“I very rarely hire anyone to repair something or fix things,” Jeff Hamrick says.
That’s because Hamrick runs his own props company. Other people hire him when they need something built or made.
His company, Big Bad Props, which Hamrick started one year ago, makes custom creations for advertising, media and theater.
Hamrick and his crew are skilled in set design and construction, sculptures, animated displays, airbrush murals and backdrop painting, metal work, and “pretty much anything that you can’t just go buy.”
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Their motto is: “If we can’t make it, God is your only other option.”
Hamrick, 47, spent his high school years in Myrtle Beach.
“I didn’t like school,” Hamrick says, “so I knew I’d be working with my hands.”
He began by painting T-shirts, and owned an airbrush store by the time he’d graduated from high school. When tourism dwindled at the end of the season, Hamrick painted signs and billboards.
“Everything was hand-painted back then,” he says.
After three or four years, Hamrick moved to Charlotte to become the art director for a new production studio.
Within the first year, he was promoted to creative director, coming up with the concept for commercials, writing the storyboards and directing them. He is still proud of one he directed for a furniture company using stop motion animation.
“We converted a barn into a set and staged a square dance with 13 pieces of furniture,” he said. The crew took thousands of photos of tiny, incremental movements to convert the furniture into dancing and talking props.
Last year, Hamrick decided to go out on his own.
“People come up with these crazy ideas,” he says, “but they don’t know how to make them come to fruition.”
That’s where he comes in.
His clients range from nonprofits such as Social Venture Partners to ESPN.
Big Bad Props made an interactive tree for a kiosk at SEED20, Social Venture’s nonprofit entrepreneur competition. ESPN needed Hamrick to make an ice cave for a commercial starting NASCAR driver Carl Edwards.
While some production and prop companies rely on computer-generated special effects, Hamrick says, “everything I do is by hand.”
The company has made a 16-foot by 20-foot golden frame for a building company to advertise a new townhome for sale and a 6-foot by 6-foot statue of Bacchus, the Roman god of wine, to adorn a hot tub for a movie set.
Prices range depending on the job, with the larger ones costing up to $20,000 but, Hamrick stresses, “no job is too small.”
Hamrick works with his clients to conceptualize what they want, and then hires freelancers to help with the mechanical and technological components, like the interface between the touchscreen and computer on the celebritree he made for the SEED20 event.
“I come up with the concept” he says, “but the software, the gears and motors and circuitry and the interface between the components, that’s up to someone else.”
His mother was an artist and his father, an Air Force veteran, built houses and repaired things. Hamrick is now channeling what he learned from both of them to make things no one else can make.
The best part?
“I get to be creative and it’s always something different,” Hamrick says. “And I don’t have to go to a cubicle every day.”