This week I get to ask the delightful Bill Doran 20 Questions. "Who is Bill Doran?" you ask. Well, dear reader, stop interrupting my blog with your questions. If you would have been patient, you would have been found the answer to your question. I ask the questions around here. This is my house, my rules. Anyway, before you rudely interrupted me, Bill Doran is a guy who creates amazing cosplay armor and weapons, and creates props for some movie makers (For example Bill created the ankle bracelets in the short "Proximity" for the movie maker I interviewed in 20 Questions Tuesday: 285 - Ryan Connolly) He is the owner/operator of his company Punished Props and has created costume pieces, replica props, and original props for multiple genres. Seriously, Bill's work is incredible. He has a YouTube channel where he goes over tips and tricks for creating your own props and has published some books on the subject as well. He really is a badass, and I feel very lucky that he is taking time to answer my questions. Before we go any further, I apologize for not getting this posted yesterday. The wife is out of town and I had an IXDA event to go to last night that kept me from formatting and posting this. One day late is not too bad. 20 Questions Tuesday… on a Wednesday.
Onto the Questions:
So, I have a background in cartography, the idea of people and place feels like an interesting story to me. One of the most interesting stories to me, is an individual's geographic story. For example, I was born in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. My family then moved to Montgomery, Alabama for a short jaunt. Then on my third birthday, the family moved to my childhood home just to the northeast of Birmingham, Al in a little place called Center Point. I went off to college in Kent, Ohio where I met my wife and settled down with her in Columbus, Ohio. We are still in the Columbus, Ohio area in the edge city Worthington, Ohio. Question 1: What is your geographic story?
Hello there Scott! I was born in central New York state in a wee little town called Oswego on the banks of Lake Ontario. I was there until my college days where I went to both Alfred and Oneonta, both in New York State. Then a couple of years after college, my friends and I caught a bit of wanderlust and moved all the way across this great country of ours to Seattle, Washington. We've lived here in the Pacific Northwest for the past decade or so and we couldn't be happier!
A cross country move on a whim? Awesome. I dig it. Question 2: what would you say the biggest difference between Upstate New York and Washington State?
There is a really large gap in the attitudes of each coast. One isn't necessarily better than the other, but they're different. NY is more fast paced, "get with the program or get out of the way" where the west coast tends to be more mellow and passive aggressive. Also snow. Central NY gets WAY more snow!
That is the consensus I have been hearing... At least with the pacing, not necessarily the snow thing.
Question 3: Cake or pie? Which specific kind and why?
Pumpkin pie. Unless it's a pumpkin cheesecake. Then I'll have that. Mostly anything pumpkin.
Then you are in your happy season, as everything pumpkin's up for the holidays (Editor’s note: this interview started in the Holiday Season of 2015). Since I have had to go on a gluten free diet, pies seem to work better for me. They are better because pie crust does not have to be spongy and light and fluffy. Pie crusts can be flaky and it seems that GF stuff can handle flakey.
So, you love you some pumpkin... Question 4: What is a food that you feel you need to avoid at all costs?
Believe it or not, I really do not enjoy salmon. Everyone else I know seems to think it's the bee's knees, but I just can't do it.
I can definitely believe that. I am not a lover of all things salmon. I have eaten some really good salmon, but in general I tend to stay away from salmon. Shrimp and crab can get in my belly though.
You are clearly very talented at making props and replica props for all sorts of purposes. Question 5: Was there a specific "ah-ha" moment where you learned that not only was this a past time that you enjoyed, but it was something that you were really good at?
A few years ago I was commissioned to make Mehrunes' Razor, a dagger from Skyrim. When I posted the final photos to my Facebook page, the internet exploded with joy and my email inbox flooded with requests from Elder Scrolls fans who wanted their own legendary dagger. After that I started thinking "I might actually be pretty good at this!"
It is interesting that with creative fields, there is usually an instance, a specific time or event, that a person can think back to and know THAT was the moment. I promise to not make this all about prop building, because I am sure you get build questions all the time, but I feel that one or two more are warranted.
