Member Spotlight: Dean Goodine
Following the release of his new book “They Don’t Pay Me To Say No”, 891 Property Master Dean Goodine shares insight on how he found his footing in the Props department, the value of mentorship, and embracing opportunities within the motion picture industry.
Dean Goodine doesn’t hesitate when asked what has kept the proverbial fire burning for his craft over his 37-year-career.
“Every day there’s something different,” he says. “It’s a department where you’re constantly learning.”
That constant freshness, which makes up the essence of the craft, can also be what makes it difficult for Props to be pinned down and defined.
“When Props has done really well, you don’t actually notice they’re there,” Dean says, hailing Props members as a crew of ‘silent magicians’.
“We’re not a row of lights at William F. White. We’re not cameras at Clairmont or Panavision … Nobody really understands Props because we’re not a fixed object,” Dean explains.
Dean himself struggled to grasp exactly what the profession was in his early years. That started to change when he became acquainted with industry professionals who helped set him on his path. He credits 891 member Jimmy Chow as one of his most influential mentors.
“Before I came across Jimmy, I didn’t really have a good foundation of what the craft was, other than surviving the day and going home saying, ‘Wow, I’m glad that worked,’” Dean recalls.
He’s come a long way since then. In fact, he recently wrote and published a book about his career in the Props industry. In They Don’t Pay Me to Say No, Dean goes into detail about his 37 years and counting in Props, sharing his knowledge and experience with the next generation.
MENTORSHIP PAVED THE WAY
As a smaller department, all Props employees tend to take on vital positions within their teams, no matter if they’re seasoned props masters taking newer members under their wing or entry-level workers gaining valuable mentorship.
As an example, Dean cites his time plying his trade with legendary Props Master Eddie Aiona on Clint Eastwood’s movie Unforgiven.
“I didn’t prep the movie – I came in just a few days before,” Dean explains. “I’m the new guy, so I’m trying to figure out how to fit in.”
As it happened, Dean was pressed into action very early. On the first day on the Unforgiven set, Eastwood was to shoot a can off a stump outside his cabin set. The firearm of choice was a Star 44 Pistol, an old Confederate pistol – yet, Eddie had informed Dean it never worked in Prep.
“It would just fire two shots and jam,” Dean recalls.
Eastwood still wanted to give it a go. Eddie tried to convince him to switch to something more dependable, to no avail. So, the props team — Eddie, his assistant Mike, and Dean — banded together.
“Eddie dumped the powder, Mike put the wadding in, I took it and I put the firing cap on, and then Eddie put the cylinder in the pistol,” Dean recounts.
Eastwood was vindicated.
“He went out, it never misfired. It fired all six shots.”
Dean cites his time working with Eddie on Unforgiven (and Jimmy Chow before that) as a key catalyst for determining that the Props Department was where he belonged.
“That was when the light bulb went off completely that this is my department, this is where I will stay for the rest of my career, and this is where I will take Jimmy and Eddie with me for the rest of my career in some capacity.”
“It was always founded by their mentorship.”
Having moved through the years from mentee to mentor, Dean shares that in a fast-moving industry like Props, being empathetic and respectful can be very effective as a mentorship tool, rather than treating and instructing workers as cogs in a machine.
“We never yell. We may have discussions, but in a mentorship role, as a department head, it is your responsibility to treat people with respect. And if people are learning their craft, you want them to enjoy the experience of learning.”
“BE WHERE YOUR FEET ARE”
With the BC motion picture industry on an upward trajectory, career prospects have never been brighter for aspiring workers, inside or outside of Props.
However, that hasn’t always been the case.
“There was a time when there’d be one film, you’d work that film, and then you would work a lot of commercials and low budget things just to try and put together a year in a gig economy,” Dean says.
Over time, Dean has witnessed the growth of an increasingly stable film industry, one where workers don’t have to entertain the possibility of suddenly being out of work and needing to find a second job somewhere.
“The choices that young film workers have now…they can actually plan a life around working in the industry as opposed to worrying every year.”
To make the most of his time spent on set, Dean has a mantra he lives by.
“There’s an old hockey cliché: Be where your feet are,” he says.
“I learned more from just hanging around on the set a lot of times. Now, if you’re not required, a lot of people just leave. Not me. I like to stay around, watch people work. I like to see what they’re doing, and if I can grab the end of something and help, I will.”
The rise of various streaming services and forms of technology over the years has made hands-on mentorship slightly more difficult, but the sheer raw talent of those working in the industry today is all the more evident.
“You have to look around and watch your talented co-workers do their job. Because you see more talent in a small space, whether it’s the cinematographer, whether it’s that amazing grip…we are around some of the most amazing, talented people in the world,” Dean says.
“Whatever’s on your phone is not as interesting, I swear!”
At the conclusion of his time working on A Series of Unfortunate Events, Dean took time to reflect and appreciate the grandeur of the work that had been done, doing as he preaches: soaking it all in.
“When we wrapped that show, I went into every stage that was empty and stood there for five, 10 minutes and tried to remember all the amazing sets that came through it, whether they were submarines, whether they were houses, hospitals, whatever Bo Welch had designed. I stood there and observed because I knew when I walked out of that building the last time, it would be the last time I would experience that greatness.”
“If you have the ability to stand on a set and Roger Deakins is lighting it, or Clint Eastwood is directing it, or Kevin Costner’s directing it…if you’re lucky, you get to experience it many times in your career, sometimes only once."
"But when you’re in it, be where your feet are. Embrace it.”
Find this article, and other stories about IATSE 891's talented artists and technicians in the Fall 2022 Kinetoscope magazine, now available to read online (member login required).