Symbolic Use of Props in Film

I wonder how many drama/theatre teachers and students have seen this clip “Why Props Matter” by Rishi Kaneria?

This may quite possibly be the best 10 minutes you’ll ever watch about the value of props in film, which of course easily translates to props and objects used in student drama performances.

So when your students or yourself is struggling to include or make sense of a prop in a drama performance, watch this clip. It is particularly useful for student-devised performances in drama, especially solos.


Almost everything in this clip about props in filmmaking can be relevant to student theatre performances. It shows numerous examples of how and why to include a simple prop to develop and express character, propel the plot, cut to another scene, be used a symbol, and more.

(Warning: language, violence, drugs)

I have taken notes for everyone in the form of selected narration quotes:

A good prop can help a film’s believability.

Great props can transcend the boundaries of the film they’re in.

A prop can draw you in to a scene or help you cut to another.

A good prop can represent a character, to the point where you can’t think about THAT object without thinking about THAT character. It can sum up their internal struggles, or sum up their way of life. or give you a glimpse into their personality.

They (props) can provide subtle subtext as well as function.

You can use a prop to tell without telling.

Objects can move a plot forward, but even then they are still symbols that support the theme.

A great filmmaker will use a prop to tell a story and motivate a character.

A prop can help a character get from point A to point B or help a character find what they’re looking for.

Props make great tools for your actors to express themselves with.

In the end, props are just objects. But objects are things everyone can relate to. They are things we can hold ourselves, and when we see characters doing the same, it’s a mutual experience that draws us into THEIR experience.

2 Responses

  1. Earl Austin says:

    Thank you, Justin, for a very insightful and informative clip on Props.

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