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Prop Masters Guild Comes Into Its Own

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Photo Credit: Eric Green

Movie props are among the most coveted objects in the cinematic universe from Lightsabers, Rosebud, The Horse Head, Hoverboards, The Maltese Falcon, and basically everything that James Bond gets from Q, Golden Tickets, The Boombox, The One Ring, The Red and Blue Pill… and the list is endless.

Despite their ubiquitous role in film, the makers of the props have not gotten their due, no major awards show celebrates their work. Formed in 2021, The Property Masters Guild was formed to raise awareness of their vital role in the craft and to educate future generations.

A consortium of veterans, working and upcoming property masters is paving the way into the future for the position as a vital piece in the filmmaking puzzle. After an excellent Q&A and Booth at this year’s LA Comic Con, Below the Line spoke with Anna Loesby, Theresa Corvino, and Guillaume Delouche.

[Note: The conversation has been edited for content and clarity.]

Below the Line: Please, tell us about the formation of the Property Masters Guild.

Anna Loesby: I first heard about the concept of a Guild for Property Masters in 2017. A couple of years later after a Local 44 meeting, Josh Meltzer invited me to join. There was a group of about 15 or 20 of us that ended up meeting in late 2019, it was a good start. When the pandemic hit that gave us time to focus on what the organization was going to do. So I got involved just by being in the right place at the right time. Now we are up to over 200 members.

Below the Line: Theresa, please tell us about your role in the guild.

Theresa Corvino: I’m a working prop master, but at the PMG, I am the marketing director there. So trying to help steer the organization’s communications, help us reach new members, help us connect to the general public to help ’em learn what a property master does.

Photo Credit: Eric Green

Below the Line: Is there a specific object that you loved that made you fall in love with the art of props?

Guillaume Delouche: In the 50’s the Prop Master was typically in the opening credits. The only one left now is James Bond, the franchise has the property master in the opening credits for a good reason because if you look at the evolution of EON Productions James Bond films, it’s nothing but props, gadgets, and guns and things. I think the James Bond franchise probably be the one that was most inspirational because without the exploding pen and the laser watch, there’s no movie.

Below the Line: Of the movies that you have worked on, do you have favorite props that you’ve created?

Anna Loesby: I worked with this couple of YouTube stars, Rhett and Link, and their villain was a woman who did infomercials and had weird items. And one of them was a teddy bear that if you were to tear it apart this teddy bear, real blood and guts would come out. So I of course had to find the teddy bear that was the appropriate size so that I could then have the correct innards manufactured to put it at his bear, make sure it’s watertight, even though it’s a soft and fluffy thing. So I can hand it to a child who can give it a big hug and then tear its head off where a whole spine comes out with the head. And I will never forget this child who was in this infomercial who was so excited about it and then was a little traumatized of like, oh, this is not quite what I was expecting this incredible, bloody gory thing. And that was so fun, but I felt so bad for this poor kid.

Theresa Corvino: I worked on a feature a couple of years ago, it’s a story about Mary Pickford and early Hollywood and we had to find a bunch of vintage stuff and make it look new. There was a lot of film equipment that we would rent and I had to figure out how it worked. I loved solving the puzzle of can I take it apart, figure out how it works, and then figure out how to make it work. I love anytime I get to solve a puzzle like that and that show had a lot of puzzles.

Guillaume Delouche: I think probably my favorite one is that bus we made for Fast 7. We made the luggage compartment open and six 30 caliber machine guns would come out on these articulated arms I had all my guys inside the bus with the stunt driver going down a Colorado Mountain with joysticks shooting the guns of the stunt cars and so we did two in case one fails, and then we made a third one with dummy everything so we could chuck it off a cliff.

Below the Line: What is the mystique of props?

Theresa Corvino: Props are so interesting because it’s the part of the movie you can hold. I think there’s something so grounding about that, that you can hold it in your hands and that it’s some of the easiest things, I think for fans to try to recreate that becomes such a natural connection between them and the art of the movie. It was one of the first pieces of falling in love with movie art. For me, I think that there is something so humanizing and grounding that even in as big as Star Wars and a galaxy far away, I can hold a lightsaber. It’s a practical object.

Photo Credit: Eric Green

Below the Line: On average, how many props do you do for a movie? I imagine that in a bigger movie, it probably would be in the hundreds or thousands

Anna Loesby: For a show put together for the second season of For All Mankind, I put together a spreadsheet of every single prop. My role, I was an assistant prop master on that show, and my role was organization and being a librarian, and that spreadsheet was, I think 4,500 lines long. And that’s just the individual item, not iterations thereof. It’s like, oh, we’ve got 14 of this laptop and that’s only one line. So that’s a pretty big prop show, a lot of technology. But I would say many thousands is typical.

Below the Line: You guys have a podcast. Could someone tell me a little bit about that?

Theresa Corvino: It’s called Prop Talk, and Mikey Trudel and Chris Call are the co-hosts of it, it started around the beginning of the year and they do a new episode every other week. So it’s industry conversations with Prop masters, prop masters and their mentors, production designers, set decorators, people who we work with in the industry, talking about the shows and how we work together, and interesting stories from behind the scenes or things that might’ve been a struggle and how they solved problems. So, it’s generally really interesting industry banter, but I think if it’s someone who’s looking to get into the industry, it’s really interesting to hear about the nitty-gritty of what it’s like to work in this field.

Photo Credit: Eric Green

Below the Line: Tell us about the inaugural MacGuffin Awards.

Anna Loesby: Well, we’ve started work on this. We are hoping to have our first award ceremony within the next year. Whether you’re doing a period film a sci-fi film, or even a legal drama or a commercial, all of these things, we as prop people have some understanding of the nuance of what goes into that type of work. I think it’s really important that we start to honor that amongst ourselves as a part of the PMG’s mission to elevate the status of property masters.

Theresa Corvino: The first awards event right now is scheduled for September 14th, next year. All major guilds and industry guilds do awards, so it was a part of the mission of the organization to do that, to recognize the work in props across the entire industry, like Anna said, in every form of the craft. And so, this is our first foray into that, and I don’t think that anybody ever values your work higher than you do. So in pushing to be included in the Emmys and the Oscars upcoming, we’re starting with our awards.

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