Sunday, December 7, 2014

Interview: Prop Maker Michael Baker

Most of us would probably like to think we had the know-how to transform your basic Christmas ornament into one of the Tall Man's flying balls of death, but the artistry of prop making entails so much more than that. One phan who has managed to master the sphere making process is Michael Baker of BakerProps. If you've seen his creations, you can't help but be impressed. They hold up very well against the screen work of Willard Green, Steve Patino and Kerry Prior. In this post, I pick Michael's brain about his unusual talent. 

Read on for the interview and to see pictures of his ghastly works!



Photo Credit: Will Lee
Who are you and what do you do?
My name is Michael Baker, a native of Las Vegas, Nevada. I am an independent artist, prop designer, replicator, set designer and creative consultant. My talents include building and designing props for television, film, theater and entertainment industries.

When did you first see Phantasm? 

I first watched Phantasm when it was released in 1979 in movie theaters. I was only seven years old and I snuck into the Parkway Movie Theater to see it. It scared me to death but at the same time, I was instantly mesmerized by The Tall Man and his spheres! It changed my life forever. I wanted to become a special effects artist when I grew up and I did everything I could to make that possible. 

Tell me all about your balls.
My “Sentinel Spheres/Drones” are handmade. The spheres involve a very time consuming process to create them. There are over 15 steps in fabrication! It is very difficult to work with a “mirrored” surface and I must be very careful while building them to not make a single scratch on any of the parts or orbs. If you drop one while making them, it is ruined. If you slip while cutting the slits, they are destroyed beyond repair. I only have been making these for myself because I have always wanted all of them from the entire Phantasm franchise and I finally have procured the correct knowledge to build them as screen accurate as possible. I believe that screen accuracy is very important when replicating a prop from any movie or television show otherwise, the prop just looks erroneous. 

What's your favorite sphere from the films?
That is a very difficult question for me to answer. Every sphere has their own character and I appreciate each one in different ways! They are similar to having children, each one you love equally and it is impossible to pick a favorite!

Which sphere would be most difficult to make?
I think that the most difficult to replicate would be the “Master” or “Gold” sphere that breaks out from within “The Tall Man” after his is refrigerated by Reggie and Rocky in Phantasm III – Lord of the Dead. It is a very time consuming piece that I still have yet to finish. I have been working on it in my spare time for months!




Ever considered making any other Phantasm prop replicas? 

I have always wanted to make the Sentinel Sphere “coffin” that holds the spheres in Phantasm II. A full size silicone “Tall Man” when he was injected by Reggie with formaldehyde has always been in the back of my mind as well. I would love to own the ‘Cuda as well but that would be the most expensive prop I have ever owned! 

Have you had any response from cast or crew? 

I have gotten a lot of feedback from my sphere replicas from many of the cast and crew. They all have said that my spheres have been the most accurate they have ever seen so far. I would really like Don Coscarelli to see them first hand so that he could really give me some feedback, since he originally designed them and he is the “Father” of Phantasm. His input would mean so much to me honestly... 

Excited for Phantasm: Ravager? 

I am beyond excited for this final film! I have heard rumors that there are many more versions of Sentinel Spheres that will be in the finale. I can’t wait to be “RAVAGED”! 

What's next for Michael Baker? 

I am in the middle of making some other props for some Las Vegas based movies at the current time. I have semi-retired from making prop replicas and my real focus is on my career as an Art Director for a local film company, Glenbrook Studios. They are in the midst of a huge contract with an investor. Las Vegas doesn’t really have a full time motion picture studio locally and we are very excited that one is being developed here. As the Art Director, it would really set my career into the mainstream. I look forward to that being achieved within 2015.


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