What if your passion isn’t producing or directing? After film school, Cory worked in different departments on set, looking past the “typical” industry jobs that a lot of recent post-grads go for.
Cory Maracle shares how he found his passion in the art department. He is now the prop master for Hallmark's talk show Home & Family.
Listen to Cory’s there to here story with Tanya Musgrave.
:58- Shares how he got started
4:15- What's his role on Home & Family
11:43- How COVID impacted the show
14:00- New guidelines for getting back to production
16:23- Favorite place to find props
20:13- The process for making props
24:40- Changing set decor
27:00- Best way to position yourself
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Cory Maracle (00:00):
There are many different prop houses here in LA and if you ever get the chance to visit any of them, I really encourage that you do that because it's just so cool.
Tanya Musgrave (00:11):
Welcome to There to Here, an educational podcast where industry professionals talk nuts and bolts and how they got from there to here. On today's show, Cory Maracle takes us behind the scenes of his role as prop master for the daytime talk show, Home & Family. As this is a new podcast, we're really wanting feedback, so go to media.colabinc.org, fill out that feedback survey, and you'll be entered to win a $25 Amazon gift card. Congratulations to our winner this week, Lindsey Haffner. From CoLab Inc, I'm Tanya Musgrave. Today, I have Cory Maracle. He is the prop master for the lifestyle television talk show, Home & Family. It's filmed on the Universal Studios Backlot in Los Angeles. Welcome to the show.
Cory Maracle (00:47):
Thank you for having me.
Tanya Musgrave (00:48):
We've never had a prop master on the show before, really, anybody from the art department. How did you get from there to here?
Cory Maracle (00:56):
Let's see. Where do I begin? I, like many people after film school, I just had it in my mind that I wanted to be in LA and work in LA, so packed up my car, came out here. I was out here for just a few months, not really having a whole lot of luck finding work. I didn't really know many people, so it was a bit tough, but fairly early on, I found myself living with Thomas Wentworth, who I believe you've had on your podcast previously, and another young gentleman, Ben Van Allen. Ben at the time was an assistant producer, I believe, at Home & Family. After learning that I was just searching everywhere I could for work, he was like, "You should have let me know. Let me make some calls. I know just the person." He got in touch with the production manager there at Home & Family.
Cory Maracle (01:59):
Before long, they called me up, gave me a shot. I went in as a PA. I did as much as I could the best way I could and they liked me, so they kept me on. I was PAing there or probably the next six months. Towards the end of season one, they needed assistance in the art department, so they would pull me over every few days. I liked the job in the art department a lot, they liked working with me, so at the start of season two, they hired me into their department full-time as a prop assist. I proceeded to do that for several years.
Cory Maracle (02:40):
Before that, I wasn't really sure what area of this industry I wanted to work in. I dabbled in a few different areas and nothing really resonated, but as soon as I was in art, I was like, "Oh, wow. This makes so much sense. I love everything about it. I love working with my hands. I love making things." That was-
Tanya Musgrave (03:03):
Yeah, yeah. It's an aspect of film that's not really spotlit at all. You hear of producer, director, writer. That's what it's like to work in Hollywood.
Cory Maracle (03:16):
Right, those are the ones everybody hits on. They gloss over art department, which is unfortunate, because I think, at least for me, it's really interesting and it's always got something new. Beyond that, I was just in the right place at the right time. After several years and certain circumstances, I was bumped up into the role of prop master and the head of the art department at Home & Family. That's been, well, it's been very different and it's been a huge learning experience for me.
Tanya Musgrave (03:59):
How long have you been in that role?
Cory Maracle (04:02):
I've been doing that since December of 2018.
Tanya Musgrave (04:06):
Okay. How different is that? I mean, because you're still working in the art department, right?
Cory Maracle (04:10):
Right. It's very different, right? Unfortunately, I don't get to be as hands-on. I'm talking with all the producers constantly, I'm sending emails all day long, I'm going to meetings that I don't necessarily want to be in.
Tanya Musgrave (04:29):
Managerial then, huh?
Cory Maracle (04:31):
Yes, very much so. Our department now has eight people. My job is now to delegate the work and make sure it all gets done.
