As soon as i received a script, I started on the breakdown and created a prop list including all the props mentioned in the script.
I started thinking about different aspects to help me chose which exact props to get:
- How can I convey character through the item?
- Which specific item would they have had at that point in time?
- How is the item used and how would that show on the item?
Thinking about question one, I had the idea of assigning a specific type of wood to each character, so that each character’s items would be made from different, characteristic wood. Solid, aged oak to represent the history of the main character. Slender, treated but seasoned pine for the wife. Fresh, young pine for the child: A bright wood with tones of subtle red, almost mirroring his delicate skin and condition.
Question 2: Example of the matchbox safe.
I tried to do research on every object in the film, asking the question which specific item the character would have had access to and would have used. For example, I purchased a book called “what Thommie took to war”, which gives information on everything a WW1 British soldier would have used in the trenches.
When researching how and what Eoghan would smoke, I found out that WW1 soldiers would protect their precious matches with tin matchbox holders. The most common brand to deliver them to the front was Bryant and May’s. Thinking he would probably have kept this item of great use, I tracked one down on the internet and bought it.
Question 3: How is the item used and how would that show on the item?
When we think about items from 1919, rusty, scratched antiques come to mind. However, one has to keep in mind that those items were a great deal more new and better kept then they are now. People will look at your props and might say “I think that looks too new for that time!”, but they were new at that time and people looked after them. So one has to investigate what signs of use the specific objects would actually show. For example, I tracked down a traditional potato dipper which looks in good condition. However, after the meal was finished, the children back then would grab the dipper, scratch through the cooking pot and nibble the crusty potato remnants from it. So the sign of use was actually just tiny teeth marks on the edge of the dipper.