Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Steampunk Tuesday - Interview with props master Paul Marsh

 I discovered Mr. Paul Marsh on a random procrastination through etsy searching the word "Steampunk" (which I do a lot).  I was absolutely stunned by his Steampunk iPhone cases and could tell there was a real craftsman behind them.  I knew two things: I needed one of those cases, and I needed to get to know him and his work.  And while the case is mine ALL MINE, I can share with you all the amazing talent that is Mr. Marsh in this here interview below.  Please enjoy!

The wondrous case. It's a little darker in person, with subtler distinctions between pieces, but I thought this instagram filter really showed off the attention to detail.  Ain't it purdy?

What got you interested in prop/model building? What movie really inspired you to pursue it?

My interest in model and prop making started when, in 1978 I watched a movie called Star Wars. I remember running home and tipping my Lego out on the floor and attempting to build the robots and ships from that film. Shortly afterwards on TV there was a documentary about the making of Star Wars and seeing the miniatures and the props and sets being built further fired my imagination and determination.

Paul Marsh left, and yes, that's Bill Murray on the right.

You've worked on the Harry Potter films, Captain America as well as many others, any cool behind the scenes stories you can share with us?

I have worked on 26 films now and each one is very different from another. I have worked on two Harry potter films and was blown away by the quality of the set building. I personally think the ‘Ministry of Magic’ set is one of the most breathtaking sets ever built. Daniel Radcliffe is a real gentleman and when I took my eight year old son on a tour of the studio during the filming of The Deathly Hallows he came up to us both and spoke to Jack, my son, for about fifteen minutes. The assistant directors were trying to hurry him back to do another take but he shooed them away gently and said ‘I’m still talking to Jack.’

I have worked with many actors and each have impressed me with their professionalism. Jack Black is a personal favourite as he is such a fun guy and very talented musician.

What is the most exciting thing about your job?

The most exciting aspect of my job is the challenge of creating something that does not exist yet. It is very creative and even though someone else may have designed an impression of the model, or prop, it is the prop maker who realises it into existence. See the harness that Jack Black wears in Gulliver’s Travels. Myself and a good friend Jim built it and it was a beautiful but complex costume prop. It probably had around 2000 components to it.

Jack Black in a harness Paul designed for GULLIVER'S TRAVELS

What work is coming up on the horizon for you and what would be your ideal gig?

My ideal gig would be the next bunch of Star Wars film which will be in production here in the UK at pinewood studios. Fingers crossed for that one. Also I’d like to meet Kate Bush under any circumstances.

I have just finished on a Tom Cruise film and there are many films waiting for the green light. I can't say too much at present but obviously Star Wars would be fun.

Who do you admire in your field today and why?

The people I admire in the industry are the prop makers and special effects technicians. They are really unsung because not many people realise how much work goes into each and every shot. Even if it's just for a couple of seconds. Also, I have a bunch of supervisors above me who are brilliant, not only on the bench at building, but in their handling of the many stressful situations thrown at us. A couple of them in particular make sure the s*** doesn’t hit our fan. Also there is a guy called Chris Clarke. Go on youtube and look at his showreel. He is an animatronics wizard.

For anyone interested in pursuing a similar career path, what advice would you give them?

If you are interested in getting into this industry i would highly recommend doing a course in model making. I studied at the University of Hertfordshire in the UK and it is second to none at getting people into film. I probably worked with 20 people on the last movie who had all graduated from there.

Tim Burton standing on the Chocolate Factory set (he's way tiny in the middle)

Why Steampunk?

I love Steampunk because, for me it harks back to simpler times. Products were created for their aesthetics as much as their function. There is something living about a clockwork mechanism. The movement and sound seem like its breathing. That is why I wanted to build this iPhone case. But it's just the first of many things I am building at the moment. Look out for my walking cane soon.

Why Steampunk iPhone cases?

It was when I was working on The Fantastic Mr Fox that I had the idea of creating a steampunk phone case. I built an ipod classic one for myself first and all my friends and colleagues raved about it. So when I was on Jack the Giant Slayer and World War Z, I spent my lunch times designing and building the case you see now.

Miniature luggage for THE FANTASTIC MR. FOX (next to a pound coin)

Can you tell us a bit of about how the iPhone cases are created?

I bought a dummy IPhone 4s which I then took a vacuum forming of. It's when you heat up a sheet of plastic film and it is sucked around the shape. I didn’t want to use a real phone because a lot of heat is generated. With the vacuum forming I had a shape to build upon. I sourced many components. Cogs, gears and watch parts and selected ones which looked as though they interacted with each other. Once I had built it, I then had to sculpt plastiline under each tiny section so the silicon would not run underneath them. This took days. Once finished, I encased the case in silicone and then, once cured, cut it out. The tool I created in silicone had holes for a feed and smaller holes for risers, for air to escape, making the finished product tough. The metal powders are delicately brushed into the separate area and then the tool is run through a vacuum casting machine. The whole process takes about 2 hours to create each case. That is why they are not £2.00.

Silver bullets from WOLFMAN

What is your favourite Steampunk piece that you've created?

I think this case is my favourite piece so far, but the cane is shaping up nicely. It has an amber top with insects in.

What's your favourite Steampunk piece that someone else has created?

I love the steampunk laptop with the quill pen. Inspired stuff.

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