The following is the second in a series focusing on the local film industry, specifically the various jobs that go into producing a movie. Today: Props.
While transforming one’s room into a section of the New York City subway – complete with wall-to-wall graffiti – is usually a ticket to getting grounded, for a young Brook Yeaton, it’s exactly what got his career in the film industry off the ground.
“I was eighteen years old, and my mom was having a Christmas party,” recalled Yeaton of the night in Baltimore that sparked his career in set design/props. One of the guests was a production designer named Vincent Peranio, an old friend of Yeaton’s mother from their days on the set of some of famed director John Waters’ early films.
Upon seeing what Yeaton had done to his room, Peranio “hired me on the spot,” he said. It was supposed to be just a summer job for Yeaton, who at the time was still planning on heading to college. His affinity for the work, however, would cause him to eschew college and continue working for Peranio.
“He kind of took me under his wing and taught me everything there is to know about being on set, acquiring props, color schemes, all that kind of stuff,” Yeaton said.
Yeaton’s work with Peranio led to a job on HBO’s iconic crime series ‘The Wire.’ And while working on such a highly acclaimed show was rewarding, “the hours were brutal,” said Yeaton, and he found himself missing out on time with his family.
So Yeaton retired, and remained retired until Hollywood South came calling. A producer friend asked if he’d come down from Baltimore to work on a new Samuel L. Jackson project (Arena) in Baton Rouge, which led to another area project, and then another. Finally, “I just decided to go home and grab my wife and daughter and make a move of it.”
And so far, “We absolutely love it down here,” he said.
A typical workday for Brook (if there is such a thing – more on that later) begins early, usually around 4 or 4:30, he said, followed by a drive to the set.
Once there, Yeaton visits the 50-foot prop trailer to extract the main characters’ personal effects, such as watchers, glasses, car keys, “and then you pull out he specific props that are in the script for that day’s work, or anything they may have acquired along the way in the script,” he said.
All of those things are loaded onto a set cart and wheeled to where the filming will take place.
“After that, you have a block rehearsal where all the first team, all of the actors come to the set along with the director, the producer, and they go over the scene’s work line by line,” Yeaton said.
“You handle all the props on the set that are scripted, then you usually stand by waiting for any kind of changes or additions that would occur during the blocking, then you react to any of the changes or requests that come up before then set is ready (i.e. before the set is lit and the camera is ready to shoot).”
There really is, however, no such thing as a typical workday for Yeaton. “Every single day on set is very unpredictable, and you just have to be ready to react to whatever it may be,” he said. “It’s just controlled mayhem every day we go to work.”
Yeaton has lived and worked in both New York and Los Angeles, and he considers the New Orleans film scene “one of the best. It’s a great crew [of film workers], an incredible crew. All of my vendors and civilians – for lack of a better word – are very helpful.”
As for the famed southern hospitality, Yeaton found that “it does exist. It helps me meet people who may have this particular prop or collect these particular items that I can use in movies. I’ve made a lot of great relationships along the way and my contact list just grows with ever show.”
And visually, he added, “it’s a beautiful place to shoot, and it’s a beautiful place to live.”