Tanya Musgrave (04:42):
Is it an actual office job? Are you on set?
Cory Maracle (04:46):
That hits on one of the weird quirks about our show. We're a two-hour show, talk show, mainly, but intercut with that, we've got cooking segments and DIY segments and everything from fashion to remodeling your house. Our set is designed to look like an everyday house, like if you pass it on the street, it looks like a house. We move throughout the different rooms according to what the content is. We've got several different locations where we can shoot interviews. If we're doing cooking, it's either in the kitchen or maybe in the backyard on a grill or whatever.
Cory Maracle (05:27):
With that being said, the hub for art department is in the garage. That's where we store all our stuff, all our tools. That's where our home base is. That's basically my office.
Tanya Musgrave (05:40):
Cory Maracle (05:40):
There's a big table in there that's always covered with materials and half-done projects. Then my computer is also in there and I meet producers in there.
Tanya Musgrave (05:52):
Cory Maracle (05:54):
It's a very unique work setting, but I'd much prefer that to an office.
Tanya Musgrave (05:59):
Mm-hmm (affirmative). I mean, it's probably the best of both worlds, too. You did mention before that it was a full-time job. There are a lot of these gigs that are just that, they're gig workers. Is it officially a full-time job?
Cory Maracle (06:13):
Oh, yeah. Our show shoots approximately 48 weeks out of the year. We do normally take about a one-month hiatus around August. Out of that month, my team generally only has a couple of weeks off because we stay later, we come back earlier to freshen up the set and do a lot of the things that it's difficult for us to do while there is a full crew of people working there. We just really take that time to have the set to ourselves, to get a bunch of stuff done. In a weird way, it is managerial, it is in an office, but that office happens to be a garage.
Tanya Musgrave (07:02):
Well, I mean, honestly, if you have to have an office job, the best office job is the one that's out of the office and where all the activity is.
Cory Maracle (07:10):
Absolutely. That way I can keep an eye on everything that's actually happening and the things that are being built. At the same time, I can be talking to people about next week and what we need for that.
Tanya Musgrave (07:22):
Mm-hmm (affirmative). For some reason, I was under the impression that it was like filmed with a live studio audience. Is that not?
Cory Maracle (07:30):
Originally, yes, it was, but our show has evolved over the years. They would use to bring in an audience, like people could sign up or they would just pull random people from the park that wanted to be in the audience and they would show them down to our set and they would sit through a few segments and then they'd take them back. Anyway, we don't do that anymore.
Tanya Musgrave (07:55):
Were you there when they did do that? Because you were there for season one, right?
Cory Maracle (07:59):
Yeah. I saw plenty of that, yeah.
Tanya Musgrave (08:02):
I want to say that you're the first guest that we've had that has been involved with a project that has a live studio audience. I would love for you to compare and contrast what that experience is and how the audience played into your day, if it did at all, if it had any effect whatsoever.
Cory Maracle (08:19):
I think it goes back to what our show used to be. They wanted to feel like anybody could just stroll onto the set and they didn't mind seeing people in the background and they would cut to the audience to get reaction shots, whereas now, they've really drawn back from breaking that fourth wall. If there's something in the background that's not supposed to be there, they'll cut and they'll redo it, whereas before we would shoot it as if it was a live show. When you're shooting a two-hour show with three-minute commercial breaks in-between, so during that three minutes, all the cameras are flying to the next room and me and my team are moving furniture in and out of the way. It was crazy, it was hectic. It takes a lot longer to shoot a two-hour episode.
Tanya Musgrave (09:14):
About how long?
Cory Maracle (09:14):
I want to say about four hours, which they're always trying to cut that time down, but that's the price you pay when you have a very specific way that you want everything to be.
Tanya Musgrave (09:26):
Cory Maracle (09:26):
You're less open to people improvising.
Tanya Musgrave (09:29):
Yeah, yeah, of course. You mentioned some of the aspects that are involved: DIY projects and cooking and crafts and sewing and decor and gardening and fashion, pets, you name it. I'm guessing that you have a core storage room of props or is there a bit of scrambling that has to be done for each unique guest or subject or no? No scrambling? Do you have enough time to find these things?
