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monsoon's avatar

How does one get to design electronic props for movies or Broadway?

Asked by monsoon (2483 points ) October 22nd, 2010

So many questions here, but mainly: How would you get to design electronic components for sets/gadgets in movies? I’m am an Electrical Engineering student.

ie. I saw an extra for Harry Potter HBP where a guy said his team spent two months building a little robot that looks like it’s knitting in mid-air. Whoa, do I want to go to work and do that? Yes.

So I’m wondering how people get those jobs, aside from luck of course. I don’t even know what kind of company they would work for. Warner Bros. (Who makes the movie) or Time Warner? But I don’t see any positions listed in their careers that involve building whatever is needed for movies or shows.

So, if you know much about the movie industry, are there third parties who contract out those services, or third parties who design and build custom props and robotic elements? If so, what are these companies? I don’t know how to begin looking for them.

This goes for Broadway productions as well. Who builds the electronic components of those sets?

Thanks in advance.

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6 Answers

aprilsimnel's avatar

Try the Union, Local 44 in LA. And I bet if you sent a nice and enthusiastic note to this gentleman in NYC, he might steer you in the right direction.

monsoon's avatar

Thanks @aprilsimnel. I’m interested in Electrical Engineering, so it would be circuit design, testing, and implementation of rather complex objects that I would want to be involved in, rather than the more artistic side of prop making (though thanks to you I just found out that there is an artistic side to prop making). Again, is there even a career niche for this? idk. That website is really interesting though. I feel one step closer.

GeorgeGee's avatar

I feel you’re really in the wrong major and probably in the wrong college. There are a number of degree programs in movie special effects and animatronics, one of the best known is at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh
http://www.iaapa.org/industry/funworld/2005/october05/Features/ready_to_dazzle/readytodazzle.html
Careful as you search though, many of the links will just be to colleges that offer computer graphics/animation without the electronics and animatronics.
Here are some more resources
http://christopherhillman.com/links.html

BarnacleBill's avatar

Try contacting this company. Perhaps you can land a co-op position, or they can point you in the right direction. —they were a link on a WDW forum.

anartist's avatar

god. I once dated someone who when he was a kid, watched the duck drop down on the groucho marx show and said to himself, “I want to do that. Make the duck come down.”

He dropped out of high school in NYC and hung about in the Village [in the days when Bob Dylan passed a hat in pubs] and got work doing lighting, then he moved to Broadway.
Finally with no formal education he taught lighting at NYU Stonybrook.

Then he went to Hollywood, went union, worked on sets, etc, and financed himself eventually a la deLorean and got himself a couple of sound stages where he made a couple of grade B movies—the Incredible 2-Headed Transplant and Free Grass with Tony Beymer.

He lost it it all and worked in stage production firms and exhibit houses and dealing blackjack. I have no idea what he is doing now. Life can be interesting.

If you want training for working at companies such as Pixar or Light&Magic
http://www.expression.edu/

Cruiser's avatar

The TEA, Themed Entertainment Association is comprised of companies that cater to movies, theater, themeparks, museums etc. and you will find many prop companies amongst it’s members.

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