Figuring out how to make artificially glowing coals and a branding iron was tricky, but I eventually learned that I could create fake embers that looked realistic by embedding RGB LED strip lights in spray-insulation foam, painting the tops of the foam flat black, and then adjusting the knobs to create a flickering ember-colored light effect.
I also made this branding iron (and a larger pile of artificial coals.) The branding iron was made by using a very powerful flashlight as the handle to light a heat-formed flourescent plastic iron.
A typewriter needed to type on its own in a ghostly manner, so I cut a hole in the desk and attached steel rods to the internal mechanism of the typewriter so that the keys could be operated from below. I then spent a couple hours under a desk typing out ghost messages as the camera rolled!
…and a beer bottle needed to break to reveal a knife inside, so I learned that breakaway bottles can be cut open and then glued back together if one has patience and a steady hand. I cut the bottle open with a fine x-acto saw and then glued it back together with super glue.
I also needed to make a “hot-dog-sized-coffin.”
…and someone needed to dispense grape soda from their mouth, so I bent some automotive brake line to form a hidden pipeline (here’s a test:)
…and someone needed to swallow some dynamite, so I made a few different sizes of the prop to help create the illusion that the dynamite was being swallowed.
I made lots of body parts of all sorts for the second season of The Heart, She Holler, but the biggest challenge was making an edible hand that David Cross’s character needed to run through a deli-slicer – and then eat the slices.
I started by fashioning a plastic cap that would serve as the attachment point for a gelatine hand, and also as a protective shield to keep the actor’s real hand far away from the rotating blade of the deli slicer. I used my hand to make a mold, and then the hand was cast in reddish gelatine with chunks of grapefruit mixed in to make it look a bit more meaty. This hand was then dipped in skin-colored gelatine to create a layer that looked like the actor’s skin.
I also cast silicone lips and modified some fake eyes to be attached to this real-life cow heart:
…and made some fake teeth look a bit more rotten:
(unintentional pun. I’ll leave it there.)
I cast molds from the side of my head out of alginate many times to make all of these fake silicone ears:
…and one day at work, we misplaced all of our skeleton hands, so I made a foot into a hand. We found the hands before shooting started that day, but the director used the modified foot anyway.
One of the most fun props I’ve ever made was a basketball-sized tumor that needed to smoke a cigarette while on camera – making the end of the cigarette ember glow red and then puff out a plume of smoke. I did this by first getting an old basketball and using some fittings and sealant to attach a 1″ vinyl hose to a hole in the ball.
Then I cut a hole in the opposite side of the ball that was the same size as the neck of a hot water bottle. The hot water bottle was placed inside the ball so that it would act kinda like a lung does the human body – expanding and contracting due to the change in air pressure.
I made a hand-operated air pump to force air into and out of the ball, and then made a fitting that attached to the hot water bottle’s neck which would hold both a cigarette and a one-way air valve salvaged from a fancy dust mask – the idea being that air (and smoke) would be drawn in through the cigarette and collect inside the hot water bottle, and then smoke would be blown out through the one-way valve. Here is a video of the test:
Bleh! It worked as planned, but it made our workshop smell like Marlboroughs.
And here is an image of the finished tumor – with a covering made out of cling wrap, paint, and liquid latex:
I made many more tumors of all shapes and sizes for the show this season – here are a few:
It seems like the second season at The Heart, She Holler involved lots of blood and guts. Gallons and gallons of blood and heaping armloads of guts.
I worked with Courtland Premo when we were tasked with making pies erupt with blood and guts, eventually settling on pressurized tanks that forced fake blood mixed with chunks of bananas and a bunch of other gross stuff through some thick vinyl tubing. Here’s a video of one of our tests:
We also worked together to create a bleeding diary (a tube was hidden within the book’s binding and then pierced.) Here’s a video showing our test results:
…and then we made lots of guts. Below is a photo of one bucketload. I used twine dyed blue or red to make veins and arteries, and then mixed in some kinda-coagulated gelatine:
Well, this one was a challenge. I needed to make a pair of artificial hands shaped like beer cans. Also, the cans needed to be remotely filled with beer so that the actor could drink from them. Also, they needed to explode as if they were shot with a bullet. Also, they needed to spray fountains of blood.
I needed to cut the cans open so that I could fit a plastic tube that I could use for my pneumatic hardware. Also the finish needed to be sanded off of the cans so that new labels could be applied.
Jason Singleton helped me to rig these cans up to a couple of vegetable-sprayers (filled with alternately O’Doul’s and fake blood) and lots and lots of pneumatic hose.
This foam sword pops out of a coffin and stabs someone! Since we couldn’t fit a whole sword in a coffin, and we couldn’t stab anyone for real, I made the sword in two halves.
The front half to pop out of the coffin (I rigged it to operate pneumatically,) and the hilt, which has a flat base to attach beneath a hole in the actor’s clothes. The blade is made out of silver-painted foam, and I was able to get a serrated effect by wiggling the razor blade as I cut. The hilt was made out of a goofy old gold lame’ belt, which I brushed with a light coat of brown acrylic paint.
I made this magically-opening walnut for the Adult Swim mini-series “The Heart, She Holler.” It works in a way that is similar to the old springy toy animals made out of beads that droop when you press on their plastic base.
For my version, I made a new base out of plastic tube, springs, and washers. Next I carefully cut a walnut into quarters and made tiny wire hinges so that it would flop open when the spring was discreetly pressed. It is almost impossible to get the meat out of a walnut without breaking it, so I needed to epoxy mine back together!