Income Property: A Chat with "Melissa and Joey" Property Master David Glazer
Emily Koopman: Tell us a bit about what it is you do.
David Glazer: A Prop Master is in charge of everything an actor touches or handles. Anything from a pencil to a machine gun. This includes police badges and gun belts, wedding rings and wrist watches, created books, magazines and brochures. It does not include furniture, art on walls, carpets etc that are the responsibility of the Set Decorator. The Prop Master reads and breaks down the script and meets with the Director, producer and other department heads to determine what is needed for the show. The Prop Master is in charge of Director chairs, safety equipment as needed for the crew and generally anything that no one else can figure out how to do something.
Emily: What are some of the coolest props you've gotten to work with?
David: Guns are always fun. We work with blanks which can be very dangerous so safety is paramount to us. Renting swords and shields and wizarding stuff is fun.
Emily: Do you prefer working on feature films or television series'? And what is the difference?
David: Feature films usually film for 3-6 months and prep for 4-12 weeks. Features are very detailed and usually star oriented. Many features are shot on location which is one reason I switched over to TV. I got tired of living in hotel rooms. During the first 10 years of my first marriage I was gone at least 5 years. TV is fast paced. A season can be anywhere from 9 to 22 episodes. Single camera shows like CSI or Cold Case shoot a one hour episode in 8 days. Sitcoms like <em>Melissa and Joey</em> work on a 5 day schedule. On a feature you can see the light at the end of the tunnel because someday the movie will end. Sometimes on a TV show it seems like you are on a roller coaster being chased by a bulldozer. One mistake and you are doomed, since schedule and budget reign supreme. That being said, Sitcoms with 4 cameras are the best kept employment secret in Hollywood. The hours are civilized and you only shoot 2 days a week. I barely work 54 hours a week. On a feature or a single camera TV show a 70 hour week is not uncommon.
Emily: You've been working as a property master since the 70s -- how much has the job outline changed since then?
David: The internet has changed everything. And my tools have changed. I used to carry a Polaroid camera for prop shopping, then switched to film for one hour photo processing in the 80s. Now I snap a picture with my iPhone and send it to the producer in seconds.
I used to carry about 6 large phone directories in my car so I could look up sources and businesses. My iPhone has changed all that. I can find almost any resource in seconds.
Amazon.com is the best shopping resource in the world when coupled with free 2 day shipping from Amazon Prime. Ebay is invaluable for finding those antique or collectible items that often took hours of shopping in antique stores.
I still have to physically shop of course, but with Google, Yelp, online yellow pages and GPS I can get my work done faster. It doesn't get any easier because the the expectations of directors and producers for instant answers and results has multiplied exponentially.
We also have many computers and cell phones as props now. A Prop Master has to know Windows and Mac and how to operate any number of different cell phones.
Emily: After talking to your wife, it seems as if she sometimes helps you out with certain jobs. Are you glad you don't have to do any baking yourself?
David: Yes. She is out of work now so helps with the baking. Usually I will go to a bakery or hire a food stylist for difficult scenes.
Emily: What does a day on set of Melissa & Joey look like for you?
David: Friday is the first day of the production week. Department heads attend a production meeting with the producers and the director and the Assistant Director leads the meeting discussing the requirements. The actors rehearse with my assistant working on set while I work on a budget and start prepping what I have not already done. We wrap the props from the previous episode, return rental props and archive the rest in my prop room.
Monday is a rehearsal day. We get script rewrites in the morning. We also do a complete run through of the show, like a play, for the producers in the afternoon. I continue prepping based on the run through and rewrites.
Tuesday we get rewrites based on the run through from Monday. I check for changes in the script and solve any problems that come up. I read the next scripts and I start work on the next episode so I can get ready for the production meeting on Friday.
Wednesday we get rewrites again! I check again for changes in the props and deal with that. On Wednesdays we pre-tape about half the show for Playback on show night. I work mostly on the next episode.
Thursday is show night. I help my assistants prep for the live show and continue shopping and prepping for the next episode. During the show I assist my assistants but generally I am putting away the props from the show as we use them.
Emily: Do you have a favourite job that you've worked?
David: Boy Meets World was my favorite job ever. 7 years on a sitcom with a paid one week hiatus every 3 weeks. We got the Jewish Holidays off with pay. The people were great and the show was fun.
Emily: What was it that first attracted you to the film industry?
David: I was an actor in Junior High, High School and College as well as Community Theater. After realizing I didn't have the stomach for pursuing a career in acting I changed my major at Cal State Northridge from Theater to Radio-TV-Film as it was called then. I decided I wanted to direct like 99% of the students. After graduation you soon find out that the pyramid of life is small with Spielbergs at the top and large with David Glazer Prop Masters further on down.
Emily: Did you always know you wanted to work in film?
David: When I was a kid I wanted to be an archaeologist and sometimes I wish I had pursued an academic career.
Emily: What are some of the specific skills you need to be a prop master?
The ability to conceive something from the miscommunicated ramblings of a script or director. Imagination.
Ability to look at one thing and see it as another. Visual creativity.
A general knowledge of history, art, literature, science, philosophy is an amazing help.(Stay in college). A general knowledge of arts and crafts, tools, graphics, computers is mandatory.
Flexibility. Be able to change directions on a dime and don't look back on wasted work.
Budgeting skills- The bottom line is really all that matters to your Line Producer.
Be skilled communicator- you often only have minutes to communicate an idea to a director and producer and get feed back. A misplaced word or phrase can set you back hours.
Be willing to work long hours in almost any kind of weather from Chicago in January to Veracruz, Mexico in July, or spend endless hours on stage without seeing the light of day except for lunch breaks