Alexandria Andross Fry, BFA 2001: Telling Stories Through Props
In the film industry, theatrical property is as important to storytelling as are the words and actions of the actors on the set. Think of Wilson, the volleyball in “Cast Away,” the leg lamp in “A Christmas Story,” the fuzzy pen in “Legally Blonde,” or Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates.
Alexandria “Lexi” Andross Fry, BFA’01, is keenly aware of the vital role these often overlooked objects play in making a movie. On any given day, she might be searching for weapons, vintage Rubik's cubes, sunglasses, duffel bags full of cash, or beer bottles from a specific city—anything a character touches during the action of a scene.
As a freelance assistant property master, Fry worked on the police procedural web series “Bosch,” during season four and on the second season of “Big Little Lies.” She also worked on the TV series “Lie to Me,” and the movie “It’s Complicated.”
Her journey to the behind-the-scenes artistry of props started on Monteagle Ridge in 1997, when the Grand Island, N.Y., native enrolled in Niagara University’s theatre program with the dream of becoming a production designer to combine her love of architecture and film.
“NU has a great theater reputation, and I wanted an education that would give me the skills and confidence to move to New York City or Los Angeles and find work,” she said.
Two months after graduation, Fry left for the West Coast, where she worked in retail delivering automotive paint, a job that helped her learn how to efficiently navigate Los Angeles and its traffic. She also met art director Andy Rhodes, who has worked on numerous commercials as well as the TV show “Castle” and the film “The Expendables.” Rhodes hired Fry as an art department production assistant on a commercial for Bud Light beer, and she moved her way up from that position to shopper, then to art coordinator, and eventually, to decorator.
When she wanted to segue out of commercials and photo shoots and into the storytelling of film, she reached out to her friend Jane Gulick, a prop master whose credits include “Six Feet Under,” and “Alias.” Gulick offered to teach Fry the business, which includes the procurement or production, inventory, care, and maintenance of all props associated with productions.
Since then, the women have worked together on several TV and film projects, including “Hawaii 5-0.” There, Fry and her husband, Joshua, a project manager, had their first son, Edmund. The two now live in Buffalo with Edmund and their second son, Jonathan.
Fry’s career has been both rewarding and challenging. She enjoys working with her colleagues as they do their own craft and come together to create something new, and finding beautiful or fun or challenging new props, she says. Some of those challenging props include milkshakes that look alike for the two hours that the scene takes to shoot and that also conform to the dietary restrictions of the actor who is drinking them, and out-of-season pumpkins for a Halloween movie.
“They cannot be forced in a greenhouse,” she notes. “They will only grow during their season.”
Maintaining the speed and stamina needed for long shooting hours, endless rewrites, and tricky locations can also be demanding, but she says she learned endurance during her days on Monteagle Ridge.
“The show must go on,” she says. “The production doesn’t stop, and you need to be prepared.”
She offers that same advice to students who may be interested in following a similar career path: “Finish your education and then find a production and offer to work hard. Work for free the first few days or weeks if you have to. Stick with the bosses that treat you with respect. Don’t ask when you get to go home. Don’t stand around with your hands in your pockets.”
Fry’s career is an ideal example of where following this advice can take you—to iconic locations working with people at the top of their craft to provide the details that make movies memorable.