Brandon Alinger, Star Wars superfan who appears on Mark Hamill's Pop Culture Quest, talks traveling the world to build his collection of movie memorabilia. The webseries was created by SDCC HQ, and features Mark Hamill on a tour of different collectors' homes and museums, talking nerd culture, pop culture, and a shared love of movies. It's a webseries with a lot of appeal for the SDCC crowd, for whom watching the movies just isn't enough, and collecting comics, action figures, art and props is a hobby all on its own. The appeal of Star Wars star Hamill being involved certainly doesn't hurt, either.
Episode 9 of the webseries focuses on Brandon Alinger, a 34-year-old collector who also buys and sells for the PropStore in LA, and has even written a few Star Wars tie-in novels for Lucasfilm. Now, in a new interview, Alinger has opened up about spending the past decade (and then some) hunting down props all over the world, and how the industry is changing to make prop-scavenging more difficult for fans.
Alinger spoke to Collectors Weekly about his life as a professional prop-hunter, and how it started with a family vacation to Tunisia (which he begged to go on, seeing as it is the setting for Tattooine scenes in the franchise). After that, he started to contact anyone connected with the franchise, and has traveled all over the world to film sets to try and scoop up leftover props and pieces of sets.
"Well, I guess there was some pleading involved. It sounds a bit more outside of the box than it is. In Europe, Tunisia is a very common tourist destination. The English, the French, and the Germans go there all the time, because it’s only a couple-hour flight and it’s a beautiful country on the Mediterranean Sea with nice resorts. At that time, in 2001, it was reasonably cost-effective, because the U.S. dollar went a long way there. So I think traveling to Tunisia sounds more adventurous than it really was. The adventurous part of it was going to look for the “Star Wars” locations themselves, which are in the more off-the-beaten-path locations."
Although he's got some great stories from his travels, Alinger recognizes that scavenging from sets is nowhere near as easy as it used to be:
"Over time, studios have become aware that: A) There’s a reason for them to archive key assets for themselves for the future. B) Collectors and fans are interested in buying these things. They would love to have them, and be the caretakers themselves. C) There’s a better final destination for all these things than a landfill. There’s been a rise in awareness, which may have been influenced by Planet Hollywood, which was a big restaurant chain in the ’90s and 2000s. That’s when many regular people first encountered movie props and costumes. Since then, there’s been a steady shift from props and costumes being byproducts of a movie to being seen as artifacts worthy of preservation in their own right."
Film fans know that sets themselves have become much harder to get near, especially as studios are concerned about the prevalence of camera phones leading to leaked spoilers for the project. In addition, the collector points out that a lot of the earlier set locations have now been picked clean by other collectors over the years.
That said, Alinger is still encouraging young fans to get out there, "but I wouldn’t go strictly with the mindset of coming back with collectibles." The sets are still incredible to visit just for the sake of seeing where iconic moments came to life, and that's something that any fan can enjoy, whether or not they get to take a piece of it home.
Source: Collectors Weekly
- Star Wars 8/Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017) release date: Dec 15, 2017
- Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018) release date: May 25, 2018
- Star Wars 9 / Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019) release date: Dec 20, 2019