Make a Breakaway Prop Statue for Film or Theatre




Introduction: Make a Breakaway Prop Statue for Film or Theatre

About: My girlfriend and I run a company called Deville's Workshop in Toronto, Canada. We build weird props for film and television and love this website - such a great resource for inspiration and discussion!

Hallo you! Thanks for checking this build out! My partner and I make props and have been working on a number of different hidden camera prank shows for the last few years. This breakaway statue was for a show where they pranked high school students. The students thought they were presenting a statue/bust to an important business man who was going to donate zillions of dollars to the board of education. When the students pulled the red velvet curtain off the bust the pedestal 'accidentally' buckles and then tips over, sending the whole thing smashing to the ground. The statue is just as shattered as any hopes of a donation! Yikes!

Just a note: a "breakaway prop" is a disposable smashable prop. Every time you see a cowboy smash a chair in a saloon fight or someone chuck a bottle at someone in a movie, they are using breakaway props. Here are other examples of breakaway props.

There's also a thing called "soft props", that's often a foam-filled prop like a giant wrench or baseball bat, used for whacking actors on the skull with. Here are some examples of soft props from a local Toronto fx company called Lairds.

Step 1: Carve Out Your Actor!

The first stage was shaping the plaster bust to look like our actor. We used a mold that a colleague had previously made of a man's head. To do this we pretreated the mold with some soapy water and then poured #1 Molding Plaster thinly into the mold. We did a light, handheld rotocast with the plaster in the mold until it set. Once the initial plaster set we poured another three or four thin coats of plaster. We carefully released the plaster heads from the silicone mold and they were ready for sculpting.

I took the heads and smeared a messy handful of wet plaster on them, rubbing it onto the surface. This gave the realistic skin texture of the original mold a more "handmade" textured feel.

Tina then took a photo of the actor and a variety of carving utensils and went to town. She carved in details and shaped the nose, adding the actor's frown and furrowed brow. She also added hair to the side of the head and eyebrows. The final addition was a v-neck shirt or robe.

Step 2: Scenic Painting the Sculpture

To give the sculpture a bronze effect, Tina added layers of bronze, gold and black paint. A lot of this is applied with a brush, then wiped away with a rag, and then repeating. Every new pass smushes more colour into the crevices. For the purpose of a television camera is helps to dull down the reflective and shiny surface that the gold creates. A re-positionable dulling spray helps here (TIPS AND TRICKS! We often use Arrid Extra Dry or some other deodorant spray when we need to dull a surface like a reflective picture frame glass on set. It's really effective and is easy to clean off afterwards).

Step 3: Smash Some Heads!!!!

(I realize I don't have pics of the pedestal rig, I'll take some an upload them when I get a chance)

OK, now you have a bunch of heads. Time to break them! We set our bust up and had the students file in for the 'presentation'. The students all pulled the curtain away.... and then the whole thing fell over and the head crumbled. The actor was 'devastated', how could these kids so cruelly smash his head like that? I included a vid here of one of our test runs. It was pretty fun, the poor students looked really nervous until we told them they were on tv!

And that's it! Please let me know if you have any questions. And if you've made any great prank instructables please post them in the comments section!



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    6 Discussions


    4 years ago

    Would you say this is safe to break over an actor? For the show I am doing next, the text says "actor picks up the bust and smashes against other actor".


    5 years ago on Introduction

    This is exactly the sort of thing I need for a play I'm producing in L.A. - I just don't know how to make the mold and I don't quite understand the rotocasting - is that just swishing the plaster around in the mold? Are there instructions? I'm willing to buy them. Your "bronze" bust looks fabulous! I need to make several "porcelain" Buddhas for a show.


    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    Take me to L.A. and I'll make them for you!

    I can send you directions but if you plan on making thrm yourself I would highly recommend checking out the Smooth On website for tutorials!

    Ok, talk soon,



    5 years ago

    Was the show called undercover high


    5 years ago on Introduction

    Nicely done! That prank must've been a lot of fun.