S2 DVD Extras: Property Master Jim Murrin Interview
My name is Jim Murrin, and I’m one of the property masters on the show.
Q: What’s a prop?
A: Anything a person handles that’s not bolted to the floor, and even that sometimes is so...small things. Well, on this show, right now we’re doing some weapons and stuff. Let’s see, what else? Food scenes, gadgets, if there’s a lot of background and extras it’d be like briefcases and newspapers, so anything that a person handles.
Q: Who’s in the props department?
A: Me and my brother, we both work co-keys, so I’ll prep an episode, and then I’m on the floor for it, I’m on set for it. So while I’m on set here, he’s now prepping the next one. And then we have two assistants, one who does all the second unit stuff–like, today he’s doing a splinter unit, so on those days we usually bring in an extra person.
Q: Where do you get the props?
A: There’s a couple of companies. One I’ve been using lately is a company called Backbone. We’ll buy parts and they’ll build it. Sometimes they’ll build it just off a design from scratch. Generally there’s no time, like for me to sit down and build, there’s no time in this kind of show to, ‘cause I have to be on set.
Q: What sort of props does Mutant X need?
A: In this one there was a dart gun so we got a paint ball gun. And originally in the original script, that they would put together, but we built it anyways. So we have this paintball gun that someone could put together, and then we had a dummy clip that goes in the side and it would be filled with fake darts. And then they’ll stick in whatever they want, the sound effects and everything afterwards. And we also have for it a breakaway version of it. And they didn’t want, they just wanted it to come apart. So the breakaway version is armed with a magnet in the front is and the whole clip goes on with the magnet. So when you–I mean, it’s still quite durable, but when it hits the ground, this just falls off. And then we can just, for take two, as simple as that. So that was a specific thing. For previous shows, you often want a rubber knife, so we’ve got a real knife, which is dulled anyways, of course, you can’t–there’s no way to dull the tip. And then get rubber versions made which don’t work up close, but in a fast moving fight, they work fine. Although, I guess, you could still hurt your eye if you get, but they’re not gonna cut you open. And then more rubber knives. This is another one from an older show I did. So this is the real one, it’s a marine corps knife. And then this is quite well made, the plastic version. And then side by side, I mean, you can easily do a close-up, it’s made so good. And then this one is dull, you couldn’t cut yourself, although it looks sharp because of the shine. And then things like, you have to have a taser, but you can’t use a real taser. And so you have this with just these little lights, so when you hold it up, the person, they’ll usually stick a little effect of electricity, but that gives them something to key off of for that.
How do you know what props an episode needs?: You get a script and you read it, and it’ll say such and such a device. And sometimes it’s drawn by a person in the art department who designs it from scratch and it’s built exactly to that drawing. Sometimes the director says, “I’d like it to be like this and have these kind of lights in it and do this action.” And then it’s a drawing that’s based on his...sometimes we’ll shop for parts and just kind of kick-bash something together. Sometimes it’s a drawing and we’ll try to emulate it with parts. It doesn’t have exactly like the drawing, but it’s close to it as possible when it’s built.
Q: Do the props ever break?
A: With a week to prepare everything and with rewrites every time, sometimes these things are built overnight kind of thing, and used the next day. And there’s no time to test it and see how actor-proof it’s gonna be, or even set-proof. So things with a little electronics that are finickity, they can fall apart.
Q: How many copies of a prop do you make?
A: Generally, we have two, at least two. Sometimes three. If it’s breakaway bottles, at least six, you know, each bottle. Guaranteed one’s gonna break on the way to the set, the next one’s gonna break when you take it out, you know, you’re left with four takes. And if you’re gonna have something in a fight, you need the real one and you need a breakaway or a rubber version, or sometimes three. You need a real one and a breakaway one and a rubber version.
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