Cory Maracle (09:54):
There's a huge spectrum and it's all across the board, really. When it comes to figuring out and acquiring props that are needed, I'll sit down with the producers and map out, okay, this is your segment for next week. What do you need for this? What's needed for my department?
Cory Maracle (10:14):
Then once we have everything figured out, then I start going through, okay, do we need to purchase or do we need to rent from prop houses around the area or is this something that we're going to be designing and building here? Basically all of the DIY projects are built there. We do have a storage room. It's not nearly as big as we would like it to be, which means we can only hold on to so much stuff.
Tanya Musgrave (10:41):
There's a lot of turnover?
Cory Maracle (10:42):
There is a lot of turnover. It's all a guessing game as to: Are we going to need this in the future? How easily could we reacquire it if we need to just let it go right now for the safe space? Always playing that game, trying to figure out what do we need to hold on to, what can we get rid of.
Tanya Musgrave (11:02):
Mm-hmm (affirmative). Is that your buffer time, just one week or do you shoot ahead even more?
Cory Maracle (11:08):
My goal is to be roughly two weeks out and at least starting to figure out what's needed two weeks out. Some things can be gotten the day before, but if I need these 15 specific Christmas trees by this day, well, then I need to order them right now or they're not going to be here on time, right? That's the other thing: I'm looking at every single segment and putting that in order of importance and time management to gauge when I need to be getting that stuff.
Tanya Musgrave (11:41):
Nice, nice. You haven't been in production for the quarantine, I'm guessing?
Cory Maracle (11:48):
No. Our show is completely shut down at the moment. I know they've been trying to do some social media content to keep viewers somewhat active, but as far as a regular show, it's not active right now.
Tanya Musgrave (12:02):
Have you been involved with that? How has your job pivoted?
Cory Maracle (12:06):
It's come to a complete stop, honestly. Beyond some of the on-air talent, nobody is working right now at Home & Family.
Tanya Musgrave (12:16):
Yeah. I'm curious. Are you part of a union? Are you okay? Are you taken care of kind of thing?
Cory Maracle (12:22):
Our show is non-union. I'm not a part of the union. I think that would bar me from working there if I were to join.
Tanya Musgrave (12:29):
Oh, okay, okay. I got you. This has screeched everything to a halt for so many day workers, gig workers, all that stuff, especially if they're not in the union. How have you been able to sustain yourself in the meantime?
Cory Maracle (12:44):
Mid-March, they were like, "Okay, we're taking two weeks. We're going to regroup after two weeks and just see what happens." Of course, that went into an indefinite break. Right now, I'm on unemployment. I'm pretty sure most of the crew is.
Tanya Musgrave (13:00):
Mm-hmm (affirmative). Has that come through for you?
Cory Maracle (13:01):
It has. Honestly, in my experience, it was quite painless and it showed up.
Tanya Musgrave (13:09):
No, that's really good. Have you heard any date being knocked around for when you might be potentially going back?
Cory Maracle (13:17):
I have not. I'm not sure if I'm allowed to really talk about that, but...
Tanya Musgrave (13:22):
Got it. Got it, got it. Right now, there is a lot of white paper coming across the desks on studios from unions. You have the IATSE, you have the document that just came out with the guidelines and they're already starting to cause a little bit of friction between all of those places saying, "All right, no. Shorter workdays. You can't skimp on the amount of crew that you have," that it's dangerous, or, "No, we have to have smaller crews." Do you see yourself getting wrapped up into that, where you will see your job possibly suffering or being affected by that?
Cory Maracle (13:59):
I think our show will be affected greatly by whatever guidelines end up being required on any given day. We have just a ton of people on set, we've got trailers full of producers and crew. If you even start talking about social distancing and anything like that, logistically, it just becomes a nightmare. I'm not really sure what that's going to look like when we do return, but I think it will be vastly different from what it was. I really hope it does not mean cutting crew or cutting hours or anything like that because it's just the nature of our show. We pump out a lot of content in little time. We're shooting every single day. To try to cut back in any area would really... It would have a major effect on the overall content.
Tanya Musgrave (15:02):
Of course. I'm sure that it would affect a lot of your budget as well.
