Ever wonder why ice cream doesn’t melt in movies, or if the characters are drinking real alcohol? Food is an especially fascinating element of prop design. While prop food looks like the real deal, it’s completely artificial. Even the process of making it is a drastic departure from traditional cooking. That’s because the objective of prop food isn’t to taste good, but to maintain the same appearance during a 16-hour shoot for a 30-second scene. If you’ve ever wanted a behind-the-scenes look at prop food, professional film and TV prop master Scott Reeder reveals it all on his TikTok account. Here are five unexpected prop food recipes that made it to the big screen!
Ice cream’s penchant for melting can be a continuity issue when shooting the same scene multiple times. This necessity for consistency is why Reeder uses a special recipe to make fake ice cream that will hold its shape take after take. Reeder combines powdered sugar with vanilla cake frosting until the consistency becomes similar to bread dough. For a cookies and cream cone, Reeder adds crushed Oreo cookies to the mix. Once the texture resembles ice cream, scoop the mix into a cone, and it’s showtime!
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2. Prop cake
According to the pun-friendly Reeder, making this prop is a “piece of cake.” This no-bake fake cake is made by using a cake knife to spread lightweight spackling over a round cylindrical piece of styrofoam. Once topped with a small floral arrangement, this cake is ready for its close-up.
Acting is a profession like any other, so drinking on the job is not allowed even if the scene calls for it. This is when Reeder works his prop magic to make whisky by combining caramel food coloring with water. All beer and wine have had the alcohol removed, and if a character is drinking beer from a can, Reeder will wrap a fake beer label over a can of sparkling water.
4. Prop ice
Rubber ice cubes help shots stay solid between camera angles. Reeder’s recipe for rubber ice involves mixing equal parts A and B SiliGlass compositions. After about one minute of stirring, Reeder pours the mixture into an ice cube tray and lets it sit for 20 minutes. Then the ice cubes are ready to bounce to set.
“Let’s” is a brand of potato chips that’s been used in hundreds of television shows for the past 20 years, according to Reeder. But Hollywood’s favorite potato chips don’t actually exist. Its name is a nod from the designer, Marvin Mancia, to his friend and colleague Lettie. The bag is made of vinyl, so it’s silent, making it easier to record dialogue. Using fake brands in film and TV also helps avoid any conflicts of interest when it comes to advertising.
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