DIY Proton Packs

Saturday October 17, 2015 Written by Gram

Proton Pack g1

Proton Pack g2

Matt Clark makes ghost-busting proton packs. Not the sort you made out of cereal boxes and cardboard packing tubes, but 10kg replicas that feature fully functioning electronics and custom made metal fittings. The 31-year-old British production designer has been making replicas of the iconic props for the past 10 years. We spoke to him about the what, how and – of course – the why of becoming a Ghostbuster.

What made you want to build a proton pack?

As a kid I was always into making things. When I watched Thomas The Tank Engine I was more interested in the model-making element than the stories. I was born in 1984 so Ghostbusters was a big part of my childhood. It wasn’t long before I was making my own proton packs from cereal boxes and cardboard tubes before getting a toy version for Christmas.

What was it about the film that inspired you?

The production design, cinematography and costuming were by the golden age Hollywood greats, but the performances and script were by these comic genius punks, and it all clicks together in a way I don’t think any other comedy film does. It has a huge grandness to it that’s constantly punch-lined with deadpan acting and editing. To me, it’s one of the best examples of all the arts of film-making coming together as a whole. It was when I was watching that film that I realised that I wanted to work in film and TV. I’ve just finished a year on Doctor Who as the graphic designer for the sets and props. I put my career down to both being inspired by Ghostbusters as an end result of filmmaking, but also by being fascinated by how it was made. My first re-watch gave me the bug to make a really accurate proton pack replica.

How did you hone your proton pack-making skills?

Even back in 1999, there was a small online community interested in making them. Fuzzy DVD screencaps and low-res photos of display models were used to work out the dimensions and attempt to ID the found parts on them, and some people made lists of potential hardware store parts that could be a substitute. I think my first one took me about three years, on and off, trading parts with some people, building my own from wood, plastic and filler, and sometimes outsourcing machinists or moulders to make other parts. By that point I was working making props for films while studying at uni.

Can I buy one? 

It’s not a commercial venture, but they do sell for a fair bit. Part of that is the cost of all the original fittings: the military surplus backpack frame, the hydraulic connectors, etc. A couple of years ago someone ID’d one of the lights on the original packs as being a surplus fighter jet part worth over $1000. I sold the first one I built to buy a London black minicab for use in a short film I was making.

Proton Pack g3

Do they actually catch ghosts?

[No answer.]