Props and Art Direction

by Michael Neel & Greg Ansin

We’ve mentioned before that one of the major assets you have is your TIME.

Wood, nails, paint and you got a spooky sign.

Props and art direction are great examples of how to use your time effectively. Art direction involves the overall look of the props and set, so art direction and props are closely tied together.

There are many details in any film that help to bring it to life. There will be props in the script that will be important to telling the story (i.e. the bag of money that everyone is trying to get). You need to make sure these props are good otherwise people might not believe your story. Also, don’t forget about any props and art direction that may not be in the script but can add a sense of reality to your story.

Cut up, spray paint and glue some of your old toys together and you get a nice spaceship.

For every location in your film, ask yourself: what kind of people live/work/play there? What do those people do? What kind of things do they like? Are they clean or neat? When you answer those questions the right props and art direction will become clear.

Ideally, you want your props and art direction to indicate things about the characters and locations that aren’t in any dialogue or action, but matter to the story. Real life is like this – every new place you visit tells you something about it just by how it looks. You want your film to seem like the story exists in a real place, with real people.

Well, this take some skill but good FX people can be found.
Leg made by Rob Fitz and Nick Flanagan.

Your props and art direction don’t have to be expensive. Ask your friends if they’ll let you borrow something (but be sure to return it!). Check out things people are selling online, and visit second-hand shops. See if there is anything in a location that works as it is, and that you don’t have to modify.

Have fun and go shopping!


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