Day 6

The prop master who helped Stranger Things recreate the 1980s

The new Netflix series Stranger Things is getting a lot of buzz this week, in large part for it's pitch perfect portrayal of 1980s mid-west America, complete with rotary dial phones, calculator watches and Dungeons and Dragons figures. Brent Bambury speaks to Lynda Reiss, the prop-master responsible for sourcing the stuff to nail the look.
Winona Ryder stars as Joyce Byers in new Netflix series Stranger Things. (Screen grab from Netflix)

New Netflix series Stranger Things has been getting a lot of buzz this week for its pitch-perfect portrayal of early 1980s America. 

From calculator watches to walkie talkies, the props transport you back in time and take you into the lives of a group boys living in the imaginary town of Hawkins, Indiana. After one of their friends mysteriously vanishes, the boys get caught up in a sinister government operation woven with supernatural forces.  The story channels all the elements of a classic 80s sci-fi, but what's most striking is the way the props recreate a reality long gone. 

Finn Wolfhard and Millie Bobby Brown join forces in new Netflix series Stranger Things. (Screen grab from Netflix)

Lynda Reiss is a prop master and she was tasked with finding all the right items to set the scene.  She tells Brent that after reading the scripts she was hooked.  "It took me back to watching every single one of the reference movies you see in the show, from ET and the Stephen King movies, the Steven Spielberg movies, the movies that made me want to make movies."

Some of the key props include the Dungeons & Dragons figurines which Reiss says had to be the real deal.

I didn't want to put plastic and have it painted. Even as far as sound goes, when the boys clunk those characters down on the board, there is a different noise a lead character makes than a plastic character.- Lynda Reiss

Prop master Lynda Reiss takes us back to the 80s in new Netflix series Stranger Things. (Lynda Reiss, Prop Master)

Since most of the cast was not of that era, Reiss found herself explaining how to properly interact with some of the older technology, particularly a wall-mounted rotary phone.  "He comes over and picks up the phone and is yelling, 'Hello! Hello! Hello!' and pressing the buttons and I said, 'No, in 1983 you would've pulled the handset holder up and down to get a line out,'" she says of one of the younger cast members.

Props are a powerful tool and Reiss shows that the right ones can transform a story.