Where do your props and art come from? Usually unless you have a big-budget production, most of the artwork, furniture, and props on a shoot are some version of off-the-shelf product (even if it’s off the shelf of a vintage or antique store). Sometimes, however, you need a very specific item, like the paintings I had a client request for a recent shoot that had a Marie-Antoinette look and cut-out mouths and eyes to allow performers to sing through them (tragically, this spot never got made), and when that happens it’s time to source some custom pieces.
This week for the 5 Questions we talked to artist, ceramist, and video maker Andy Jackson, a props and art supplier in Atlanta, about providing these specialty items to productions. Thanks, Andy!
What was the first piece of original art you were asked to make for a commercial or film?
In 2014 I did a big job with three different setups with a local production company for Cartoon Network. This was my first job in the art department and although I didn’t make any major custom pieces, I helped customize hundreds of bottle lids, fake plants, clocks, and other items. Later I worked on another job with the same company that involved making tons of miniature folded paper figures. They were kinda nuts, very detailed, small, and required meticulous construction. This is where having fresh knife blades come in handy. The characters came from all sorts of well-known cartoons and we cut them all together by hand. We had tons of these figures by the end, including little details and props because they were in costume (it was for Halloween bumpers) and I really enjoyed the project.
About a year later I was asked to make some paper props for Cartoon Network over the course of a weekend. These were big hand props, sort of like costumes because they would be held by children and be very prominent on set. These were tons of fun and included things like a giant toothy mouth, a giant eye, and a giant tablet. They were made from paper and board and cut to very specific models using a projector and lots and lots of fresh knife blades.
When you’re commissioned to make a piece of art for a film project, what’s your process? Do you talk mainly to the art department for info or do you talk to the director to get his take on the piece?
If I’m making a piece on set there may be some feedback and interaction with the director but my process typically involves my boss, the Art Director. We’ll have a conversation about the basic project and I’ll be supplied with drawings, mockups, design models, etc. Depending on the nature and scope of the project, we’ll have a more in-depth conversation about how to execute it.
Do you submit drawings or test images and then get feedback?
Oh yeah, most definitely. The things I’ve made so far have been designed by the art director or by the production company so I have never submitted drawings. But showing pictures of the process is vital and they pass from me to the Art Director to the production department, ultimately ending up in front of the director for final approval.
What’s the biggest (or most intricate) piece you’ve been asked to do?
I think the most intricate piece I have made was a two-sided sandwich sign. It wasn’t overly huge or anything, maybe 3 feet high by 2 feet wide but the design was very, very detailed. Sometimes it can be a challenge to separate the way I paint and am trained to paint as an artist and the way I need to paint for a prop. This sign had a lot of detail but it needed to be made fast and there were no rules other than making it look good to camera. Sharpies, paint, whatever you needed could all coexist on the wood as long as it looked like the reference. Although not a big piece, it was certainly challenging and taught me a lot about how to successfully execute projects for film without losing my mind.
What’s a dream project you would like to supply art for?
My own projects, with a bigger budget! ;-P But seriously, my own projects with the budget for crew and supplies to make things even bigger and better. I have a very small gift company with stationery and t-shirt designs called CONTROL CENTER. I’ve done a few small video and photo shoots with my designs and things I’ve styled but I’m always trying to get a bigger project off the ground. Right now I’m working with a fellow I met on set whose friends have helped me with previous projects. We’re starting the very basics of pre-production on a couple of shorts, kind of like surreal commercials with a lot of fun, handmade elements, visual clutter, and nostalgia. I’m working on adding things to my reel and creating relationships with directors and photographers who understand my style and the striking visuals I can bring.