If filmmakers are magicians, then props are the top hats they keep stuffed with silk scarves and decoy bunny rabbits. No matter the budget level, a well-placed and convincingly rendered onscreen element—a prop, piece of wardrobe, unique shooting location, etc.—can do wonders to create a convincing fictional reality, even if that element doesn’t immediately call attention to itself. Fact is, everything in the frame counts whether it’s a beer bottle, firearm, stuffed bear or a giant pile of disconcertingly authentic-looking cash money. Sure, there are no small roles. But there are also no small props (except physically).
Happily for independent filmmakers, Los Angeles has no shortage of prop houses crammed full of eclectic inventory. Perusing the aisles of these places is like being a kid in a candy story. At least that’s how we felt late last year when took our cameras to the San Fernando Valley to visit Independent Studio Services (aka ISS)—one of the largest and most active prop houses in the world:
So stop raiding the Halloween decorations aisle at CVS for makeshift art direction. If you’re serious about your project, then it’s time to start getting serious about your props. Just watch out for sharks!