Exclusive Jeff Moore Interview!! (part one)

Jeff Moore was the Prop Master on Twin Peaks. What is a Prop Master? Well dear readers, you shall find out below. Equally as interesting is the fact that Jeff is part of a musical group called Angel Highway. The soon to be released album (which will have other songs inspired by Twin Peaks) will be self-titled. You can download the single 'Outside Twin Peaks' right now on iTunes. The Band consists of Jeff Moore, Bill Wheat and Roger Johnson...

Brad - What were you up to before Twin Peaks?

Jeff - Well, before Twin Peaks I was working on this feature film, actually Rich Robinson who worked with me on Twin Peaks and I were doing a film in New Orleans and it was called Scorchers. We had worked on a number of television things and movies of the week before that. We had just finished this really difficult and hard shoot in the Bayou. We had finished that show and had a really good experience, I was working with Faye Dunaway, Denholm Elliot and just some really great actors. When I left that show, like I said I had a really good experience, it was hard, but I felt I had been around some great talent. So I had heard that Twin Peaks, I knew about Twin Peaks, was looking for a Prop Master, so a friend of mine, Stephen Camp, whose name is Gibson now, had told me they were looking for a Prop Master, so he gave me a phone number and so that's how I went from that show, that feature film, a very very small film called Scorchers into an interview with Twin Peaks. I went into that interview feeling very comfortable and satisfied from my experience in the last film and I kind of knew I was walking into this interesting place, but I wasn't intimidated because, hell, I just got done working with Faye and all these great actors and it was like...sure (laughs) the interview was very relaxing. So, I started in the film industry in 1986. Before that I was doing music.

Brad - What do you remember about your interview for Twin Peaks?

Jeff - The interview was a really interesting story because the day I went in, I went in to interview with the Production Manager Bob Simon and he had told me that he actually had really done all his interviews. He had reluctantly took this interview because someone else had already committed to it but come on in anyway right? So right away I don't feel good about this interview but I had this great feeling coming from this last film, I went in there very relaxed and I gave him my business card. For my business card, I had taken the the version of the "Hello, my name is..." sticker you wear on your shirt and I had made a business card out of that same motif, "Hello my name is Jeff Moore" and it said Prop Master. So I handed it to him as my business card and he went nuts! He jumped out of his chair, he said "This is your card?" "This is really your card?!" (laughs) "Yes, that's my card" and he walked around the office showing all these different people my card and saying "You've got to see this card!" For him it was unique. All of the sudden, he listened. I wasn't just the reluctant interview now. I was an instant cat! So he interviewed me and I walked out of there not knowing what the outcome was and I actually left for New York two days later on a vacation when I got the call. Back in those days you had to press your little machine button to get your messages played back on a tape machine in 1990 and that's how I got the information in Greenwich Village about getting the job for Twin Peaks.

The Log Lady's iconic red glasses

Brad - So I'm curious. Did you see the Pilot before interviewing for this job?

Jeff - You know, I was working a lot and had seen very little of the show until I got the job. At that point I watched everything before I even started rolling camera with my season which I believe began with episode six if I'm not mistaken. We had the Pilot plus five in the first run. But I could be wrong. I've been looking at some of the episodes recently as I've been exploring some my props. So I believe we started around episode six. So before that, I had been working. Watching television just was not something I could do working such long hours.

Brad - What is the technical definition of a Prop Master? What goes into that job?

Jeff - What the Prop Master does...everything that is needed is in the script. So, every prop that is needed is written down into words. "Bobby reaches into a boot, opens the boot and pulls out a mini-cassette." Now that whole thing existed this way; I have to get the boots from wardrobe, but then it becomes a prop because I have to take the heel out and I'm placing another prop within that. Anything where an actor or a scene requires to function, move, eat, shoot (like a gun) all the moving touching things an actor does. Not based in furniture but based in things. If that makes sense? Elements, cameras, lighters. My very favorite prop of all is the Zippo Lighter because they have a distinct sound. You don't have to see it to know what it is. So that's what a prop is, it's an action thing that an actor works with.

Brad - So tell me about the prop team? Who else was in the prop department and how did you guys work together?

