What does a Prop Master do?
A prop is any moveable item that can be seen on a film. It could be a hat, gun, cushion, wine glass, lightsaber, carpet, kitchen unit, tree or aircraft. Prop Masters run the property department which makes, stores and transports the props as well as preps the props for each day’s shoot.
Prop Masters usually start work a few weeks before shooting begins. They work with Production Designer, Set Decorators and Art Director to work out what props are needed. They do research and then draw up properties lists, deciding which are to be hired and which are to be made. They create a ‘set and strike’ schedule to share with location and construction departments.
Where props are to be made, Prop Masters recruit the Carpenters and prop makers and manage the schedule for production. Where they are hired, they work with the Production Buyers to source them.
When shooting is finished, they return all hired props and organize the sale or safe disposal of everything else.
What's a Prop Master good at?
Pick up the Director’s vision, break a script down for props requirements take account of the need for continuity
Research different eras, dress a set authentically
Work with a wide variety of materials, craft and repair items
Handle large, heavy but fragile items
Work closely with the Production Designer and other departments, share the vision with the props team
Manage staff, budgets, complex schedules, transport and storage
Who does a Prop Master work with?
Prop Masters report to Production Designer and Set Decorators as part of the art department. They work closely with the Director, Art Director, Production Buyers, Location Manager and Construction Manager. They also might work with the Script Supervisor to maintain set continuity (keeping track of whether a glass is full or empty, where a particular item is placed at the start or end of a take, how objects move, and so on).
How do I become a Prop Master?
This is a senior level role, so college-level technical education in art and design, along with several years of experience in the art department, are required. Apprenticeships or on the job training are also possible. This position requires the ability to work well with your hands and construct materials to form props when needed, as well as organizational skills and an interest in the historical accuracy of items and scenes on a film set.
Here are some more tips:
Learn how to drive a van or a truck: Being a Prop Master can often involve moving heavy props and travelling around different locations. Learning to drive is essential for this, as is learning how to move large, heavy but fragile items safely.
For more tips on finding job opportunities, lists of training programmes, and other great resources, check out our Career Resources page.
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Job Profile Design by Dave Gray. Based on an original concept by Ian Murphy/Allan Burrell.