How to get into the prop making industry

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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
 

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Riza

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

NormanF

Master Member
RPF PREMIUM MEMBER
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.
 

TheNickFox

Sr Member
RPF PREMIUM MEMBER
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
 

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Black Thorn

New Member
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
 

BrundelFly

Sr Member
RPF PREMIUM MEMBER
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.
 

abaddon1974

Active Member
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 ass 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
 

clonesix

Sr Member
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.
 

BAK55

Well-Known Member
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.
 

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TylerHam

Well-Known Member
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..
 

TylerHam

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

propnoob74

Well-Known Member
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...
 

planet

Well-Known Member
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.
 

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gobler

Sr Member
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.
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...
 

MattMunson

Master Member
RPF PREMIUM MEMBER
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.
 

BrundelFly

Sr Member
RPF PREMIUM MEMBER
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.
 

Ashiva

Member
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.
 

Jediwannabe

Sr Member
RPF PREMIUM MEMBER
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.
 

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