Jeff - The prop department consisted of Rich Robinson and Stephen Camp, but it's actually Stephen Gibson now. It's a team. The Prop Master is the one who attends all the production meetings, meets with all the directors, gets everything they want, shows and tells all the toys they have to use to whatever ends up on camera. They are in control of the budget that is given to them and controls everything within that department. Now, your assistant, my first one was Rich (Robinson) his job was to make sure everything that happens on camera, that I provided him with, is there on time and working. So I give him what he needs, he makes sure it's in front of the camera and Stephen is the person who helps him make it happen on set because one man can never do what is needed in any scene, there is always a need for at least two people on the set while cameras are rolling for anything that can happen. A prop is always moving and in action, so anything can happen even down to a sheet of paper getting torn, and you better have a replacement! You know what I'm saying? It's that kind of minutia we deal with. So that's kind of how the prop department functions from top down and we all hold each other up. So it's the Prop Master's duty to make sure that everybody at set has what they need, on time and already seen by the director and the actors and pre-approved and so when it comes for it's time to work, there's no questions and we just move on.

'Georgia Peach' polaroid

Brad - How does the Prop and Art Department differ?

Jeff - Well the Art Department is really more geared towards furniture and set dressing. What's on the walls, what they sit in, what they walk over...sinks, anything that functions, the Art Department really creates the feel of the atmosphere and the Prop Department works directly with actors in the sense of what their function is and what their doing. So if it's a restaurant scene, the Art Department sets the restaurant up completely, so let's say it's The Great Northern, we did a breakfast scene there in one of the early episodes where Cooper is having breakfast. The Art Department has already made and set up the Great Northern set, that was the set in Van Nuys. Then what I do is bring all the breakfast in, I bring in all the food, all the stuff you see inside glasses. So that's how the two departments differ.

Brad - So, did you guys build a lot of props from scratch? Or was it more of a thing where you were going out and renting and buying stuff?

Jeff - I told this story at the retrospective and one of the things as I was beginning the show. David was doing one of the early episodes and I had a lot of questions about some things and I had seen the Pilot and the other stuff and I had seen that they had touched into all these different periods of time. You know, leather jackets, you know modern day and whatever. So I asked David about getting a few things, I said I wanted to use this, I wanted to use this old fashioned thermos and maybe a Zippo lighter for this particular person. David said "Jeff, just think of this as an alternate universe where anything goes as far as elements." He still wanted to approve everything and what all the directors did with each episode, you go to the director of each episode and you get their approval of whatever it is that plays in that episode, you know, more different items that are key things, things that have come from other episodes that are recurring, whatever it might be, you still have to get the approval from the existing shooting director. David set the precedent at the very beginning when he started by saying this is the way to think about it. He would approve most everything , but each director had there own idea of what they wanted, so when David told me to think of this as a alternate universe, and do what I feel like is the right prop, so that gave me the freedom to get things without his approval.

Ben Horne's love letters to Eileen Hayward

Brad - Speaking of directors, do you have any good stories of working with Diane Keaton?

Jeff - Well that was probably my most favorite episode. What I remember about Diane was she was probably one of the most exciting guest directors to work with. She was always a little nervous because, well that's just the way she is, she's very much like the characters you would see on screen. What she did with me is that she bonded very very tightly with me because a lot of the things she was doing with me in her episode were based on props. The chessboards there, you know there were photos, there were maps and then there was this quirkiness that she wanted to bring in because we had Windom in there and he had Leo so there were all these little sub-stories going on so she was turning to me to try find her quirkiness. The spider in that episode that had the yellow back on it. She really really wanted that and couldn't find it in her budget to get that and just tried..."Jeff, you get help me get this!" Then, when we got it, we couldn't see it because it was a black spider. So Rich went in there and painted a yellow back on it. She wanted these drummers inside the lobby of the Great Northern and she just really really wanted these certain drums and I searched and searched all the prop houses and finally came up with the ones that she liked. I mean she was just fabulous to work with and probably the biggest thing I remember about working with her was her enthusiasm for it all and her connection to the prop department in a lot of ways.

Brad - Interesting! Everybody always has a good Diane Keaton story...

Jeff - Yes! Her thing, she told me, "When I work with people like Prop Masters and stuff like...I love to work with them when I'm directing, If I'm working with them that way I don't want to work with them again and have to say I'm the actress." I thought that was really interesting. She was a really interesting person and I loved her. She remembered me years and years later because of her experience there. I've got a few messages back from her from people running into her saying Jeff told me to tell you hello and she said "Oh my God, Twin Peaks!". So, she was a really great person.

Part Two coming up on 9/3 with more about Angel Highway, 'Outside Twin Peaks' and of course more Twin Peaks Props!

Special thanks to Jeff for taking the time to talk with us!

Thanks to Brad Dukes for conducting this interview!