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Posts Tagged ‘props

“Acting is all about big hair and funny props… All the great actors knew it. Olivier knew it, Brando knew it.”*…

 

* Harold Ramis

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As we dress the set, we might that it was on this date in 1983 that Prince played a 75-minute benefit concert for the Minnesota Dance Theatre at the recently re-branded First Avenue club in Minneapolis.  It was there that the budding pop star debuted many of the Purple Rain album tracks, and recorded the versions of “Purple Rain,” “I Would Die 4 U,” and “Baby I’m A Star” heard in the film and soundtrack.

Screen shot taken from video of Prince and the Revolution’s debut performance of Purple Rain, August 3, 1983

The night also included performances from the company, including a piece choreographed to Prince’s “DMSR.”

More on this extraordinary evening, including a set list, here.

 

Written by LW

August 3, 2017 at 1:01 am

“Don’t be tricked by the verisimilitude into forgetting this is fiction”*…

 

Stranger Things

Thanks to obsessive online forums that pore over a production’s every anachronism , [the entertainment industry]  requires increasingly discerning and dedicated prop hunters. Nowhere is this more apparent on set than with the technology that surrounds actors. Mad Men inspired its dedicated watchers to complain that the Sterling Cooper office’s IBM Selectric typewriters were a year ahead of their time, and the numerous period-specific shows that followed have only had to be more diligent.

Now, as television is trending toward ’80s-era creations like Stranger Things, The Americans, Halt and Catch Fire, and The Goldbergs, decorators are finding it increasingly difficult to fill their sets with gadgets that won’t cause persnickety fans to froth at the mouth. It’s a very first-world Hollywood problem, but a fascinating one. The breakneck pace of consumer technology development — the same thing that has brought us generational inside jokes and those viral “Kids React to Old Computers” videos — is trailed by landfills full of mass-produced gadgets. They are not made of metal or wood, but a beige and flimsy plastic that tends to yellow over time. As the production designer for the first two seasons of The Americans, John Mott, put it, the ’80s “were also a time where design had kind of lost its way.” As a result, gadgets from that era don’t tend to be on most collectors’ radars, even if they’re in high demand in the entertainment industry…

It can’t just be a computer from the ’80s — it has to be THE computer from the ’80s: “How Hollywood Gets Its Old-School Tech.”

And for more on the viewer-side energy driving this, see “The Internet Is Spoiling TV.”

* Sha Li

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As we aspire to accuracy, we might recall that it was on this date in 1970 that Gimme Shelter was released.  A Maysles Brothers documentary edited by Charlotte Zwerin and produced by Porter Bibb (with incidental assistance from your correspondent), it chronicled the last weeks of The Rolling Stones’ 1969 US tour, which culminated in the disastrous Altamont Free Concert.

One of the most immediate and compelling documentaries ever committed to celluloid, it was released twelve months to the day after the era-defining tragedy that it depicted. Before directing Gimme Shelter, Albert and David Maysles had made vérité documentaries focusing on celebrities such as Marlon Brando, Orson Welles, Truman Capote and the Beatles and it was the latter experience that convinced Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones to invite the brothers and their creative collaborator Charlotte Zwerin to film the free concert they were headlining at the Altamont Speedway. The concert was attended by an enormous 300,000 people but the free love party was so large that the Hell’s Angels motorcycle gang were recruited in the last minute to act as security for the event. Rather than being a West Coast version of Woodstock (which had been held earlier that summer) Altamont instead became infamous for the death of Meredith Hunter, an 18-year-old African-American man, stabbed to death by the Hell’s Angels after drawing a long-barreled revolver. Amazingly, the Maysles caught the incident on film, turning Gimme Shelter into, as Amy Taubin succinctly put it, rock ‘n’ roll’s answer to the Zapruder footage of JFK’s assassination. Not only does the movie feature the fatal incident but, even more compellingly, in one scene we see a clearly affected Jagger watching the incident again as the Maysles edit the footage. A great concert film as well as a hugely important cinematic document hugely altered the trajectory of the Maysles’ career and remains, along with Don’t Look Back, one of the most important music docs ever made.

Focus Features

 source

 

Written by LW

December 6, 2016 at 1:01 am

“In the property-maker’s room lives the wizard of the studio”*…

 

Take the test, then enjoy this tribute to the power of props:

email readers click here for video

* Designing for Films, Edward Carrick, 1950

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As we wait for the telephone to ring, we might recall that it was on this date in 1938 that Universal Pictures released Mars Attacks the World, a space opera that prominently featured a classic hand prop, the ray gun.  Originally produced as a 15-episode serial, Flash Gordon’s Trip to Mars, the studio had it recut as a feature, planning a 1939 release.  But on October 30, 1938, Orson Welles and the Mercury Theater broadcast their infamous adaptation of H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds.  Capitalizing on the frenzied attention that Welles created, Universal quickly changed their feature’s title from the originally-intended Rocket Ship, and launched it into theaters.

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Written by LW

November 7, 2015 at 1:01 am

“Cocaine is God’s way of telling you are making too much money”*…

 

Not just any white powdery substance will do, of course. Says [prop master Ken Finn]: “You don’t want to use powdered sugar because it gets sticky. You really don’t want to use flour either because if it gets damp at all it just becomes clumpy.” Instead, it’s almost always inositol, a B-vitamin compound.  “In fact,” says Ken, “if you ever snort it, you might get this familiar feeling.  A certain memory, like, ‘Hey, I’ve tasted this in the back of my throat before.’ What I’ve learned since then is that actual cocaine is oftentimes cut with this stuff. If you ever do shitty [cocaine], You might actually be ingesting this stuff without even knowing it.”

Natalie Kearns, a veteran stage prop master, seconds the use of inositol: “It absorbs easily into the sinuses and doesn’t affect vocal chords, so it’s a good choice for musicals and has been reliably used by some big names on Broadway for extended runs.”…

More at “Prop Masters Explain the Movie Magic of Fake Cocaine.”

* Robin Williams

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As we lay it on the line, we might send melodic birthday greetings to Paul Williams; he was born on this date in 1940.  A composer, singer, songwriter, and actor, Williams is probably best known for popular songs performed by a number of acts in the 1970s including Three Dog Night’s “An Old Fashioned Love Song,” Helen Reddy’s “You and Me Against the World,” David Bowie’s “Fill Your Heart,” and the Carpenters’ “We’ve Only Just Begun” and “Rainy Days and Mondays”– as well as his contributions to films, including the lyrics to the chart-topping “Evergreen”, the love theme from A Star Is Born (Barbra Streisand) for which he won a Grammy for Song of the Year and an Academy Award for Best Original Song; and “Rainbow Connection” from The Muppet Movie.  He also wrote the lyrics to the opening theme for The Love Boat.

Williams struggled with substance abuse issues the 1970s-80s.  Sober since 1990, he became a Certified Drug Rehabilitation Counselor.

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Written by LW

September 19, 2015 at 1:01 am

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