When you work on video or film work, one of the most important jobs is ‘continuity’. It’s not just a question of keeping the script with you and making sure all the set pieces are dressed properly. You have to take that to a whole new level, things have to be dressed to just exactly the same spot – over and over. A shot will be done on the average 4 or 5 times, from different angles and views.
So a table needs to be set, over and over. And… god forbid your actors drink or eat anything, break something, etc., because it has to be replaced, refilled or recreated – every time. If they are using props you need to know exactly the order of their placement – for example (in the photo) in this shot, the jacket should ALWAYS be on the right hand side of the horse, not on it’s back, not on it’s left, and it will always be over the rifle, the rope always needs to be there. The job is herculean and the props and crews use several tricks to make their jobs easier. Many of these tricks are something that if you’re doing a stage play is really useful to learn and observe them.
The first is a solid understanding of the script and the shot breakdown. The next is a call sheet of items and props for each and every scene, who has what, where, and what needs to be replaceable, and so on. The best thing they have is a digital picture taken just before each and every shot of tables, settings, etc., both at the beginning of the shot – and the end of the shot.
For theatre – you can do the same thing. Set you sets and take a picture of how things look – how they’re supposed to be – at the beginning of each scene. Print those and attach them over the props table and in the props book. When it comes time to dress the set – you’ve got a complete reference. Naturally you can’t take the book or picture on stage with you but for rehearsals you can. Practice during rehearsals with the sheet.
When scenes are done – completed – return them to the props table and make sure they’re all accounted for. If an Actor is given a prop to take on to the stage – they need to return it to the prop table or to the props person. Handing it over to another actor or stage hand, unless this has been discussed in advance, should never be allowed. Once they return it to the table…it should be easy to verify it’s been returned and in the correct condition from the image. In some shows, it’s not a bad idea to lay the items out on the props table – take a picture and print it up, and tape that picture to the place on the table it belongs. Actors will more easily, and quickly be able to find them for scenes, and return them to the correct place on the table – if you do this.