Question 6: Do you enjoy building props for any particular genres more than any other and why?
I really enjoy the challenge of making props and weapons from video games. They don't tend to be designed from "found objects" the way movie props are and I prefer to scratch build my projects. As far as the genres are concerned, I tend to bounce between sci fi and fantasy.
I would also imagine that video game elements might be more difficult to find clean imagery or schematics to base your builds off of. Which leads me to Question 7: What is the most limiting factor to you creating your props? For example, the pre-production research work hampers you from creating a realistic prop because there just is not enough reference to create a quality prop, or the technical detail work of the build is beyond your capability just because of how intricate the work needs to be?
The factor that hampers my output the most is time. There just never seems to be enough of it! Every project I work on eventually just needs to get done, so I end up making compromises. That's not necessarily a bad thing though. If I didn't have deadlines I'm sure I wouldn't finish anything because they're never "good enough". All I can do is continue to put out good work and improve my skill and speed.
Oh, the problem with artists. There is always an edit that can be made and sometimes deadlines are the only thing that can allow an artist to walk away from a piece.
Question 8: Is there any particular piece of yours that you are especially proud of? A piece that you find yourself looking at occasionally or thinking of fondly?
Most of the pieces I finish are sent out the door with great pleasure and I try not to look back on them. In fact, I don't even have a copy of many of the props I've finished, even though I have molds to make more copies. However, the District 9 rifle is a particularly fond piece for me. I am super proud with how it turned out and I'm slowly, but surely, finishing my own copy to proudly display in my home.
I really enjoyed the video highlighting the build of the District 9 gun. That turned out great. I watched the video a few times with my kid, he was impressed as well. You are impressive to a jaded YouTube junky, so you at least have that going for you.
Question 9: Do you go from singular project to singular project or do you have multiple projects going an that you work on in stages? How many builds do you tend to have going on simultaneously?
I usually have a handful of projects going on at the same time. I like to have several burners going so that when I need to wait on one part, like drying paint, I can stay productive on another project. For example: I'm currently finishing a space gun kit for a client, writing a new book, constantly filming new content for my YouTube channel, and designing two other client commissions. Never a dull moment!
After watching most of your edited videos, I figured that was the case. There just seems like there is too much waiting to cure/dry/print/etc... time in a single build to not have multiple projects going at the same time.
Question 10: Fill in the blanks: I find that I am mostly ______. Others feel that I am mostly ______.
Blank 1: Optimistic
Blank 2: Idealistic
Those are closely related but not identical.
Question 11: How would you define the difference between "optimistic" and "idealistic?"
I consider myself a "rational optimist", based on a book I read of the same name. Being truly idealistic tends to be less rational. It's all a delicate balancing act. Nowadays my motto is "Hope for the best, but plan for the worst."
That is a delicate balancing act. That is really a good motto to live by.
Question 12: Are there any other personal mottoes, credos, or mantras that you reference in your life regularly?
"Every pizza is a personal pizza if you try hard and believe in yourself."
I might need to adopt that one. That is great. The one I have incorporated is from my Mother-in-Law. It is "Don't let the fuckers get you down." Words to live by.
So we are now at the triskaidekaphobics nightmare. Question 13: do you have any superstitions or rituals? For example, when I was a kid and played soccer I had a very specific sequence of steps to get dressed and ready to play in a soccer game. At the time it was superstition because I thought that if I deviated my luck would run out. Turns out it was really a ritual to help me get into the correct frame of mind... Less superstition and more ritualistic. You?
Gonna let you down here and admit that I don't follow any sort of superstitions or rituals. Although in the past week I've cut my knuckles on the build plate of my 3D printer every single time I've tried to pry a printed piece off the surface. Does that count?
You have not let me down in the least. I would say cutting your knuckles every day on the build plate could be considered a ritual if there is some other underlying purpose of the knuckle cutting... if the knuckle cutting somehow got you in the correct head-space for accomplishing your task at hand... I will allow it.
