Monday, October 5, 2009

My process- part 1

For anyone who has been in the business this will be rather basic, but it was a back to basics kind of day for as best as I can describe it, here is my process.

I start by reading the script once to get a sense of the plot and the characters. Ideally I will be able to do this well in advance of starting work on the show and can therefor let the show sit for a few days after that. Giving myself time between readings forces me to focus more than re-reading immediately, when I tend to have too much confidence in my memory of a scene and end up skimming past an important prop.

On my second reading I start to create my props list. The final document is a 6 column excel spreadsheet. The first column in my list is blank to start, but I will use it later in the process to keep track of where the prop is in terms of completion. The second column lists the prop itself. The third lists scene and page number (ex: if it is act 1 scene 3 page 15, I write 1.3.15 on my chart), I use this number to help me communicate with the stage manager and easily identify props in rehearsal reports. The forth column lists the character who uses the prop. The fifth column lists notes about the prop (ex: someone will stand on this, needs to be small enough to fit in a pocket, script specifies "expensive brand"...) and the sixth column lists questions I have (ex: how tall is the actor using this? How likely is it to get broken? How many do we need?). The sixth column is then the source of my first conversation with or email to the director. At a quick glance I now know every question I had while reading the script, which prop it applies to, and on which page it appears.

After I have a detailed props list and answers to my first set of questions I start my research. I find multiple images of each prop, often aiming not for accuracy but for variety. The biggest goal of this first round of research is to establish a shared vocabulary with the set designer and the director. Words can be very confusing things, and it can be very frustrating and expensive to work on creating exactly what a director described only to find out that the director had something totally different in his or her imagination. Words like long, short, fancy, old, rustic and delicate have very different meanings for different people. Instead I take all of the images I find online and copy and paste them into one document. I can then sit with this document on my computer and go through with the director. Our conversations about the pictures can then be much more concrete ("I like the height of this table, but the legs of that table are really what I was thinking", "do you picture this one or this one when you say 'typical 80's style cooler'"). I find that the time it takes to sit down and create this shared visual vocabulary pays off over and over again through the process as changes and additions need to be communicated.

1 comment:

  1. Really nice summary of the first stage in prop design-- too often we neglect the basics! I look forward to your upcoming entries.