So my friend Jon has recently found our that his friend who he thought was a honest prop maker has just been called out on the RPF and other places for the heinous crime of 'recasting'. For those that aren't in the know, and lets face it probably don't care, 'recasting' in when someone buys an item, makes a mold from it (usually out of silicone) and makes several copies which they sell quite cheaply (and usually out of cheaper materials).
This typically infuriates the prop building communities because prop builders who usually sell their items try to recuperate the costs associated with building the prop to begin with (materials, time, etc) and usually using not so cheap materials to maintain quality control. The notion is of course that recasters don't have to invest heavily on the onset so even the minute charge they do sell is more profit then the original builder. Whilst there is some truth to that statement, there is some dodginess to some of the numbers but as you'll soon see there is a lot of moral and legal grey areas to deal with.
If you really want the TL:DR version go look for 'still untitled adam savage recasting' on YouTube... no I'm giving you the fucking link, especially if you're going to be lazy and not read any more on from here.
If you're still here, let me just say I do not endorse nor justify the recasters, especially as I know I'd go batshit insane if it happened to me, but a lesser talked about issue that may arise is problems with the original prop builds themselves. Now you can probably throw a stone at the RPF and GBfans and hit some thread about how evil and demonic the recasters are, and after you've retrieved your stone I think you'll be hard pressed to hit anything about things on the other side of the fence. No not the recasters side, they are pure evil remember, but the consumers side. Well probably not the consumers over in the states, they actually get their props unlike some of us... which is where I'm thinking I want to take this line of thought... If recasters are so bad, why do we buy from them???
I'd like to state for the record that I've been bit by "legitimate" prop builders before, several times in fact, and a trend does seem to present itself. There are some, not all (again, all absolutes are wrong), who whilst may be legitimised builders within a community have a problem with their products, and sometimes when that buyer is from out of the country there has been tendencies to ignore them because they are unable to drive over and punch their fucking teeth in... no I'm not bitter at the amount of times I've paid for an item from a seller in good standing and never been put on a waiting list to see a dozen names after me who then get their products first and when confronted go "oh jeez I'm sorry I didn't see you there but I'm sure happy to accept your money shucks and still not send you that item"... NOT. BITTER. AT. ALL.
Another little bit of bullshit about sellers is that they have a tendency to overprice their items. Sure I can get you want to get back some of your 'investment', except that you sometimes charge from some of the most ethereal things, like researching. Why is this imho bullshit? These things start off as a hobby right? you want an item and you research the hell out of it right? We all do (well most of us) but to turn around and put a number on after the fact is a little out of line I think. Why do I think that? Because I know what's it like to be obsessive about something, and you don't do it thinking about the bottom line, if you did you wouldn't be putting in THAT much effort into it if you're doing it for money. Don't get me wrong, there are those that claim they are doing it for the greater good of the community... well that's bullshit too as there are those that keep all those tiny little details to themselves so they can charge what they want for their 'accurate' item.
All this being said, I've been in manufacturing and yes the first production line is the most costly, but as you as you recoup your cost you can decrease the item price and get in more costumers (do you honestly believe people would have still bought the PS3 if it stayed at $1000 all it's lifespan?). There are sellers that are only numerous generations of molds down the line and they are still overcharging for some of their product... or they pull the other dick move and do one off "limited runs". Now I get that you don't want to do it all the time, and I can't say I blame you, but when you only offer to make an item, one time for an extremely limited run, you can't say you're surprised when someone undercuts you in this regard. I'll explain to you why in the next paragraph.
Well then you must buy from recasters I here you think? and if you believe that I'm going to win Randi's Million. No I still don't try to buy from recasters, but I have done... and here is the dirty little secret why, recasters are always available to buy stock from and at an affordable price. My example is this; a couple of years ago I wanted to buy a shell to rebuild my Ghostbusters Proton Pack as my foam core one was just deteriorating and I didn't think it would survive another convention. I spent a good couple of months on GBfans trying to get a shell (my first attempt the previous year was one of those aforementioned "legitimate" sellers) and I was either getting the "limited run" problem or the "I can't send it to you because it's going to cost $700 in shipping because I apparently won't consider the much cheaper option option".
So I was looking at either nearly ONE AND HALF THOUSAND DOLLARS for a piece of fucking fibreglass, or.. well there was no "or" because the other sellers weren't selling or the guy that attempted to rip me off (or yes, he was still selling without any problem despite the outrage... if only I lived next door, they got their parts real quick). I finally resorted to ebay because it was honestly the only option short of making the pack from scratch (which I really didn't have time, tools or patience to try). I saw someone selling a shell on ebay for $300(I think) and $40 postage, a bit of a far cry from the $700 I couldn't possibly get it any cheaper... and I admit I did look at the blacklist on GBfans and couldn't find it (I find him eventually after the fact) so I bought the fucking thing... and in all honesty, I regret it and don't regret it almost equal parts.
This thing was fucking warped, it need A LOT of work done to it, it was bulk and possibly heavier because it was resin not fibreglass, so many issues with painting (mostly because I was an idiot and didn't clean it properly)... however it was easy to drill, it's stood up to some abuse and ultimately it's been my main Proton Pack now for 3 years and I don't see myself replacing it anytime soon.
To quote Norm Chan in the mentioned podcast, and if you made it this far here's a cookie, "I just want an Iron Man helmet". That unfortunately is the problem the prop makers must find the solution to, because it's ultimately supply and demand.... if you can't meet the demand and someone else can then you're going to loose. I say this as a prop builder myself, and it has been nearly a year since I touched a kit, everything I do now is pretty much hand build, but I also don't want to start selling casts of what I do either. That being said I'd like the think that if I get into this business then the stuff I would be selling would be at a fair price and available often enough to keep the interest, and I don't think I could do it in good conscious if neither of those two criteria were available.