Cory Maracle (15:08):
Yeah, it definitely would.
Tanya Musgrave (15:09):
Coronavirus is only one part of the change that's been looming on the horizon. It's been a lot of the streaming services that are infiltrating the market right now. Has your particular landscape changed?
Cory Maracle (15:23):
Our show hasn't really changed in that way, whether for better or worse. I feel like there maybe should be some steps taken towards figuring out how to transition into that arena because that is the direction that everything's going. A cable daytime show, I don't know what the future of that really looks like.
Tanya Musgrave (15:49):
Yeah, I was curious how that was holding up because I mean, I don't know very many people off the top of my head that still have cable.
Cory Maracle (15:56):
Right. I mean, they're out there. Our show, it does have a really strong viewership, but yeah, I mean, in an age where everything is going towards streaming, it's not going to be the case forever.
Tanya Musgrave (16:10):
Okay, we actually have some listener questions from our Insta and Facebook Stories and on Twitter. Shameless plug, if you want to ask your questions to future guests, our handle on Insta and Twitter is colabincpodcast. All right, favorite places to find props?
Cory Maracle (16:27):
There are many different prop houses here in LA and if you ever get the chance to visit any of them, I really encourage that you do that because it's just so cool, even to this day.
Tanya Musgrave (16:41):
To buy or to rent?
Cory Maracle (16:42):
Generally to rent. Can purchase things from prop houses, but it ends up being very expensive, but they just have everything you could possibly imagine, right? They've got different versions. Say you need a typewriter from the 1940s, well, then they can point me to the IO of typewriters and they can point you to the section of those that are from the 1940s.
Tanya Musgrave (17:08):
Please, tell me you're talking about History For Hire. Have you rented from them before?
Cory Maracle (17:12):
I have not.
Tanya Musgrave (17:14):
They're fantastic. For the Bonhoeffer film that we had done, for the narrative sequences, we had to, of course, dress the set for 1940s, but specifically British. We go into History For Hire. First of all, they have, it's the scanner gun, like if you were to go on a wedding registry, so everything has a barcode. You go and you scan the things that you want and it comes out on that list, that's super cool. They had the exact same thing where it's just like, "Here's our aisle of telephones. These are the 1940s," or whatever, blah, blah, blah. We specifically needed a mic. It was a recording studio. They're just like, "This is that era," and then "These are the British ones."
Cory Maracle (17:57):
Oh, wow. Yeah, no, it's insane. It blows me away just how everything, even the stuff that is recreated or a replica, it's just so detailed. If you need a foam version of whatever weapon, they have that.
Tanya Musgrave (18:14):
Wow, I didn't know that part.
Cory Maracle (18:16):
If you need a display case full of fake food products that look real, they have that. Prop Heaven is a really good one.
Tanya Musgrave (18:25):
Do they work more for ...? For instance, that aisle of food that might be needed, do they work more with an in-house design team?
Cory Maracle (18:34):
Yeah, I don't really know how the houses acquire all of their props. Honestly, I don't know.
Tanya Musgrave (18:41):
Uh-huh (affirmative), but what's awesome is you get them, you get the stuff.
Cory Maracle (18:45):
Yeah. It's all available and honestly, it's available to even student filmmakers.
Tanya Musgrave (18:51):
Wow, that's amazing.
Cory Maracle (18:52):
You can make deals with these houses and they will rent out their props to you.
Tanya Musgrave (18:57):
That's amazing. Do you have to have a minimum budget or ...?
Cory Maracle (19:02):
Again, I haven't rented from them as a student.
Tanya Musgrave (19:07):
As a studio, I mean, I'm guessing that you guys have to have the proof of insurance policy type of thing, yeah?
Cory Maracle (19:13):
Right, right. We do. We have all of that. We set up accounts with all the different prop houses.
Tanya Musgrave (19:19):
That makes sense. You rent props. Do you make any?
Cory Maracle (19:23):
Yes. We used to make more. Our show used to have games that we would play, so they'd be like, "Okay, we're going to do an obstacle course and at the end you need to get a bucket of slime dumped on you," so we would rig all this stuff. "Today, we're turning our backyard into a giant Angry Birds game."
