I often get asked how I got into the prop making business. When asked these kinds of questions, people often say, “I fell into it”. In this case that isn’t too far from the truth. On our website, we simply give the short answer. So now I’m going to give you the long one…
One day my dad met my mother and… ok, I don’t need to go THAT far back. Anyway, I’ve always enjoyed creative activities from the time I was little. I was (still am) an avid Lego fan and drawing was a passion of mine. In fifth grade I started drawing my own comics on note paper. The closest I came to making props however was after I had seen the movie Krull. I tried to make myself a Glaive out of cardboard. That was the coolest prop I had ever seen and it wasn’t until a few years ago, I finally realized that dream of making one. I was always fascinated by any “behind the scenes” TV specials showing how movie magic was made, and remember, at this point there was no internet. No DVD special features.
Fast forward to 1996. I had the opportunity to get a job working at a haunted house attraction and the big draw for me was that one of the scenes was to feature a set based on the movie, Aliens. While working there I got hands on experience working with building sets and seeing how a show like that was put together. My primary job was making sure
all the technical stuff was working. That music was queued up, fog machines were charged up, lights were on, etc. My second job was filling in as one of the Aliens. There were some funny moments where our aliens would jump out to scare people and promptly run into a wall! Let me tell you; Its hard to see when you’re looking out a small hole at the end of a giant banana shaped head… and you’re in the dark.
The best thing about this experience is that I met some of my best friends I have today and found a focus for my future career goals. At first, two of us discussed producing two comics based on story concepts we each had. But our love of film won out (thank goodness cause I can’t draw THAT good!). So, with a few more friends we set out to make a film. We dived in with little clue what we were doing and someone had to make the props. I was the
most handy who could figure things like that out so the job fell to me. It took us quite some time to get our little film done, but WE DID IT. It was crap, but it was OURS and we even had a couple showings at a local theater where part of it was filmed. Not everyone can say that and this was before Youtube where everyone thinks they’re a director. By the time
we premiered, home editing software and fan films were just becoming more common place.
Which brings me to the next stage. Fan films (particularly Star Wars) were becoming an internet sensation and I followed them closely. Being a life long Star Wars fan plus a fan of filmmaking meant this was a combination of two of my greatest loves. While working on our first film, my one friend and I met a guy who “had his own prop making business”. A use those quotations loosely and you’ll see why in a moment. He said that he wanted to make a fan film and wanted to know if we could join forces. After a few months of preproduction I began to feel that we were working with what I call, “a BS artist”. Someone who talks themselves up and even makes things up just to look good, but can’t deliver. His “prop business” was essentially converting old flashtubes to sabers, and selling them on ebay. I realized quickly that this partnership would go no where, and my friend
and I split but now that fan film bug had bitten us and we started working on our own storyline. Once again, someone with the skills was needed to make the props and costumes. I had to learn how to sew! A year and a half later we had filmed a couple of scenes, but were plagued with casting problems, and the inability to secure a couple key locations. Regretably, we had to pull the plug.
About a year later, I read about a Star Wars fan film in production called, Revelations. They had posted that they were looking for some volunteers. I contacted the director and mentioned that we had a bunch of costumes from our unfinished film and they could borrow them. A few misc pieces were used and upon completion of their film, we were invited to a wrap party being held at a sci fi convention. My wife, a friend, and I all went
and enjoyed ourselves and made sure to return to the next convention.
At the following con, we dressed up and I brought along a photo album to show off pictures of my work. While there, we met a production company that was in preproduction for a feature film, Dark Operations (www.darkopsfilm.com) and were looking for cast and crew.
I showed them my photo album and we ended up as part of the team. I became prop master and was even cast for a major role. At the following convention, I was invited to bring along any props I had made as “filler” for their table promoting their film. People kept asking me if any of these items were for sale and although they weren’t it made me wonder about actually making props and costumes as a business. My wife had begun sewing as well, and together we founded Hole in the Ground Productions.
And the rest as they say…is history!