BettyDraperEp71Scott Buckwald has been the prop master on a variety of popular movies and television programs, including ‘Race to Witch Mountain’ and ‘The Prestige’. Recently, Buckwald spoke with The Collectors Weekly about his experiences as a prop master for AMC’s hit show ‘Mad Men’.

Collectors Weekly: Did you use vintage items on Mad Men or were they reproductions?

Buckwald: Usually if it was paper, like a magazine or a newspaper, I would reproduce it. I do a lot of my own graphics. I’ve remade Volkswagen ads on my computer, and I remade “Advertising Age” magazine. I’ve redone “TV Guides,” even if they don’t exist anymore or they’re very hard to find.

When I get hired for a feature movie, I have 10 weeks of prep before the first day of shooting begins. On a TV series, you have a week. I get the script for the next episode and I have one week to start prepping it, so I don’t have the resources to find an issue of “Advertising Age” that looks now like it looked brand new in 1960. So usually the quickest, most direct route is to reproduce it. We’ll find pictures of it, or we might find an old pattern issue of a magazine, and then I’ll redo it.

I’m constantly redoing book covers. In one scene, a couple is reading in bed, and I couldn’t find a copy of the book that looked brand new—the pages were yellowed or it was faded—so I found a new book and remade the cover based on the original. But with hard goods like watches and rings, or if someone is supposed to carry a briefcase or have a gun, that stuff is easier to find, and I have sources for that.

There’s a prop house called History For Hire, but even there, we very often have to take the prop and make it look new again. For example, we may have to take an old bicycle and have it repainted and spruced up because sometimes things that sit on a prop-house shelf look like they have 50 years of age on them. If the show takes place 50 years ago, the item can’t show that amount age. It needs to look new, like it did back in the day.

So it’s a combination of vintage and reproduction items. A lot of times I’ll go on eBay and look for things. When I know I need a period item, I’ll buy it from another collector. One thing nice about working for the movies is that there have been times when I’ve called up somebody and said, “Look, I need this in three days, it’s for a movie.” And they’re like, “Wow. My thing is going to be in a movie,” and they get excited.

Read the rest of this fabulous interview at The Collectors Weekly

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