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Give us some ‘Props!’

By SKY HANSTEIN

For every project, the production team sits down for an initial project kick-off meeting.  Among a variety of other topics related to the project, we talk extensively about props.  Props as in give each other compliments? No… I mean we talk about what items we will need to have in both the foreground and background to make our product shine.

The ultimate goal of these meetings is to choose props that enhance the scene. While the product featured in the commercial is the ‘star’, props can be looked at as the ‘supporting cast’.  As a team, every prop is chosen carefully so that it never distracts or pulls focus from our ‘star’ of the show, the product.

As the project continues, the script is written, and this is where the props team kicks into high gear.  Every scene is dissected by what is written for the visual as well as the audio. Here is an example of a visual:  “NEGATIVE: Woman in kitchen creating a mess making soup”.

To the untrained eye, that vague description means very little. For my Producer eyes, it is a treasure-trove of information… It means we need to scour our prop warehouse to organize cutting boards, pots, pans, knives, ladles, hand towels, and kitchen trinkets for the background.  I start making a list of items we need to shop for. For this example, visions of carrots, celery, onions and other soup materials start to dance in my head.  And I don’t mean just one celery stalk… We need to prepare for 10 plus takes to get the shot just right which adds up to a lot of veggies at the market!  This list of items is just for one scene out of 20 plus within any given commercial, so you can imagine how quickly the list of props grows for one spot!

After days prepping, shopping, and packing we get to the shoot day. This is where I put my proactive producer hat on and the team kicks into overdrive. Every prop and background trinket gets organized on long tables by scene order. These massive tables of “stuff” may look like a disaster area.  To me, it is chaos organized and re-assurance that we have done our part to ensure each scene change goes smoothly and our shoot remains on schedule.

As the shoot day moves on and scenes are completed, the prop tables slowly empty out.  Trinkets that appear in the background for a mere 1-2 seconds, are sorted, gingerly wrapped up and packed away into awaiting production cars.  The prop warehouse is re-stocked, purchased items are returned and the cycle repeats itself with the next project kick off call…

So the next time you watch a DRTV commercial, take some time to give us ‘props’ for a job well done!

 

 

Prop table from a recent shoot, Note this is just for 3 scenes!

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A small sample of our prop warehouse

 

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