Lizard Brain is a shared blog about Science Fiction and Fantasy from Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck.

Toronto Diary Day Twenty Four

by Ty Franck

So I want to talk about props today, and I wanted to share a picture, and then when it came time to take it, I found I had conflicts.

So, short story long…

Turns out it’s hard to make a TV show where nearly everything that appears on screen has to be built from scratch. I mean, think about that. For most TV shows, the props department buys almost everything they need, and builds very little. You make a modern day family drama, you can buy all the furniture and clothes and cars and bicycles and TV remotes and toothbrushes right off a shelf somewhere.

Making a Science Fiction show set a couple hundred years in the future, and suddenly even a thing that cuts hair gets a lengthy discussion and a custom build. What DO hair cutting thingies look like in three hundred years? Or, more properly, what can we get away with saying a hair cutting thingy looks like in three hundred years? Or a toothbrush? Or a shower head?

These are not trivial problems in the world of our show, and that’s where Jim Murray and his amazing prop department come in. They buy, modify, or make from scratch nearly everything you see on screen that an actor carries around. They’ve made tools, grooming appliances, hand terminals for three different factions, a few nuclear bombs, and a virtual trunkload of firearms.

This topic is one my mind, because for an important scene we shot today, we had a character drop a weapon off a ten foot platform. It then came up, “we should probably not drop that, that’s a 4000 dollar prop.” You read that right. 4000 bucks for a gun that doesn’t even shoot. How is that possible?! I could by ten REAL guns for that much money.

Well, I’ll tell you how it’s possible. This gun is a thing that has never existed before. It is an entirely original creation, custom designed and then cut from actual metal. It’s a freaking work of art and absolutely one of a kind. So, yeah, maybe don’t toss it off the balcony just yet. For that, we had a custom copy of the gun made out of hard rubber. Looks almost exactly the same on film, doesn’t cost four grand to break it.

So the props department are kind of like wizards. We make shit up, they cast some dark sorcery and make it real.

But that brings me to my quandary. See, the props department needed to make a purple heart for a Martian Marine. And they created a beautiful medal, including the cameo of the founder of the Martian Republic on its face. And, because they are extremely awesome, they used my profile for that cameo.

And then, after we used it in the show, they gave it to me. And I mean, this thing is beautiful. I will treasure it as a prop forever.

But when I went to take a picture of it and post it, I got this weird feeling. My uncle served in Korea, and was severely wounded at the battle of the Chosun Reservoir, where a lot of US military folks died or were wounded. He came home 90% disabled, and with a purple heart on his uniform. That’s not something I take lightly.

So even though I love this prop, and will treasure it always, I just can’t take a picture of it and post if to the internet like a gag. Not sure if everyone will understand, but it’s just a thing I’m feeling right now.

6 Responses »

  1. I appreciate your decision to keep it private. When a political candidate makes light of how “easy” it is to obtain a Purple Heart, I respect someone else actually being thoughtful. Thank you.

  2. Mr. Abraham,

    Hello! I am trying to find contact information from you, is there an email/ media contact that you have for requests or contact?



  3. Shucks, I can get a genuine 11th Doctor sonic screwdriver for “only” about $1000. Maybe it would be cheaper to use Rubbertoe Replicas for your props (though I suspect the first one they made cost more than $1000 :-).

  4. Yup, I reckon that’s the right decision to make.

    We’ll see it in the show, and that’s enough for us fans.

  5. Ty…it was my pleasure.
    I love being part of the Expanse family.
    It’s an amazing show to work on.
    Thank you for your kind works.