There’s much fun to be had ‘double screening’ when a period piece like the BBC’s Poldark is on TV. You can watch the drama while following a group of dealers on Twitter as they keep up a running commentary on the appropriateness of the objects – or not – in shot.
“Ah yes,” tweets BBC Flogit! regular pundit Michael Baggott (@baggottsilver) as his eagle eyes scan the mantlepiece backdrop in a recent episode of the 18th century-set series, Poldark. “It’s that time-travelling Victorian slate clock again.”
It's witty stuff but as the hiring of expert Alastair Bruce as consultant on ITV's blockbuster Downton Abbey series reminds us, production companies are serious about incorporating authentic antiques to recreate historical interiors.
Supplying antiques to TV or movie productions, either for rent or acquisition, is actually a nice side-line for dealers stalling out at fairs and markets.
One such dealer is a regular exhibitor at B2B Event’s Malvern Flea & Collectors’ Fair and ATG caught up her at the January event.
Swedish furniture from 1800s
Daniela Lichters specialises in imported antique painted Swedish furniture, galvanised cupboards and folk art from the 1800s.
At fairs like Malvern and her warehouse in Derbyshire, film prop buyers make a bee-line for her eclectic collection of furniture, clocks and pictures.
Lichters has supplied items featuring in the recently-released Emma, set in early 19th-century England, and a c.1810 Swedish ornate cupboard for a new film version of Cinderella. “The piece is very distinctive and ornate, so I can’t wait to see it when the film hits the cinemas in 2021”.
Lichters sells on Instagram and by appointment at a warehouse in Rowsley, Derbyshire, that she shares with two other dealers.
“We deal with lots of props people,” Lichters tells ATG. “They’re good clients and pay decent money. For the cupboard for the production of Cinderella [Columbia Pictures' romantic comedic take on the classic fairy tale], the prop people paid a four-figure sum.”
Lichters says that the Swedish cupboard in Cinderella proves it can be easier for production companies to acquire or rent the real thing, than to recreate.
While iconic modern props end up in private collections or museums, such as the DeLorean car from Back to the Future (1985) on permanent loan to LA’s Petersen Automotive Museum, Lichters expects that pieces such as those she supplies to films or TV programmes may end up at auction or reused in other productions.
Respect the period
With the spectre of ‘the time-travelling Victorian slate clock’ in mind, ATG asks Lichters if she thinks prop people respect the periods they are seeking to recreate.
“Absolutely,” says Lichters. “As suppliers, we’re asked to sign a document confirming that an item is more than a hundred years old to ensure they are period and that there aren’t any issues with copyright.”
While the craft of film production does get its moment in the limelight at the Oscars, it’s doubtful an antiques dealer will ever be called to walk the famous red carpet.
Still, as Lichters says, seeing your hard-sourced and lovingly-maintained object on the big screen can be reward enough.