Tanya Musgrave (19:47):
Cory Maracle (19:48):
It would be giant slingshots with these birds and towers of boxes that they would have to knock down.
Tanya Musgrave (19:57):
Over the course of a week, you're able to put all of that kind of stuff together. What does that process look like when making props?
Cory Maracle (20:04):
I figure out what's needed and I look at the overall schedule of what's going on. As time pops up, I will grab one or both of my builders and I'll walk them through, "This is what needs to happen." Then typically, I'll let them run with it and I'll check in with them as I'm running around talking to other producers. I'll come in and check in with their progress and if they have questions about the next step, they'll come to me. We just keep doing that until that's done and then we move on to the next thing.
Tanya Musgrave (20:41):
Mm-hmm (affirmative). Is there a secret club of art department that you get to be a part of when you're a part of this kind of thing, like people who might work art department and narrative projects or, "Oh, yeah, in the lot down the way," or ...?
Cory Maracle (20:56):
I can't say that I'm a part of any secret art club, no. There is a bar in NoHo somewhere that is actually known for being an art department hangout. I've wandered through there. As far as interaction with the people working around us, we don't have a ton of it. We show up, we have long days at Home & Family and we're on the backside of the backlot. There's the main side with all the office buildings and the commissary and all that, but if you want to get to our set, you have to go basically to the other end past the New York sets. You start working your way through the Old West set and our house is right between Old West and Old Europe.
Tanya Musgrave (21:47):
Where are you in relation to Hill Valley?
Cory Maracle (21:50):
Like the main square?
Tanya Musgrave (21:52):
Yeah, yeah. Just where the clock tower was. I was just curious.
Cory Maracle (21:55):
Yeah, yeah. You can walk there within probably like three minutes. You can be there just walking.
Tanya Musgrave (22:01):
That's so stinking awesome. All right, within this, I mean, I didn't know if you knew very many other people in our departments for narratives, but one of the questions was, "Have you worked on many narrative projects? If so, how much collaboration is there when going through the script and identifying key pieces?"
Cory Maracle (22:19):
Unfortunately, I have not worked narrative hardly at all. Let's see. I was an art department PA on a very short project when I first moved out here. Incredibly stressful. They had me running around the Venice boardwalk looking for a wallet with a chain on it and nobody sells those anymore anyway. Anyway, super stressful, but fun at the same time. Anyway, no, unfortunately, basically, my whole career out here in LA has been on this non-scripted show, so I can't really answer that.
Tanya Musgrave (23:03):
No worries. I still remember I had to find a white doctor's coat and I'm driving this 15-passenger van and I have no idea. First of all, I don't know, in LA, the parking situation is just a fun gamut in and of itself. Double-parking freaked me out at first. I was just like, "Oh, my gosh, I'm going to get towed away. Someone's going to smash into me or something." I had to find this white doctor's coat and I ended up going into some X-ray tech office and they had one on a dummy in the back in a drawer. It was just like, "Yeah, we don't wear those anymore." I brought back this dirty, something from the back of a drawer. I'm like, "I promise I'm going to bring it back. I promise." Anyway.
Cory Maracle (23:53):
But you found it.
Tanya Musgrave (23:55):
It's the most random thing.
Cory Maracle (23:57):
Did they use it?
Tanya Musgrave (23:57):
Yeah, they ended up using it. There was a huge stain on the front that they had to put some pens over or something so they couldn't see the stain, but yeah, they ended up using it.
Cory Maracle (24:10):
No, that's great. You'd be surprised how many really just terrible props or wardrobe get shot on camera and they look fine. In real life, they look terrible, but if you do it right, you can shoot them all right.
Tanya Musgrave (24:29):
Well, how do you do it right?
Cory Maracle (24:30):
I guess being very aware of, like you said, where the bad parts are and then doing your best to hide them. We are also in charge of the overall set and how it looks, right? We change the set decor to match the season that we're in. Hallmark, they don't have four seasons, they have like 10 seasons, so from Christmas, we go into Winter Fest and then Valentine's and Spring Fever and June Weddings and all of this stuff, so we're continually, apart from our regular duties, we're coming up with, "What is this set going to look like? What do we need to gather for that?" Then there is last minute, "Oh, my goodness. That doesn't look so good. Throw a flower pot in front of it or something." Ferns and flowerpots will save you so many times as a set dresser.
