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Set Builders, Props Makers, Scenic Artists

Note: Completion of a TAFE SA course does not guarantee an employment outcome. Formal requirements other than educational qualifications (eg licensing, professional registration), may apply to some occupations.

Job Prospects Openings 5 years to November 2019: 5,000 to 10,000
Salary Range Median weekly earnings: $1051 to $1300 to Source: Australian Government Department of Employment 2015
Brief Set Builders, Props Makers and Scenic Artists are scenery construction technicians who build and art finish scenery and props for all kinds of live productions and events, film and television productions, trade shows, museums displays and exhibitions. They work closely with each other and with designers and other technicians to create the ‘look’ required for shows. They work in scenery construction workshops using many of the same workshop plant and machinery, power and air tools you would find in any timber joinery or fabrication and finishing workshop.

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TAFE SA courses that may be relevant for: Set Builders, Props Makers, Scenic Artists

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Introduction

With the redevelopment of Glenside into new studio facilities for the South Australian Film Corporation demand for Set Builders, Props Makers, Scenic Artists is expected to increase.

Peaks in demand can be seasonal so most technicians have skills in all three skill areas, and related skill areas such as staging, to maximise their employability and continuity of employment. Technicians have to be proactive in seeking employment and are often organising employment several months in advance.

Graduates are employed in all sectors of performing arts, entertainment and other creative industries including theatre, opera and dance companies, film and TV productions, arts centres, festivals and events, conventions and corporate theatre, museums, theme parks and other tourism linked entertainment.

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Education Requirements

You need an industry specific Certificate or Diploma or trade skill qualifications in carpentry and joinery. Occasionally, a few work places will take on a trainee or apprentice without much training or experience but this is less common than entering employment with a completed qualification.

Desirable Entry Skills and Personal Attributes
To have the best chance at success you need basic computer skills - Word Processing & Spreadsheet, E-communication, and research skills. You also require good hand skills and basic tool skills, creativity, imagination and initiative. Maths or Science to year 10 level, good personal time management skills and proficiency in written and spoken English are also desirable skills for this occupation.
You also need to be,
- a good communicator, able to work collaboratively with a wide range of people
- able to think and plan ahead and think and work creatively
- able to work under pressure and meet deadlines
- able to work as part of a creative team
- able to use creativity and innovation to troubleshoot and problem solve
- able to work in a constantly changing environment
- highly motivated about pursuing a professional career in entertainment or related industries
- and have a mature work ethic
These are a physically demanding occupations and you need to be reasonably fit.

TAFE SA offers courses relevant to this occupation including the Diploma of Scenery and Set Construction and the Advanced Diploma of Design for Live Production, Theatre and Events. Pathways include the Certificate III in Live Production, Theatre and Events (Technical Operations).

Career Path

Initially graduates start out as casual or part time employees and may work for many different employers within one year. Over time by developing a good reputation and gaining the recognition of employers, designers, production managers and workshop managers, they move on to be employed on a more regular basis and may eventually secure a permanent position. Most often employment is gained through ‘word-of-mouth’, on the recommendation of other professionals.

The career paths for scenery construction technicians include the following occupations;
Entry Level: Scenery Construction Assistant, Props Assistant, Scenic Art Assistant, Scenery Workshop General Hand/Assistant.

Middle Level: Set Builder, Props Maker, Scenic Artist, Multi-Skill Set builder/Props maker/Scenic artist, Set Dresser, Stand By Props.

Senior Level: Scenery Construction Leading Hand, Senior Props Maker Specialist, Senior Scenic Art Specialist, Head of Department, Workshop Manager, Construction Manager, Production Manager, Small Business Owner/Operator in Set Construction, Props Manufacture &/or Scenic Art.

Industry

Cultural and Recreational Services

Nature of the Job

Set Builders: use a range carpentry and joinery, metalwork and other fabrication skills. They use a range of materials including timber, steel, aluminium, plastics and fabrics to construct scenery and large props.

Typical tasks include,
- reading plans, taking measurements, making calculations
- Interpreting set designs, working out how to build them and how much they will cost to build
- Sketching construction details and making technical drawings of how a piece of scenery will be built
- Working with a team of others to construct sets
- Building sets to resemble earlier historical periods or fantastic imaginary environments
- Building mechanical sets and furniture props
- Working closely with Props Makers, Scenic Artists, Designers, Stage Management and Production Managers
- Using workshop machinery, air and power tools
- Installing sets in the performance venue
Props Makers: use a range carpentry and joinery, metalwork and other fabrication skills plus sculpting and moulding skills. They use a range of materials including timber, steel, aluminium, plastics, fabrics, leather, clay, plaster, resins, foams, motors and electronic components to construct props.

Typical tasks include,
- reading plans, taking measurements, making calculations
- Interpreting props designs, or specifications, working out how to build them and how much they will cost to build or buy
- Sketching construction details and making technical drawings of how a prop will be built
- Sourcing and buying props
- Building mechanical and furniture props
- Using sculpting and moulding skills to make props and set decoration
- Building trick props and special effects props
- Working closely with Set Builders, Scenic Artists, Designers, Stage Management and performers
- Using workshop machinery, air and power tools
- Instructing performers in the use of particular props
- Maintaining props

Scenic Artists: use a combination of industrial painting techniques, art painting techniques, texturing and other finishing techniques. Scenic artists paint, texture and otherwise art finish scenery and props according to specified requirements of the designs.

Typical tasks include,
- reading plans, taking measurements, making calculations
- Interpreting scenic art designs, working out how to achieve the finishes required and how much they will cost to achieve
- Painting and texturing scenery, backdrops and props to design requirements
- Working closely with Set Builders, Props Makers and Designers
- Art finishing sets and props to resemble earlier historical periods or fantastic imaginary environments
- Creating faux finishes to make scenery or props appear to be made of precious or expensive materials
- Using industrial painting and finishing machinery, air and power tools
- Working at height

Typical Physical Working Environment

Scenery construction technicians are usually based in capital cities or large regional cities. Most major production companies and some arts and convention centres have their own construction workshops and there are also stand alone scenery construction enterprises. Some Set Builders, Props Makers and Scenic Artists set up their own businesses.

Scenery construction workshops often work to building and construction industry hours so a typical week could be Monday to Friday, starting at 7.00 am or 7.30 am, with occasional work on weekends and nights when required.

These are highly transportable skills, with the opportunity to travel and work worldwide.

Typical Occupational Example

There are people doing these jobs in every sector of the entertainment industry. From drama, dance, musicals and for other production companies to the music industry, major events, conventions and trade shows, film and television productions.

One of the aspects that attract people to these occupations is that no two construction projects are the same. You are using the same skills but in innovative and creative ways to create a unique product every time.

Earning Potential

Rates of pay vary from state to state and according to the industry sector and enterprise agreements. As a general guide full time salaries fall within the range of $40,000 - $60,000 per year, with higher salaries for those in senior and supervisory positions.

Further Information

For further information about all TAFE SA Courses, phone 1800 882 661 or enquire online