Inside Hollywood : a grand Hollywood set

Harry Pappas

You think Hudson High School Cooper Goeke’s Special Report is neat? Try working behind the scenes on a grand Hollywood set. Chris Pappas has been working there since 1996 as an assistant prop master or as an onset dresser. Recently he worked on ABC’s “Glee” and Showtimes Emmy winning show, “Dexter.”

As an assistant prop master, Pappas manages the props that an actor uses. For example, let’s say the show is doing a morning scene and the actor needs a cup of coffee, newspaper, and Smartphone. He is in charge of those props for the actor and needs to make sure he/she has them. 

As an onset dresser, Pappas is in charge of continuity, where props are placed on the set, etc. When the camera changes angle, they may need to move furniture. For example, Pappas has to move a couch and coffee table that are in the way so that the director can place the camera there, in order to the shoot the scene. Pappas must know where the couch and coffee table go when they are done shooting so in the next scene the room will look as though nothing was ever moved. 

Pappas also works with the director of photography (person who makes sure the shot looks pleasing to the eye). 

“I make sure the set looks like how the production designer wants it to look. I will add or take away what doesn’t work,” Pappas said.

Sometimes the producers, who don’t work on the set, see things differently than those who are on the set. Then they have to reshoot, and waste extra time perfecting the scene. It’s no ones fault, it’s just how it goes. 

“This is what makes a show great!” Pappas said. It’s not hard to get onto a good show or movie; all you have to do is have the connections. Back in ’96, Pappas was a contractor in Pasadena, CA; he got into the business because a friend was looking for someone to build a control room for the director on a game show. After that, his career took off and got him where he is today.

Pappas has worked on many game shows over the past 15 years, some including, “Jeopardy,” “Wheel of Fortune,” “Gilmore Girls,” “ER,” “Glee,” or most recently “Dexter.” He has also worked on movies such as, “Friday After Next,” “Showtime,” and Oscar winner, “Little Miss Sunshine.” 

Ever wish you could meet your favorite actor? This guy’s met many, so many you couldn’t even count, including Robert De Niro, Sara Ferguson the Duchess of York, Donald Southerland, Zac Efron, Steven Spielberg, Jessie McCartney, Angela Bassett, Carmen Electra, Steven Carell, and others. 

Thinking about going into film and TV as a career? According to Pappas, the average day working is about 12 to 14 hours a day, and sometimes a six day workweek. You’ll be moving all the time, and sometimes, lunch hour will be postponed an hour or so if they need to finish shooting a scene. On the upside, you could get to work with Steven Spielberg, food is available 24/7 via craft service, gourmet catering at lunch, and you get to be on a live set watching the magic of the movie making process. 

The day starts out at 5 a.m. you drive into work on the congested freeways of Los Angeles. Pappas says, “I’ll wish a good morning to an actor as I walk onto the stage. I get to work usually half an hour early so I’ll have breakfast and read that day’s sides (the part of the script that we will be shooting that day). It’s pretty quiet when I arrive and slowly gets louder and louder.”

By 6:30 a.m. the first AD (assistant director) calls for rehearsal, and by seven they are shooting. Shooting will continue until lunch, which is around 1 p.m. At lunch everyone eats together, the actors and the production staff. Then they all go back to shooting until they finish that day’s work. There isn’t a set time for when the day will end, it all depends on how fast the shooting gets done. Sometimes the workday will be 16 hours long. 

“We are all like a family, like brothers and sisters. We are very close to each other,” Pappas says. “When working on a show for however long that may be, you don’t want to make enemies; you’re going to need to get along in order to create a masterpiece suitable for TV.” 

“Living in Ohio and working in LA is very hard. It is very hard to be away from my family for months on end,” Pappas said. Since 2005 Pappas has been living in Ohio and working in LA. Pappas and his family moved to Ohio for a better life, California was becoming too expensive and Hudson had great prices and schools. They also wanted to move back to the four seasons. Pappas works on “Dexter” during the summer, autumn and early winter and lives in Ohio with his family during the late winter and spring. 

“It gets harder every year,” he said

     Pappas offers advice to those interested in going into film as a career: “Have a good attitude; watch and listen to everything that goes on, on the set. Ask questions, don’t be too full of yourself for being in show business and just be yourself. Everybody likes someone who is honest with others about who they are. Do your work well, love your work and you’ll stand out. Don’t complain to anyone and they’ll love you,” he says.

Working in film can be a great job; if someone starts preparing for what they want and put all their heart into it, they will succeed in life. Pappas was in the business since 1978 as an extra (background actor) but left and went back when he was older. “ It all depends on what a person is comparable with and what he wants,” says Pappas.


Chris Pappas took this photo while on the set of “Little Miss  Sunshine.” The job isn’t as glamorous as it seems though, 16-hour work days are a norm for Pappas.


Used with permission/ Chris Pappas


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2012-05-17 10:24:20

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