make up & Hair Dressers union) but when I had completed my requirements (after nearly 5 years) they changed the rules so all that time was for naught. :facepalm It * me off so much I never tried to re-submit. Now that I am seasoned and not a young hot head I would love to enter 706. But I fear that ship has sailed.
     
  35. DaddyfromNaboo

    DaddyfromNaboo Master Member RPF PREMIUM MEMBER

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    Well, then more props to you *sic*

    The department with the strongest influence over here in Germany is the lighting department. If they don´t force you to stick to the "11 hours of rest" rule by literally flipping the switch, then they will after some time with the additional cost that is generated if they go into overtime. Granted, we do have directors who are very professional and shoot 4 to 5 minutes in a nine hour day, but there are others who think that they are Kubrick and drive everybody insane. Granted, the lighting crew sometimes expect overtime due to the additional money, but I guess that every producer hates it when he has to hand out additional money.
    I have seen international productions that were shut down because of violations of labour laws, with hefty fines for the production company.
    But again, as I wrote before, it may be common practice to work and actually calculate with long work days, but it is not a set standard. Producers want to establish it as a "standard", but a lot of the guilds are fighting this.
     
  36. TylerHam

    TylerHam Well-Known Member

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    It applies to everyone... Become a good concept artist - Rock your job - start earning a high day rate - become so good you cost so much that they wont hire you anymore, when they can hire a student to "copy your style" for 1/4 the price....

    The industry is a mess.
     
  37. Warpaint

    Warpaint Active Member

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    Good to know, thank you. :thumbsup
     
  38. MrPinski

    MrPinski Well-Known Member

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    I have done 3 movies in their Art Dept making props. I had my first one last year and two this year. My first two were done for free (they had me volunteer for my first shoot to "test me out" with no pay and the second one I made a few props from home and I only got paid in a credit and got my materials covered) My 3rd movie was offered to me at $1000 flat but I had to go on location in Seattle WA and I live in Los Angeles CA (they offered me a ride on the art truck) and the shoot was a month long and I would have to "crash" in the PD's hotel room and my food would not be covered, though I would get food while I was on set (about 2 meals a day for 2 weeks while working 12 hour days). Needless to say, I turned that down.

    I just got offered PropMaster credit on a new film due to shoot in a week, they offer a whopping $50/day and I would have to work 12 hours/day for 6 days. I make more money selling castings of my passion projects on here than I do for studios...

    If you want a career in props, open your own shop, take on commissions and get hired by studios.

    I plan to get there one day.

    Gotta keep practicing!

    Good luck to you though.
     
  39. NoahJLopez

    NoahJLopez New Member

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    I am looking at universities, but since you were in the industry, What degree do you recommend to get into the industry.
    -Thanks Noah
     
  40. NoahJLopez

    NoahJLopez New Member

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    I would like to get into the industry. What degrees should I go for and at what colleges do you recommend.
     
  41. bladefans

    bladefans Well-Known Member

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    I worked in IT at a VFX company for 2 years after getting a BS in Computer Science. I often heard artists and producers bragging about how skipping college was the greatest decision of their lives. Less education was a badge of honor. Definitely not an industry for me ever again.

    To further answer your question, producers and coordinators often start as PAs (Production Assistants). A degree won't hurt your chances of getting a position like this, but they are extremely willing to hire right out of high school.

    I met far more professional artists (with jobs) who went to art school instead of a university for a Bachelor of Arts degree. In the case of VFX, a few popular schools include Gnomon School of Visual Effects in Hollywood, Digital Animation and Visual Effects (DAVE) school at Universal Orlando, and The Academy of Art University in San Francisco. These are specialty schools that will often cost just as much for their >1 year program as 4 years at a university will. Having a certificate from an art school drastically narrows your career options if you tire of the industry.

    The reason so many brag about skipping these schools? Because regardless of your educational background, the person who gets the job is the person with the better demo reel/portfolio. EVERY time.
     
  42. Michael Bergeron

    Michael Bergeron Legendary Member RPF PREMIUM MEMBER

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    Yep. I've posted this in other threads, the education section of your resume is literally the last thing I look at. A great reel & cover letter are what get you into an interview. Based on those two things I usually know who I'm going to hire before meeting a single candidate.
     
  43. Props69

    Props69 Member

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    My experience with any job if you really enjoy doing something don't do it for a living the longer you do it the less you'll like it plus them you won't want to "play" with that stuff on your off time. This is why I don't build cars, motorbikes or fabricate anything for a living because I have to much fun doing it in my free time. Find a job you like/ some what enjoy or have fun at keep your hobby stuff for your free time.
     
  44. markquested

    markquested Well-Known Member

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    I would suggest making connections with the following:

    Nick Robatto - Rubbertoe props, props for TV and Film

    Purple Blancmange - PurpleBlancmange

    Neill Gorton - Gorton Studio

    Mike Tucker - The Model Unit: models and miniature effects for television and film

    Prop Makers - Propmaker.co.uk

    All of these are UK props makers (and in Neill's case, a UK prosethics and animatronics). And they all have connections with programmes like Doctor Who, Torchwood, Red Dwarf, Sarah Jane Adventures, Doctor Who exhibitions, etc.
     
    Last edited: Feb 28, 2013
  45. Quagmire9

    Quagmire9 Member

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    i have and still do (chasing contracts like elmer fud chases buggs) worked in the film and TV and theater industry. i started on Mary Shelley's Frankenstein in the foam lab bashing out DeNiros latex appliances. i got in how? well, i didn't even have a portfolio so for the interview i literally took a box a huge box of crap that i had made. unorthadox i know, but it got me in. apparently it showed passion. now i don't know about that, but the point i am making is, some what messily i think, is there are all types of ways to break into it. it IS getting harder of course, but i think if you had 30 people from the industry in a room, they'd probably all have different stories of how they broke into it. don't be scared. put yourself out there. you'll soon figure out what they're looking for from your first few knock backs :D

    build loads. work on anything and everything you can. and never turn down a contract or commission, BUT you are always judged on your work, so make it stand out!
     
  46. biguk

    biguk New Member

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    Pretty much all my friends that work in the industry stumbled into it by chance.
     

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