This is the question that I stole from Patrick Beja. I love the depth and profundity of ot while it is so simple. Question 14: Are you happy?
This is a delightfully succinct answer. Honestly, it shows in your videos. You seem genuinely happy in your video posts, and that is one of the reasons I love watching your vids.
I do not make props or do any cosplay, but I watch every one of your edited vids. I watch them because I enjoy watching process and seeing people who are really good at what they do, do their thing. I find that watching process is oddly calming for me. On YouTube, I will watch potters throw pots, glass blowers create their pieces, speed paintings, etc... on Question 15: So, is there any non-entertainment specific content out there that you enjoy consuming, but do not participate in?
I'm pretty laser focused on two things right now: Making things and building a better business in Punished Props. Just about everything I consume these days is either how-to content designed to increase my technical knowledge or books on business. And Star Wars. =)
There is always time to focus on Star Wars. Question 16: How many projects are you working on right now that are primarily for you vs the number of projects that you are working on that are commissions? and do people usually just ask you for a particular piece, or do they want you to create an entire ensemble for a complete costume set?
We're actually shifting away from doing commissions for other people. It used to be that I would only ever do work for my clients, with little time for my own endeavors, but that's changing. We only have a couple of client pieces on the docket for 2016. Back when we did take more commissions the focus was primarily on single prop pieces like weapons. I tried doing full costumes for a while, but the complications with sizing and design over the internet was so much of a hassle, I didn't want to do it anymore.
Interesting. I would have thought, through my own naivete, that the bulk of your Punished Props income would be for doing the hard to create pieces for cosplayers.
Question 17: Is there a question you were expecting me to ask that I didn't?
HA! I don't think so. You've been exceptionally thorough. Maybe my favorite color? It's blue.
Okay, it's the time of the 20 Questions where I turn the tables... I am always nervous about this. Question 18: do you have any questions for me?
What was the last thing you built with your hands?
ooh, that is a great question. I helped my kids (especially my daughter) build some of their Lego sets at Christmastime, but I am not sure if constructables are what you are talking about. I would have to go to a "racer" that I built for a birthday party my oldest was going to. The party was to have the kids race found object "race cars" down a hill. It was a pretty awesome party. Anyway, for this party, I used a base from an old shelf, added a kick-board steering axle, a rear axle, bolted down an old kid's booster seat to the shelf, and screwed in four lawn mower wheels (I had to buy the wheels). It was a fun little build. Other than that I assembled my grill.
That was an awesome question.
Question 19: What are you taking from these 20 Questions that you did not bring in with you?
I think this is a very interesting way to run an interview. I will sometimes do my own interviews with other professionals in my field and I've definitely gleaned some interesting questions from your batch.
Well, I have enjoyed the heck out of this. You are an absolute delight and I am very happy to have gotten to know you better.
Question 20: What's next? Be as vague or concrete, as close term or long-term, as philosophical or grounded as you want.
Next is a whole lot of internet video. We're working on getting more, better prop & costume making tutorial content out on the internet. Things have been ramping up and I'm really excited to share all of the really rad projects we have in store for 2016!
Thanks so much, Bill. This was great. Everyone should follow Bill on the Twitters, check out his website at Punished Props, and make sure you give a look to his YouTube channel. His tutorials are amazing and whether you like to build things or not they are enjoyable to watch. It is always good to watch someone do something that they are good at. Process is enjoyable to watch when the person is invested in their craft. Watch and learn folks, watch and learn.
I am a day late and a dollar short
That’s the best I can do
Deal with it, peeps
I am on the SnapChat like the kids today
Check me out at mmmmmpig
Today I said something about my pants... you know, like all the kids are doing these days
The wife is in Minnesota today but will be back tomorrow night
Tonight I made the kiddos their favorite meal
A meal that both my wife and I cannot tolerate anymore
But the kiddos love it
This is, of course, the incomparable Orange Rice (they ate it all)
I had some frozen pizza
I baked it, but it started out frozen
Bill Doran is a gem of a man
I do not mean that he is truly outrageous though
Have a great week everyone