Tag Archives: Recreation

1930’s Movie Studio Camera & Director Boots

February 2012 – St. Valentines Day Massacre Costume Prop

My wife and I love going all out on costumes. So when our friends invited us to a St. Valentines Day Massacre party we knew we had to take it to an 11! She went as my hollywood producer, and I went as Howard Hawks, the director of Scarface (1932). I stopped shaving my mustache hair for a month to grow out a pencil thin directors ‘stash. A cap and coat from my grandpa’s closet added a lot to the costume. But to get that authentic classic hollywood look I knew I needed two things, director boots, and a camera!

I found a leather handbag in a thrift store for $5. I figured I could glean enough leather from it to make two boot covers. This would require more work but be more cost effective than buying actual knee-high leather boots. As awesome as that would be.

I removed all of the sitting and cut out a pattern using my own foot and a brown paper bag. Then I stenciled it onto each bag side. I barely had enough space to cut out the four pieces I needed. With no room for error I snipped out the patterns and using my newfound sewing skills I stitched up the front and the back of the boots.

Removing the stitching from the handbag
My brown paper bag template
Two boot outlines barely fit on one bag side

I feel the boot-covers worked out spectacularly! The edges of the bag left just enough material to sew two strips along the bottom to hold the cover over my shoes.

Boot on my foot, turned out great

Boflex Camera
From my time in film school I had actually handled one or two small 16mm film cameras and felt I could reproduce one in cardboard in a few days.  I quickly hashed out the basic box shape and the curved film magazine. Because I would be painting this creation I didn’t worry too much about how I taped and fastened the pieces together, the outer layer of black paint would be very forgiving.

The secret part of my camera was that it would be constructed around my Canon VIXIA HV30, this would allow me to film the party while staying in character! The lens would shoot out of the front opening and the left side had a panel I could open to access the viewfinder.

Rough cardboard work around camera
Side panel to access viewfinder
The right side flipped up on a tape hinge. This let the sides grip together when the housing was closed, holding it together with just friction.
The camera was coming together nicely, But I felt it needed some more detail on the front. I remembered that these old style cameras
Side closes but allows access to zoom control and record button
didn’t have zoom lenses but instead possessed a dial of three different focal length lenses. This dial turned to swap the lenses and change the zoom. A cardboard toilet paper tube became the medium and telephoto lens which would accompany my main wide angle lens the digital video camera would shoot through.
2- test fit on wide angle lens
I purchased some Rust-Oleum Black Hammered paint from Home Depot. This would give me that specked black metal look these cameras had. I painted the lens ring separately and then covered the entire camera body in black paint.
Now for the detail work. I used my old standby, metal plumbers tape. This was one of the first materials I used on my Robocop Costume. It applies just like aluminum foil but sticks exactly where you want it. A fancy strip alone the side and some silver trim around all of the lenses and the illusion was beginning to take hold.
My friend had an old 40’s army tripod which worked perfectly for my costume.
Sporting a turtleneck, my directors cap and leather knee-high boots I was a smash! I always love when I can combine my love of cardboard with my other creative skills.