The Prop Master for Dallas TNT, Andrea Cantrell, joins us at Ultimate Dallas for a series of fascinating blog posts to share some of her favorite props and their stories.
To discover more about the role of a Prop Master check out Andrea’s Bio
The first story that comes to mind…during Season 1, there was a scripted need for a photo album that JR found in a storage room on Southfork, It belonged to Miss Ellie.
Photo’s are the ideal prop. They have to tell a story to the audience in less than 5 seconds. They can be clues to the storyline, memories, evidence, etc.
This photo album was a very tough prop to fabricate because the images that I had of our current cast members were too recent and few to fill up several pages.
I really wanted to bring back the nostalgia of the original series by using old photos but unfortunately I was unable to use Barbara Bel Geddes or Jim Davis’ photos because their estate owns the rights to their images. Clearing photos is a time consuming and lengthy process that involves the legal department at the studio to research and contact the owners and photographers for permission.
I was running out of time…
- Photo of Patrick Duffy as a child with his mother used on Dallas TNT Season 1 episode 3
Then Patrick Duffy became my hero. He asked his wife to send a box of pictures. The pictures I received from Patrick were perfect! They were black and white photos from the 1920’s through the 1980’s of Patrick’s parents and him as a baby through teenager to young man. Patrick’s mother had a resemblance to Miss Ellie which made a photo of her holding baby Patrick exactly what we needed. So I started the process of getting clearance, I asked Patrick if he could get permission for the use. He told me that his parents were no longer alive and he would sign consent for use. I was elated!
But then… through our research we stumbled on a heartbreaking story.
Patrick’s parents Marie and Terrence Duffy were murdered in a robbery in 1986. I had at least 150 original photos on my desk of Marie and Terrence. I had all of Patrick’s memories in my hands and I was brought to tears by this act of generosity and trust. This turned out to be the most important Prop of my career.
I am happy to answer any questions.
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As a Prop Master I am the head of the Prop department with 2 assistants that work with me. The Prop Assistants work on set and maintain continuity and flow. My crew and I have to continuously keep inventory of Props and be able to work under a lot of pressure when a last minute request for a Prop is needed during filming. My immediate supervisor is the Production Designer who oversees all of the artistic side of Props (graphics, artwork and anything with a specific design to the show). The Production Designer creates the entire look of show within the Art Department.
I read the script and break down the Props in the scene that are scripted and unscripted. An example of an unscripted Prop would be Background actor's Props, action for an actor that is not scripted as well as character development using Props. A character can be developed with items such as canes, sunglasses, pinky rings, phones, toothpicks, cigarettes etc. I work with the Actors and the Costume Designer because everything has to coincide for the perfect look. After breaking down the script I do a budget for the Producer of Props that are needed.
Then I have meetings with the Director, show runner Cynthia Cidre and Exec. Producer Michael Robin. This gives me a vision of what they want the Props to be on the show. I will also accomplish this with a show and tell after I have acquired choices. There are several meetings in addition to these. Concept and Production meetings involving all the departments. It is important to ask the right questions in these meetings due to time constraints.
Graphics is also a very important part of Props. There are phone graphics, computer graphics, photoshopping pictures and graphics on Government vehicles like Police Cars. We have a graphic designer in the Art Department that has a lot of skill and talent. Finally it is my responsibility to maintain the safety of Props that could be considered dangerous such as weapons in addition... I work with the Stunt Coordinator to maintain safety with rubber Props, retractable and foam.