History For Hire

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Since starting this blog, almost exactly nine years ago today, I’ve had access to some wonderful things. I travelled the world, attended fashion week in a few different countries, I interviewed great people and I visited magical spaces. At the weekend, I was invited by Hamilton to go play in my own backyard… They were hosting the Hamilton Behind The Camera Awards here in Los Angeles and had organised many activities over the weekend, all celebrating the film industry and the talented people working to make these movies happen.

First stop on our itinerary was History For Hire, a family owned prop house started in 1985 by Jim and Pam Elya. They got their big break when they provided props for “Platoon” – they made everything in their Hollywood apartment at the time. Nobody had any idea “Platoon” was going to become a cult classic! For the first four years of its existence, HFH carried everything from wardrobe to props. In 1989, they decided to focus on props as it was getting increasingly hard to manage both areas. In 1990, they provided props for “Chaplin” and started focusing on vintage movie making and period props.

We were given the grand tour of their Burbank warehouse, a truly magical place where we were able to see all layers of prop history and learn a bit about what goes into the making of our favourite films and TV shows. When visiting the graphics department for example, we were told how much effort goes into creating a simple packet of cigarettes for a period movie/TV show. Take “Madmen” for example – remember how many cigarettes Don Draper smoked in each episode? How many times a packet ended up in his hands? Well someone actually made that packet and it was an exact replica of what somebody would have had in the mid-fifties. The reproductions also have to be practical, the wrapper must open and it all needs to be as seamless as the real thing. Now imagine this for every item you see on screen! Next time you see a fully stocked gas station in a film, look carefully at the items on the shelves: somebody probably made everything there for the film.

But not everything is made there, some props have been carefully sourced and researched, like the immense collection of vintage cameras (both video and still) or the old school microphones. Some of the props are practical (meaning they can be used), some are not. HFH has provided props for Dreamgirls, American Horror Story, The Goldbergs, Madmen, Pretty Little Liars and many, many more.

Have a look at the photos below, taken during my tour on Saturday. I hope they can give you an idea of the place! I almost forgot: we got to play dress up and ended up on set…

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