Tanya Musgrave (25:30):
Awesome. It is a talk show. You must see a lot of fantastic guests coming through, guests, celebrities, what have you. Who's been your favorite?
Cory Maracle (25:38):
Favorites? Let's see. We had Colin Mochrie, I don't know if you've ever watched Whose Line Is It Anyway?
Tanya Musgrave (25:46):
Oh, wait. Yes, I have.
Cory Maracle (25:49):
I watched him growing up, him and Ryan Stiles and to see him actually on our show was really cool. People like Penn and Teller, Danny Trejo is super nice guy, Jon Voight was really awesome. I mean, there's been so many. I never for one second thought I would be seeing this person in front of me. John Rhys-Davies, super nice guy.
Tanya Musgrave (26:16):
Cory Maracle (26:17):
Tanya Musgrave (26:18):
That's incredible. I don't know. By now, you've probably gotten the LA chill. I was never able to get that. If ever I saw a famous person, I was just like... I couldn't keep my chill.
Cory Maracle (26:30):
I'm not one to rush them and try to take a picture with them.
Tanya Musgrave (26:33):
Oh, no. No, no, no.
Cory Maracle (26:36):
I might not get excited about the same people that other people get excited about, but I definitely do have that fan-boy mentality hit me every now and then.
Tanya Musgrave (26:48):
Yeah. All right, a lot of our audience members are newcomers. What would you say to them, especially in this kind of landscape right now? What would be the best way for them to position themselves?
Cory Maracle (27:02):
I mean, I have no idea where things are going right now. I don't know what things are going to look like when we get out of all of this, but I'd say a lot of this is going to be common sense, but work as hard as you possibly can, do the very best job that you can. Be kind, just be a nice person, be respectful. Nobody wants to work with a jerk, but if you're nice and you work hard, eventually somebody is going to notice. Not everybody out there is giving it 100 or 110%, so if you are, you're naturally going to rise to the top. When somebody does give you that chance, you grab hold of it and use it for all it's worth.
Tanya Musgrave (27:53):
Mm-hmm (affirmative). What were some of the skills that you had to learn in your job?
Cory Maracle (27:58):
There's been a lot of tools that I've had to learn that I've never used before. As far as the job I'm doing now, it's really forced me to have interactions with people that I wouldn't normally have. I'm not an outgoing person, I'm not a social butterfly. Public speaking is the worst. I've had to learn how to interact and how to work with all of these people and make sure everything's getting done, even when it's maybe not what I would generally want to be doing in that given moment.
Cory Maracle (28:30):
Something else is that you don't know where life is going to take you. Even if you have a clear goal in mind, your life could take weird, twisty turns. I would encourage people to be open to opportunities that are presented to them, even if it's not necessarily what you think you want.
Tanya Musgrave (28:53):
Yeah. I know of a lot of people who particularly are just graduating. First of all, they're not even aware of these types of jobs that are out there. When it comes down to it, doing something that you love and doing it in a field that you're just like, "You know what? Actually, this turned out differently than I thought it was going to, but I'm kind of loving life. I kind of like it."
Cory Maracle (29:15):
Yeah. I mean, people should really look hard for their strengths. In whatever field that you're working in, figure out what your strengths are and gravitate towards that and just make the most of it that you can, even if it's something completely different than you thought it was.
Tanya Musgrave (29:35):
We really appreciate your insight, a little bit of a glimpse into your world.
Cory Maracle (29:40):
Well, thank you for having me. I'm glad to provide whatever little insight I can.
Tanya Musgrave (29:45):
Thank you for joining us. If you enjoyed this interview, follow us right here and check out more episodes at media.colabinc.org, as well as that feedback survey, where you'll be entered to win a $25 Amazon gift card. If you want to ask your questions to future guests, our handle on Insta and Twitter is colabincpodcast. Cory, thanks so much again for your time. Be well and God bless. We'll see you next time on There to Here.