Why You Need a Novelty Degree In Your TV Or Film Set

Oh, wow, I can’t believe that they really pulled that off! It seems so real!

When you’re watching a movie, do you find yourself checking out the surroundings of the film set and looking for easter eggs like the ET cameo in Star Wars: The Phantom Menace

How about when Tom Hanks starts a conversation with a Wilson volleyball named, uh, “Wilson,” in Cast Away? Were you surprised to find yourself irrationally emotional as “Wilson” (an inanimate object, mind you) floated away? 

Do you love it when your favorite TV show makes a cheeky reference to your other favorite TV show, like when “Dean Winchester” on Supernatural, exclaims, “Dad loved this thing,” while holding Lucille, “Negan’s” iconic weapon on The Walking Dead?

Because of course, you know the actor that plays “Negan” also played the “Winchesters'” dad on Supernatural. Wink, wink. 

These little gems are courtesy of the prop master. If you’re beginning a career as a prop master or would like to become one, read on for an overview of props and prop masters and why they are so vital to the authenticity of a movie or TV show.

Props and Their Masters 

Believable props are a significant factor for audiences watching a movie or television show. As it is, viewers already have to suspend their disbelief to immerse themselves in their watching experience.

They know Superman can’t really fly and that that galaxy far, far, away doesn’t exist. But they still really enjoy themselves when they leave the rational part of their brains at the door. 

There are many different categories of props, but for simplicity’s sake, “Props” or “Property” are objects that actors interact with or are significant to the character or the setting or tone of the movie or TV Show.

Think lightsabers. Or the boombox “Lloyd Dobler” holds high to serenade his girlfriend in Say Anything. Or how about that “box of chocolates” from Forrest Gump

A “prop master” or “property master” is the person in charge of all aspects of the props. 

The Role of the Prop Master Is Essential 

The role of the prop master is essential to the overall aesthetic of a film or television show, and they are under a tremendous amount of pressure to pull it all off.

First of all, the prop master is responsible for purchasing, handling, and even creating the props. For example, the props department had to recreate six 1980’s Sony Walkman’s for Chris Pratt’s “Star-Lord” in Guardians of the Galaxy from scratch!  

Prop masters also have to make sure there are multiple copies of a single prop. Stuff gets broken or doesn’t work correctly. Or somebody decides it’s better off on their living room mantle than on a film set.

Prop masters are also responsible for other things like working with animal actors, preparing food if there is no food stylist on set, creating fake body parts and blood, and testing phony drugs to make sure it doesn’t burn an actor’s nostrils.

Sometimes the Prop Is the Real Star of the Show

Sometimes a prop is an ordinary object such as a teacup. Pretty mundane stuff. But put that teacup in Catherine Keener’s hands as she hypnotizes Daniel Kaluuya deep into the abyss in Get Out and suddenly that teacup is unforgettable. 

And speaking of props not working correctly, how about the three mechanical sharks (collectively known as Bruce) created for Jaws? 

Once they hit the saltwater off Martha’s Vinyard, where Jaws was filmed, they famously failed spectacularly, forcing director Stephen Spielberg to tell a story where what you didn’t see was scarier that what you did.

And it worked, absolutely shattering box office records. 

Props can even completely change the image of a company. Remember that red Swingline stapler in Office Space? It is arguably one of the most iconic characters in that film.

Only problem? Swingline didn’t actually make a red stapler. It was created specifically for the movie. But once Office Space became a cult classic, consumers really wanted that red stapler.

The demand was so high, Swingline started making them. And it’s still a best selling product to this day.  

The Importance of a Fake Diploma as a Prop

Why is a fake diploma as a prop so important? Just think about all the television shows and movies that involve some aspect of education. Shows about doctors and lawyers come to mind. Or how about movies involving high school or college graduations? 

In some situations, such as a graduation scene, the prop master might decide to just use rolled up paper with a ribbon. But what about all those pictures families take of the graduate holding up their diploma?

Again, the prop master might decide to find a template online and go to the nearest copy store for hundreds of copies. But that defies credibility. What about the names of the individual graduates or the various degrees a college graduate might be receiving? 

The best prop masters know that there are millions of film and TV buffs out there watching every inch of their screens looking for easter eggs or mistakes. They pause, rewind, pause, rewind, lather, rinse, repeat. 

So you can imagine how important is it for a character who is supposedly graduating from an academic endeavor, or is a doctor, lawyer, engineer, etc., to display their diplomas proudly. 

Where to Get the Best Fake Diplomas

Sure, a prop master could decide to create a fake diploma on their iPad. But if the diploma looks too fake, the character or even the entire movie or TV show loses credibility with birds-eye audiences.

For the sake of authenticity, a great prop master will hire a company that specializes in fake or novelty diplomas to create the fake diploma props for their film set.   

We are experts at what we do and are passionate about making our fake diplomas wholly believable. Contact us to see how we can help you with ensuring that that Ph.D. diploma looks just as real as that fake blood!