Ross MacDonald for HBO Boardwalk Empire / by john cheng

Ross MacDonald has an awesome job! He has been working on the HBO show Boardwalk Empire for 4 seasons, designing and fabricating props. He's made...

Nucky's desk checkbook and passport, Agent Van Alden's drivers licence and evidence tags, Al Capone's rap sheet, Jimmy Darmody's death certificate, Arnold Rothstein's calling card, pocket notebooks for many of the characters, coloring books, magazines, photo albums, catalogs, tickets, telegrams, agent ID's, maps, deeds, life insurance policies, medical charts, a newspaper, books, letters, bushels of legal papers, files and forms, and hundreds of other props.

Boardwalk Empire is an HBO show period piece set during the 1920's Prohibition era in Atlantic City. It is definitely one of my favorite shows, too bad I'm extremely behind. Regardless of whether I'm caught up on the show or not, MacDonald's attention to detail is awe-inspiring. He explains how he spends the majority of his time researching for his props, "trolling through massive archives to find 1922 New Jersey drivers lisences..." even though these props sometimes only get milliseconds of screen time.

It may seem to be a cumbersome task for just little return, but if you really dig a bit deeper and look at it from a designer's point of view, the reward is actually quite great! You have the satisfaction of knowing you created something that could be mistaken as something left behind from that period. I guess the best way to explain it is that it's a kind of designer 'high.'