Ariel Kaplan, a native Atlantan, got her first job as a prop master because of her knowledge of the city’s geography and businesses.
It also helped that she worked for free.
But that first unpaid gig on the independent film “Grantham and Rose” turned into a lucrative career as a member of the art department in property and set decoration.
“For many people, it’s just a job — a great job that pays well,” says Ariel. “For me, it’s more than that. I’ve always loved the art of film making.”
Ariel is devoted to the art of film making but also to helping Georgia businesses thrive in the industry. Her mother, Ronnie Kaplan, is the owner of The Touchstone Collection, a small business focusing on unique items like antique textiles. With the rise of the Georgia film and television industry, Ariel’s mother turned her business into a fulltime prop store that sells exclusively to productions.
Through watching her mother’s struggles working with the industry, Ariel learned how to navigate working with small businesses. Ariel says that film production schedules are “nuts” and that needs change rapidly and constantly. When buying props or set decorations from a new small business contact, she always starts out with an apology for the hectic pace of their process and then helps them to understand how the film industry works.
“When the film industry first started in Georgia, we got everything from New York and California. Now we’re getting so much from local businesses,” says Ariel. “We gave these companies a chance to meet our needs and they’ve met the challenge wholeheartedly.”
Biggars, an antique store in Chamblee, is a great example. It was an antique store that focused on antiques and memorabilia from the 1950s and 1960s. Now that antique store is a thriving prop house and rental business.
As a prop master and set decorator, Ariel finds joy in researching the era the film is set in and ensuring the decorations and props are historically accurate. She’s currently working on HBO’s new series, “Lovecraft Country,” a horror story created by Jordan Peele and J.J. Abrams, set in America in the 1950s.
“I especially like working on period films because everyone puts so much emphasis on getting the details right,” says Ariel. “I want to make sure everything is appropriate for the year, from the glassware to the stapler.”
Ariel’s recent work also includes “Godzilla: King of the Monsters,” “Queen America,” “Insatiable,” and “Black Panther.”
This story is presented in cooperation with the Georgia Studio & Infrastructure Alliance.