So, if you have been doing FX for any length of time, you have probably run across a script that asks you to build or supply a prop or set piece that makes you go,”Wha . . . how am I going to build THAT!? I don’t have time, budget, or the skill for it! What am I, a Broadway house!?”, Sometimes we include things in the script that would make most people stop and take pause and consider whether or not to laugh at the prop suggestion or come visit us personally and strangle us.
I get that. I do. I’ve built many an “impossible” prop.
But, hopefully, this blog will put you at ease. Because I want to tell you the simplest way to build any prop for your FX.
“Don’t over think it.” It will be the death of you. Because, if you’re anything like me, when you read a prop description like the following:
Gordo has a large machine that looks like is a cross between a stand up video arcade machine and a mighty morphin’ robot transformer.
You immediately think of the most detailed, cool looking, mechanically complex piece of machinery you can. Which is great. It means you are highly creative. But, that picture you put in your head, well, it isn’t necessarily what needs to show up on your FX stage.
Remember, the props that you build need to look like a kid built them. Not Disney. The characters in FX are kids.
Kids can make entire old west villages or ancient castles out of couch cushions or folded lawn chairs. They make extravagant weapons out of sticks. One time, my daughter bit the corner out of a piece of toast and made a laser gun out of it. She saw it. It was a “really powerful laser gun”!
It was a piece of TOAST!
When a script calls for a prop that seems really, really crazy to build, remind yourself to look at those props as a kid would. Use what you have. Don’t spend lots of money and countless upon countless hours. If your characters believe that they have successfully turned the clubhouse into an opera house, your audience will too. Even if all you did was hang a blanket over the door as a buttress and that’s it!
Plus, it keeps you from making the mistake that the prop is what makes the moment cool. It isn’t. Props are inanimate objects. They may inspire a response of “Awesome” from a kid. But that’s it. A momentary response. What is more important is the characters, their relationship with each other and with the audience attending your environment. They are capable of far more moments with the average kid and parent than a well-built prop.
So, next time you see a crazy prop suggested, go ahead and be creative. But don’t be “grown-up” creative. Be “kid” creative. You may even ask a kid: “Hey, I’ve got a single 20-gallon plastic trash can. How would you turn this into a horse head costume using what we already own at the house?”
Chances are, they’d put the trash can over their head and say, “I’m a horse!”
Now, this isn’t me telling you not to go crazy and spend lots of time and money designing elaborate props. Go for it if you want to. Just don’t feel like you have to.
What kind of creative things did you build when you were kid? What are some of the everyday objects you used differently to play games as a kid? Start thinking about what your kids do and how they can make anything into something else—just by changing their mind about what it is.