Have you ever wondered what makes movies so amazing? Is it the acting or is it the storyline, or the director’s skilled eye? A few will consider props as something that can make or break a movie. After all, those are just objects that are here to create an environment where the “main thing” will happen.
However, props used in film or TV can sometimes become so legendary to even outshine the production itself. If we just remember lightsabers in Star Wars or Dorothy’s ruby slippers in Wizard of Oz, we will see how true this claim is. That said, we decided to explore the importance of movie props and their role in the filmmaking process, showing you how far their influence can go.
What is the role of props and sets?
The production design crew is involved in making anything we see on TV and in the theatres. Their main task is to bring products to life. The storyline, actors and the lines they’re speaking have to become real and believable, and every piece of furniture, every object on set has to make what they say true.
Props used on TV and movies are especially important because they aid the storytelling process. They’re here to complement and motivate characters, but as well to prep the actor into getting into the role. Furthermore, without props, we wouldn’t be aware of the time and era the movie or series tries to depict, which strips down its value.
Lastly, movie props are here to show subconscious clues about the character, to highlight the situation characters are in and make a whole universe they’re in alive, highlighting the audience’s experience.
For instance, in casino movies, such as Casino, Rain Man, Croupier casinos take the centre stage and become more memorable than the plot itself. Casinos, as a prop on a set, are often used to create tension. We see it, for instance, in Casino Royale during the poker game where James Bond gets poisoned and leaves the game and returns after he receives the antidote. It seems like casinos put characters under pressure since the outcome of the game played in the casino is always uncertain, and we, regardless of the fact we know the situation isn’t real, shiver and fear for its outcome. But it’s not only because of money. During casino scenes, actors usually speak very slowly according to the tense situation they’re in, and they engage in eye acting which increases the suspense.
What are the most famous props made of?
If you ever wondered what some props are made of, we won’t keep you guessing. As far as alcohol goes, considering there are no restrictions on using alcohol on movie and TV sets (like there is with tobacco), alcohol itself is often used. However, in cases where the actor has to drink it, replacements are used since they could get drunk pretty easily. There is a wide variety of alcohol replacements that have to be made to look like a real deal. This is how we have sparkling water for mixed drinks and cocktails, ginger ale as champagne, and unsweetened tea for whiskey.
But, what’s the case with drugs? Since their use is prohibited on the movie and TV sets (and with a good reason we might want to add), prop masters have to think of ways to make the drug look realistic and be safe for the actor. For instance, brown sugar is perfect as melted heroin, with a matching sticky look and bubbles.
When it comes to weed, replacing it with cigarettes isn’t good since it’s a health hazard for the actor and the smoke from weed looks heavier. This is why prop masters usually use a cannabis strain without THC in the scenes where smoking weed is necessary. And in case actors need to inject a drug, prop masters use a retractable syringe with a plunger that’s both able to retract itself along with the needle.
The use of props sometimes doesn’t go as smoothly as planned. This is how Al Pacino had his nasal passage permanently damaged after shooting “Scarface”, and this is why prop masters use Inositol (vitamin B) to mimic cocaine use.
Wrapping it up.
Movies are here to entertain us, make us wonder and question societal norms and invite us to take action. Movies are a great part of our life and growing-up process. Props are here to help us become consumed in the things we’re watching, making a unique and unforgettable experience we fondly remember.