News Reel & Blog

Written by Flora Kimberley on 23rd August 2019

From the 30th of September to the 1st of October, the BFI London is hosting the largest auction of memorabilia from Blockbuster movies. 900 lots are being sold for an estimated six million pounds due to Prop store selling off their stock. Last year, Harrison Ford's fedora from Indiana Jones: Raiders of the Lost Arc became the highest priced movie memorabilia in history selling for a whopping £393,600. After inspecting some of the items on this year’s bill, it made me ponder on the importance of props in major movies franchises and how props can become synonymous with some of the most classic movie moments.

At the auction, the high ticket items come from the Star Wars franchise with a Stormtrooper helmet from A New Hope estimated to be sold for £180,000. Other lots include a light-up R2-BHD droid from Rogue One, and Samuel L Jackson’s lightsaber from Revenge of the Sith which is expected to sell for over £100,000. The lightsaber, which has become the stand out symbol of the most popular franchise in the world, was actually created by Roger Christian for the original film in 1977. Roger Christian has often discussed the pressures of having to create such an iconic prop stating that many of his prototypes were turned down by George Lucas. The lightsaber was born by accident when Christian was creating Luke’s binoculars. He needed to go to a photography shop to buy a couple of lenses, and whilst there, he pulled out Graflex handles from a dusty box, They even had a red firing button on them. He stuck them on the outside of a sterling rod, got some magnified numbers from a calculator and called George Lucas, who immediately approved the design. The length was created by drilling a wooden dowel and gluing reflector material around it and they added a motor to make the blade wobble. Unbelievably, one of the most famous props in history was created for only £12.

The Burn Book (Mean Girls) came onto our screens in 2004 with the whole premise of the film relying on the prop’s credibility. Mark Waters, the director of Mean Girls, explained that in the original script it only said “takes scrap book off a shelf”, so it was up to him and the art department to come up with the look from scratch. They immediately decided it had to be pink to fit in with Regina’s character and have a yearbook style binding to suggest it could easily be overlooked by parents. The inclusion of the kidnapping style newspaper clippings on the front gave it the instant sinister overtones required for the content on the inside. The content inside was shot with terrible lighting using extras to give it authenticity, and clearance was required for everyone in the book.  Tina Fey and Mark Waters ended up micromanaging it to death as it was so integral to the overture of the movie. Yet, it has become one of the most infamous props in film history. 

At the auction, they are selling off other notable props such as Russell Crowe’s Roman gladiator armor from Gladiator, Jack Nicholson’s axe from The Shining, Michael Keaton’s batsuit from Batman and a pair of Tom Hank’s Nike trainers and socks from Forrest Gump. With these iconic pieces being up from sale, it is truly a show of how vital the production designers are to make movie moments go down in history.

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Written by Flora Kimberley on 13th August 2019

As the last month of summer rolls on; everyone ascends to Edinburgh for the world’s principal Arts festival. The town transforms with all available space turning into a stage, with actors, flyers, beers and press swarming the streets. Every year the festival attracts the best up-and-coming companies, international work, musicians and comics alike. With a huge amount of variety it’s difficult to decipher the packed programmes, but Fringe always has the potential to pull the proverbial rabbit out of its hat.

There have already been shows that are attracting buzz with theatre critics gushing over the single monologue plays, with one in particular, a one-man masterpiece called Baby Reindeer. This is the debut play by Richard Gadd, who last year won the comedy award for his stand up show Monkey see, Monkey do based on being sexually assaulted as a young man. Baby Reindeer- his tormentor’s pet name for him- steps out of the comic bracket, delivering the haunting tale of his stalker Martha who has taken over his life for the last six years. It all started when Gadd was working in a bar in London and flirted with Martha when she propped up the bar where he worked. Jon Brittain’s production then intensifies, projecting the 41,000 emails that she sent (in three years) across the ceiling, playing the voicemail messages and testimonies of the side characters who were affected including Gadd’s parents, partner and landlady. With award hype already, Gadd has already booked the play in for a month at the Bush Theatre in Shepherds Bush. Another solo performance receiving critical acclaim is Dael Orlandersmith’s Until the Flood, which is written about the reactions of the inhabitants of Ferguson, Missouri just after the shooting of African American Michael Brown by police officer Darren Wilson. It follows the American theatre tradition of documentary trauma (eg. The Laramie Project), Orlandersmith and has created fictionalised characters based on real interviews. A physical play, with Orlandersmith fully inhabiting each character, from police officers to young black men,  through the subtle shift of her body or an item of clothing. With Edinburgh’s streets ringing with its name, Until the Flood is spellbinding from beginning to end.

Among the hundreds of musicals presented at Edinburgh every year, it is often hard to find one which comes with a powerful message. Yet this year is defying the odds with many shows having political and socially charged narratives. For example, Sh!t Theatre’s Drink Rum Expats combines performance art lawlessness with comedy sea shanties. Despite the disorder on the surface it is very cleverly constructed with striking tonal regulation. Set in Malta at “The Pub” where Oliver Reed drunk himself to death, the actors distribute Maltese alcohol to the audience, immediately creating anarchistic energy in the room. Whilst delivering a light-hearted tone through casual chat, songs and a playful atmosphere, Sh!t Theatre manages to discuss how Malta has become a gateway for migrants while investigating the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia (an anti-corruption Journalist) who exposed how the incredibly wealthy can buy European citizenships in Malta. Controversially, one of the stand out successes of the festival is a musical named America is Hard to See. This is an innovative piece of theatre based on a small community in Florida made up entirely of sex offenders, featuring real interviews, Methodist hymns and its own original score. With an essence of Vladimir Nabokov’s LolitaAmerica is Hard to see breathes within the tensions exposed through the efforts to humanise its characters, whilst the religious overtones surrounding forgiveness create a strain in the theatre. The sharp script by Travis Russ is proficient in the balancing of opposing worlds. Dizzying and surreal the piece is not one to be missed.

We will be up in Edinburgh later this month attending The Edinburgh TV Festival where the media and art worlds collide. The Edinburgh TV festival celebrates diversity and inspirational new talent, hosting panels, speeches, live shows and networking opportunities. With over 2000 delegates from all the major broadcasters and production houses attending, and with some of the biggest names in front of the camera speaking (including Louis Theroux, which I’m not sure my tender heart can take), it is set out to be a busy event. The highlights (for me) include the live version of Hypothetical featuring James Acaster and Josh Widdicombe, When Dawn met Louis Theroux, the Top Boy Masterclass: from Street to Screen and the Killing Eve Masterclass.  Hugh Laurie will be presented with a lifetime achievement award and there will be club nights organised with Audio Network.

We’re looking forward to getting involved with both festivals!  It seems fitting to end with a joke, in the words of Ken Cheng “My reasons for learning origami are two-fold”.

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