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ISS Props: 100 Employees, 100 Families, Immeasurable Impact on L.A. Region

By: Adam Powell | February 14, 2011

Tucked into the quiet hills of Sunland is the large unassuming home of Independent Studio Services, aka ISS. From the outside, ISS's 150,000 square foot facility strikes passersby as somewhat unremarkable. But in Hollywood, looks can be deceiving. Ordinary as ISS may seem on the outside, everything inside is anything but.

When ISS Executive Vice President Gregg Bilson Jr. learned about the Film Works campaign in December 2010, he reached out to us immediately and wanted to work with the campaign to, in his words, "educate our CA neighbors as to how important our film and television industry is to our local economy." Bilson attended the Film Works launch event on December 13th, 2010 and was one of the lucky few to get his hands on a 10-inch Film Works bumper sticker.

In early January 2011, Bilson contacted Film Works to inform us that he is asked "10 times a day" where he got his Film Works bumper sticker and wanted to obtain several hundred to put on ISS vehicles and distribute to his employees and clients. Upon learning that Film Works headquarters had run out of its limited stock (more are on their way), Bilson offered to print more for the campaign, free of charge, at ISS's in-house printing company. While dropping off the artwork, Film Works campaign staffers were invited to take a first-class tour of ISS.

It's next to impossible to list all of the television shows and motion pictures ISS has worked on. To the Film Works staffers who toured the place, it seemed as though ISS has worked on every recognizable production, big and small, since its founding in 1977.

ISS's vast hallways, offices, and manufacturing and warehouse spaces are lined with rows of framed movie posters. Room after amazing room is filled with recognizable movie props - from Harry Osbourne's hover board from Spiderman 3 to the storm trooper armor used in the Star Wars films. ISS craftsman have lent their talent to such a vast library of famous titles that it quickly becomes overwhelming. The facility, located on 17-acres, houses more than 1,000,000 individual props.

There is a department dedicated to bicycles, thousands of them, from historical models to a modern-day bikes. Past the "bicycle department" is another department dedicated to street vendor props like hot dog stands, coffee cars, newspaper bins and mail boxes. Another department is dedicated to all things western. And then there are the guns! From the historical Gatling gun seen in The Last Samurai to the futuristic machine guns from Avatar... chances are good that if you see a film or show involving firearms, at least one of them was provided by ISS.

And while ISS has a plethora of hand-made and realistic wooden, plastic or rubber gun replicas, they also have the real deal. ISS houses 15,000 working guns from old-west revolvers to massive and intimidating heavy caliber military-grade machine guns, many dripping with laser sight attachments and ferocious looking grenade launchers. In fact the real and authentic firepower on-hand at ISS, which could be mistaken for a U.S. military staging ground, draws bi-annual inspections from the U.S. Department of Justice to ensure each and every weapon securely housed there is accounted for.

As amazing as the props and creations that come from ISS are, they would not exist but for the company's real treasure, the roughly 100 talented and dedicated men and women who make ISS what it is.

General Manager Rick Caprarelli told Film Works that it never ceases to bring a smile to his face when ISS is able to astonish filmmakers with an actual working prop that had existed only as a conceptual drawing or an idea in the minds-eye of a production team until ISS made it a reality.

When ISS is able to take a concept and produce a real, tangible product for a production, the result often takes their breath away. Caprarelli specifically recalled the "arc reactor" housed in the chest of the armor worn by Robert Downey Jr. in the Iron Man films. When finished, the glowing bauble seemed so intricate, detailed and well-crafted, some of the production team joked that it probably could power an actual Iron Man suit.

And because it takes a class-leading city to supply the kind of class-leading talent ISS needs, Caprarelli is a man concerned with protecting the entertainment industry in the region. "It's not just about the 100 people working at ISS," Caprarelli says of his mission. "It's 100 families."

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