Pandemic Production, One Year Later: Matt Poitras, Director, Props Manufacturer
Then: "Nobody had $400 to spend on a Han Solo belt."
Now: "It was a little weird to mask up and get a COVID test to be in my own house.
Last July, as the pandemic was reaching new highs and with triple-digit temperatures imminent, director and prop fabricator Matt Poitras was in production on his new project: Desert Terror, a World War II alternate history with a murderous twist of science fiction. Producing the film almost entirely during the lockdown called for a more reflexive type of filmmaking. "We weren't financed by anybody and our crew was tiny," Poitras said. "There wasn't anyone running lights. It was just us running around." Whether shooting off rounds in the desert or triggering explosive devices, the skeleton crew rallied the help of a small group of friends to help out where they could with the production of the series.
As a prop artist, the lockdown became a fruitful time of solitary creation for Poitras. He spent his early lockdown "putting together costumes and working on the Jeep" – a 1947 Willys that he restored and modified to look just like a World War II Jeep. After this time behind the scenes, production began in the middle of the summer out in the Texas sun. Pandemic precautions required most of the shooting to take place outside.
But the other side of his business took a heavy hit. As the owner of prop and movie replica firm MP Filmcraft, much of Poitras' former income came from creating props for cosplayers and private collectors (he estimated made around "500 Han Solo belts" alone). However, the cosplayer market collapsed over the last year. "It's really just been no business at all."
He's self-employed and was able to collect unemployment, which has given him the chance to reevaluate and change his vision for the company. He's rebuilding the business into "something that's geared more towards props and costumes for productions, as opposed to just collectors and cosplayers."
Poitras is pressing on, despite enduring monumental changes in both aspects of his career. In this surreal time for filmmakers everywhere, the director said he has "found some good guerilla independent filmmakers" to collaborate on future projects, which are currently being produced in his own home, following Centers for Disease Control guidelines and on-set COVID-19 advisors. "It was a little weird to mask up and get a COVID test to be in my own house, but it was fun ... I felt completely safe."
Read our original 2020 interview with Matt Poitras here.