Michael Corrie Hollywood Prop Maker & SFX Artist Talks About His Career and Future Of the Film Industry

Veronica Charnell Media

Photo Courtesy of Mosaic PR/Michael CorrieTim Harrison

Hollywood as an SFX Artist, Prop & Model Maker, and Historian, Michael uses his vast knowledge and expertise of the history of Film/TV/Theatre Props and Effects to help people all over the world better understand how Films are made. With over 12Million+ video views and over 300K followers on TikTok, Michael has enthralled his online audience with his expert knowledge and point of view about film history going back from the very earliest films to today’s biggest blockbusters. He was even asked to lend his expert opinion on working with props regarding the recent prop gun disaster involving Alec Baldwin that resulted in the death of his film’s Assistant Director.

I had the pleasure to interview Michael to talk about his journey and the future of the Film industry. Ladies and gentlemen enjoy the interview.

Veronica Charnell: What inspired you to become an SFX Artist, Prop & Model Maker?

Michael Corrie: I was around 9 years old. Long before the internet was prevalent, I saw a PBS special on the making of "Close Encounters of the 3rd Kind". Mind you, I had never seen anything like it. Behind-the-scenes documentaries were unheard of and the footage I saw blew my mind. Like a lot of kids in the 80s, I grew up building models. Little plastic airplanes, tanks, cars, etc. What I saw were grown-ups building models that would become massive interstellar spaceships on screen or massive mountains that through the magic of film would become real. I was hooked. This was my hobby but as a job. Again, no internet so to the library I went. And much to my dismay there was very little written about how props and special effects were done. I moved on to, what i felt were, more attainable goals. But as the years went on my fascination for how films were made, and the details that went into filming models, props, and costumes was ever present to one degree or another.

I would find myself trying to figure out what a prop was made from, or how an effect shot might have been done. All the while I was still making models. I'd moved on from plastic model kits to scratch building my models.

Then when I was 17, quite by accident, I saw another Behind the Scenes documentary for Star Wars. I heard a phrase that made no sense on the surface but would ultimately, completely change my life. Kit-Bashing.

For the 1977 production of Star Wars, all of the spaceships were made by gluing small parts from plastic model kits onto the surface to add detail. These parts are called "Greeblies". The entire process of building these sometimes, massive, models together is called kitbashing.

I had to do it. I piled together every model kit I had and built, what I thought was, a decent 5-foot-long spaceship model. My dad was less than pleased. As I had pretty much ruined a couple of hundred dollars worth of model kits. Fast forward a few years and I learned that life has a funny way of putting plans on hold.

Now it is 10 years later, I had zero ideas of how to get into the film industry, and considering it mostly impossible, I pursued my other love, aviation, as a career. For the next 15 years or so worked all over the world as an Aircraft Mechanic. Now I'm not saying I gave up on making models, I still did it as a hobby. But at no point did I think it was a job I'd ever have. It was right around 2015, while perusing the all-too-common internet, that I happened upon the RPF.

The replica prop forum. A website dedicated to recreating props and ephemera from movies and TV. This was an entirely new thing to me. I had no idea that this was a hobby, much less a community. All of sudden that passion for film and props and SFX all came crashing down on me at once. I had the outlet I'd always wanted. And thus began a 3-year slog of learning new skills ( and adapting the skills I'd learned as a model maker) to recreate what I had loved In the film, but in real life. Again, the thought didn't occur to me that the internet was the way to go to do this for a living. By 2018 I had been posting my work on social media and had enjoyed some success in gaining a name. But it was Feb of that year that my dear friend Brianna asked me to build a costume for her 2000 lb Clydesdale.

Bri had been showing horses her whole life. Her prized mare, Moana, is a 2000lbs Clydesdale and Bri is a huge star wars Nerd. So naturally, she asked if I could build an AT-AT costume for her horse. Well I did, and I posted it to the internet, and it went viral. Within days I had requests to build for other people. It occurred to me that this could be my ticket. I began actively creating content for every social media site I could. Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, etc. For a while it had some success, I just couldn't repeat what I did with the Horse ATAT.

Then in later part of 2020, I was introduced to Tiktok. And I had always loved movies and props, but also history. So I combined them. And created the online presence "Props To History ". I posted my first TikTok in January of 2021 about the Book of the Dead from 1999s The Mummy and its connection to real-world history. Off to the races. That first video hit 1 million views in 2 days, and the video is still getting views today. Within a year online I had hit 300,000 followers on TikTok and had gone through 100s of props and SFX telling the stories of not only how they were made, but, just as important, who made them. Sometime during this process, I had a gentlemen reach out and ask if I would make something for a tv show he was working on with CBS' reboot of Magnum PI, and like that, I was in. The job I never thought I could have, in the industry I never thought I'd get into was finally mine.

Photo Courtesy of Mosaic PR/Michael CorrieTim Harrison

Veronica Charnell: When it comes to designing the props, how do decide how it should look overall?

Michael Corrie: Under most circumstances, the final design of the prop isn't up to the prop maker. It's decided by art directors, directors, etc. But on occasion, I'm given the freedom to run with it. My approach is, what I hope is, a practical one. I consider form and function, and if it were a real functional thing, how would it work?

This starts from the design to the prototype to the final part. On occasion, however, the props are fantastical and have no real-world basis. So I approach it from what looks cool.

Veronica Charnell: Technology is advancing every year, how will the Film Industry be different within the next 10 to 15 years?

Michael Corrie: Since the very first moving picture (Roundhay Garden Scene 1888) the film industry has been in a state of constant evolution. From not only a practical standpoint, to the message of films even their adaptation to political climates. One thing the film industry is the quickest to adapt to is the technology change. Advancements in CGI and post-production techniques have allowed never before the dream effects to become commonplace.

Within my little corner of the industry, 3D printing, 3D scanning, advances in polymer technology, robotics, and AI, have all had a huge impact on how things are made. And sometimes if they're made in the real world or only in the digital realm. I would say 20 years ago, to make a custom-fitted costume for an actor could take numerous sessions of measurements, fitting, alterations, and refittings just to make one costume. Today we 3D scan the actor and make one costume, done. Fits perfectly right out of the box.

And thanks to advancements in motion capture technology, we don't always have to even make a costume. It's just layered over the actor's motion capture performance digitally and seamlessly. But prop making, special effects, makeup effects, costuming, etc are filled with anachronisms.

Despite all the advancements in digital technology, we still use the centuries-old method of molding and casting every day. Where will all this lead in 10-15 years? It's hard to say. With additive manufacturing (3d printing) technology advancing so fast, the improvements in AI, material science, digital technology, etc will there come a day where practical filmmaking goes the way of the Dodo? No of course not. There will always be a new generation of filmmakers, working with no budget, and the bare minimum of resources pushing the bounds of storytelling. Sometimes, the old ways are still the best way.

Comments / 0

Published by

Entertainment & Lifestyle Journalist who loves to produce quality content in Entertainment, Lifestyle, Wellness & Business. Also, I write about the Government Sector. On IG: @iam_ladyveronica Twitter: @Lady_Divine_4

Greenville, NC

More from Veronica Charnell Media

Comments / 0