Did you know you can create a prop out of anything?!
Filmmaking is costly, and when you don’t have the money of a big studio at your disposal funds can be pretty tight.
As a newbie filmmaker it’s very easy to forget the little things – props. They’re the last thing on your priority list until you realise they are a huge priority! What is your actor supposed to use when the line of dialogue they follow is ‘He’s going into anaphylactic shock! Where’s his epipen?’ ….uh yeah, I was supposed to provide my actor with an epipen.
Production is either paused until you find such an item or you reschedule and move on to another scene, which isn’t always that simple.
Now you are on a different scene and this time you are in need of an old antique compass, but once again, it was erased from your mind because of a situation you had with an actor cancelling on you at the last minute.
You frantically run around annoying your friends, asking if they now have this very specific and uncommon item just lying around, before eventually spending money you don’t have on something expensive yet important. This should have been a priority, but it wasn’t, now you regret it.
Wouldn’t it be nice not having to worry about something as small and tedious as Shpropping? (That’s a well known film term I just made up for ‘prop shopping’, filmmakers use it (I use it) all the time)
A small favour you can do for yourself is this:
Make a list / inventory of all the interesting little items you already own
These are things that could potentially be used in a film in the future. It’s like having your own Shprop. (That’s another well known film term (in my world) for ‘Prop Shop’) Included in this list you could add everyday items that you have a surplus of and are willing to part with, such as extra toothbrushes or old cutlery.
Make a prop list / inventory of things your friends own
Your friends may or may not appreciate you constantly asking to use their cool little valuables. Whether they give you permission to use their things or not is up to them but it’s still not a bad idea to know what they have, just in case of an emergency.
When they do allow you to take advantage of their valuables, it’s always a good idea to thank them in some form or another, like writing them a thank you card, buying them dinner or replacing the item of theirs you broke with a better one. It’s also important to thank them in the credits of your film.
Categorize each item
Have notes on types of films they can be used for. An old antique compass could be used for a survival story about a man lost in the woods, a memorabilia item inherited by a young boy who recently lost his grandfather or a sci-fi movie about a character who uncovers buried treasures from the future with mystical powers. Many other little things could be used for general set-dec.
Another advantage to having an inventory is when you do use these items you can be sure they won’t get lost as you already have everything written down.
When it comes to gathering the right props for your film, you may already have half the items you need simply because you did a little extra homework in the past.
On another note, this exact same concept could be used for locations. When you’re going about your day and you notice a very mysterious alley way or strange building, just make a note of it for future reference.
Although the security in using the interesting locations you find is not as concrete it still saves you a lot of time when you go into location scouting phase.
Having a pre-made database of props and locations is not absolutely essential but it definitely saves you a lot of time and headaches in pre-production.