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Guns, Guts, and Gin: Creating Props for Gangster Movies

Caleb Ward

Authenticity is key when your film is set in the seedy underbelly of the criminal world. Here are a few ways to create realistic props for gangster movies.

Images via Shutterstock

Crime movies like The Godfather, The Departed, and Scarface are heavy on edgy vibe. Tough guys like to smoke and drink — and occasionally murder and maim. Obviously, live firearms and high-powered whiskey can lead to real trouble on a film set, so how can you maintain an air of criminal authenticity? Here are a few prop and art direction ideas to help keep your actors and crew safe and sober. Well, at least until the wrap party.

1. Cigarettes

How to Create Fake Props for Gangster Movies: Cigarettes

Technique By: Doorway Films

Sometimes it won’t be that big of a deal for your actor to smoke a real cigarette on set, but oaccasionally — whether it’s because your actor isn’t old enough or simply doesn’t want to smoke a real one — you’ll need to create a fake cigarette. In this tutorial, we’ll take a look at how to create fake cigarettes using parsley. Yeah, you read that right. If you want to give your fake cigarette realistic smoke, simply fill an empty cigarette with dried parsley and compact it.


2. Money

Technique By: The Prop Master’s Handbook

(Disclaimer: This technique should only be used to create prop money for a film or video. Creating counterfeit money is highly illegal!)

If you need to create fake money for a film set, the process is actually fairly straightforward. Simply print out a two-sided picture of fake money and crumple it up. Some prop masters take it one step further and apply lemon juice to the surface in order to give the money a brownish tint. But for most shooting situations, crumpled paper will look convincing enough. Just be careful — trying to spend counterfeit money is a felony. Make sure your prop isn’t an exact replica or you might end up in jail.


3. How to Fake Alcohol

Want to create some fake booze? Just use these non-alcoholic alternatives.

Apple Juice = Whisky

Apple juice is a perfect stand-in for whiskey. Just give it a minute and let the bubbles die down.

How to Create Fake Props for Gangster Movies: Fake Whisky

Water = Vodka and Gin

Faking clear liquors is no problem, thanks to good ol’ H2O.

How to Create Fake Props for Gangster Movies: Fake Martini

O’Douls = Beer

Need to have your actor drink a fake beer? Well, give them a fake beer! An O’Doul’s is a great non-alcoholic alternative.

How to Create Fake Props for Gangster Movies: Fake Beer


4. Fake Knives

How to Create Fake Props for Gangster Movies: Fake Knife

Technique By: Film Riot

When it’s time to get stabby, use tin foil to craft a convincing blade. When you stab your subject, the blade will simply bend — but your audience won’t know that. This epic tutorial from Film Riot demonstrates the technique.


5. Blood

How to Create Fake Props for Gangster Movies: Fake Blood

Technique By: Neural Culture

You can go out and purchase a gallon of fake blood for about $20 — or, as seen in the following video, you can create your own blood at home for less than $5. All you need is some corn syrup and food coloring. This fake blood isn’t just convincing, it’s also edible! The actors in your zombie movie can eat as much fake blood as their undead hearts desire.


6. Guts

Technique By: SplatterFactoryTV

Let’s get gross. You need some loose guts in your video? One option would be going to the butcher and picking up some pig livers. A less stinky alternative would be this technique created by SplatterFactoryTV. All you need is some styrofoam and a batch of your delicious fake blood!


7. Wounds

Technique By: BBC Blast

There are people who have built entire careers on creating fake blood and wound effects, but you don’t have to be a pro to pull off some gruesome punctures, pierces, and missing pieces. All you need is some molding wax (about $8 online) and another batch of fake blood. The tutorial below focuses on a slice, but you can create any wound your twisted brain can imagine.


8. Guns

How to Create Fake Props for Gangster Movies: Fake Guns

Technique By: Tom Antos

Creating a fake gun is super simple — just go to the dollar store and buy a toy gun and some spray paint. You should be able to create a convincing gun with this technique. However, if you want to take it one step further, use metallic spray paint and a rag to lightly brush the gun to create believable wear and tear. Here’s how it’s done.


9. Squibs

Technique By: chinfat

While After Effects can generate some cool-looking blood explosions and splatters, they aren’t always the most believable. In this tutorial from chinfat, we see how to create a Hollywood-style squib using a fertilizer compressor (surely you’ve got one or two sitting around, right?) and a sponge.

Got any footage of some fake props you’ve made? We’d love to see the video in the comments below!