Spotlight on Prop Maker Phillip Gillow

Hailing from Canada but now based in Western Australia, talented Phillip Gillow is an amazing prop maker available to create film props for the movie industry. We were lucky enough to ask Phillip about prop making and films in general.

Welcome Phillip Gillow to the Australian film network journal.

PG - Thank-You for having me.

You make props for films; how did you get into this career?

PG - As most who have a passion for film I started young. I purchased a super-8 motion picture camera and my school mates and I would make movies. One particular film was a stop motion short utilising Star Wars figures. It was rough around the edges but, hey, I was learning my craft. For one particular sequence I needed a desert planet So I built one using a half-sized snooker table with a miniature set built on top. I used chicken wire covered with paper-mache’ for the mountains and the entire piece was covered with a mixture of beach sand and Clag glue plus any other junk I could find that looked “spacey”. It took me two weeks and it was quite spectacular.

What kinds of props can you make?

PG - I have recently entered the realm of #D printing and the possibilities are endless. Being a Canadian the concept of Reduce/Reuse/Recycle is practically etched into my blood. You’ll always find me scrounging around junk shops etc for all sorts of shapes and materials for future creations.

What is the most challenging thing you have made so far?

PG - Every piece has its own challenge. I once had to figure out a way to drill through three-foot lengths of dowelling using only a hand drill. That was interesting. Luckily the director only wanted six of them. I made him eight.

I am presently working on a Phased hand pistol replica from Star Trek. Know how particular the Star Trek Fans are and the fact that I don’t want to disappoint when I put it online for sale the working innards are truly thought provoking and time consuming pushing the absolute limits of my patience.

What is the strangest request you have had someone ask you to make?

PG - I was working as a property master for Det Hemlige Teatre (The Secret Theatre) in Denmark and a half-crazed American Director was directing a play about God coming down to Earth to judge a group of adults in a children’s playground and the man wanted a crown for God with large bodacious blinking lights which spelt out GUD which is God in Danish. He also wanted Satan’s trident as a penis surrounded by flames on either side, I had them attached together with a glow in the dark red nuclear symbol. The actor who portrayed Satan was very hard on the penis and it had to be repaired nightly. It was a very bizarre play.

What is your favourite genre of film and why?

PG - I enjoy all genres of storytelling especially set in the realm of science fiction. I believe a well written and well produced Sci-Fi examines the problems of todays society without being preachy and if it offers hope or some kind of solution or even a better way of doing things then they’ve got my money at the box-office.

Science fiction also has the most mind-boggling props and sets in my humble opinion. Oh, and I don’t mind the odd horror.

What is your favourite Australian film and why?

PG – Being a gen-Xer hands down it would have to be Mad Max II. From what I understand Mad Max II was not a sequel but the original vision of the Kennedy-Miller duo who couldn’t raise the budget required so like any great filmmaker they shot for the stars and compromised on budget and they heavily rewrote it into Mad max. When it made money then they could shoot their original masterpiece.

The bleak outlook on the future was Inspiring. A lead that rarely utters a word a muscular faceless antagonist. Hardcore. It was a groundbreaking flick that set the tone for many films to follow. Even post-Lucas Star Wars looks like it’s set in the world of Mad Max II. How many films do you know have a gay villain and it’s completely nonjudgmental just part of the world of the story and this was the eighties in Australia.

What the creators came up with in the set design department still blows my mind to this day. The fun they must have had building all those vehicles then destroying them would have been the peak of many a career. I once worked a set in Vancouver where we got to remotely drive two identical cars over a cliff. The exhilaration of the whole crew was amazing. Imagine shooting the chase sequence in Mad Max II?

I’ve still yet to build a working wrist-attached crossbow but soon. Soon.

What advice would you give to someone who wanted to make props?

PG – You need the tools. Tools tools tools. Drill, angle grinder, bench sander, saws for wood and metal, hand files of all sizes, chisels, hammers, nuts, bolts, screws, tape, glue, the list is endless and paint for spray-painting and hand-painting. I am forever purchasing tools and supplies.

Add a couple of 3D printers and the sky is the limit.

Do you have any limitations when it comes to prop making?

PG – I am limited by time and budget (even though I just stated the sky is the limit…Hmmm.)

What do you think your specialty is?

PG - Lately I have been concentrating on Hand held Blasters for the Star Wars market. I’ve rapidly become quite efficient and creative at adding my own personality into them. Presently they are just to scale hand props but in future pieces they will have all the lights lasers and sounds for the vast world wide cosplay market.

And I make a mean dinosaur.

Where can our readers find out more about you and your work?

PG - I am a sole trader and I am presently building a website. Being born in 1969 I struggle with the technology so any help out there would be appreciated. I can be contacted at My webpage is coming soon.

Thank you for your time Phillip.

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