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Prop Maker

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At a Glance... header image

Creates objects that help to bring a theatre or film production to life on stage, or on a film/TVset. 


The Work header image

Prop makers are responsible for creating objects that help to bring a theatrical or cinematographic production to life on stage in a theatre, or on a film or television set. They may also be involved in hiring, adapting or borrowing props.

The Work

As a prop maker, you might make anything from fake jewellery to replica weapons and moving models, depending on what is required by the script.

Prior to creating objects, prop makers read the script to get a basic understanding of the story. When they work on a historical production, the next step is often to undertake research to make sure that their props look authentic. Prop makers then work either from a detailed design or a brief which will include information such as size, colour, use, details, and quantity given by the production designer or the art director. They normally make doubles or triples of each prop, in case the original gets damaged.

Props makers must constantly liaise with other members of the production team, they get the materials and tools needed from the production buyer and often work in collaboration with costume and set designers, make-up artists, electricians and stage hands. However, on small productions and especially in theatre, prop makers may be asked to be responsible for the creation of costumes and sets as well as props.

Prop makers usually have to work within tight budget and timescale requirements so they need to be imaginative and resourceful when it comes to creating an item from scratch. They may have to recycle old props or adapt them using techniques to simulate marks of age and wear.

As they create, prop makers often experiment with different materials. For example, they may have to create a prop which looks very heavy, like a metallic sword, but is in fact made of lightweight material so that the actor can manipulate it easily. Prop makers try out their props during rehearsals and tweak them accordingly, and may have to repair damaged props between scenes.

The vast majority of prop makers are self-employed and are paid per day or a set fee for a production. Employment opportunities are generally with theatre companies or in television and film. Another possibility is to also lecture in an art and design college.

You will often start as a props assistant and can progress to the position of props master or director, in charge of the overall production and maintenance of props.

Skills

Skills required for this job may include:

  • Carpentry
  • Sculpting
  • Casting
  • Sewing
  • Painting
  • Welding
  • Computer-aided design.

Tasks and Activities

  • being briefed by a production designer, or set designer
  • Drawing a preliminary props list
  • making props from rough sketches or detailed designs
  • carrying out historical or cultural research in order to make authentic-looking props
  • working with a variety of materials such as metal, latex, fibreglass, wood or fabric
  • experimenting with different materials and techniques to create realistic effects
  • using various hand and power tools – anything from paintbrushes to welding equipment
  • adapting existing items, for example ‘distressing’ an object to make it look old
  • hiring or buying props
  • repairing props.
 


Personal Qualitiesheader image

Creativity and imagination are essential qualities for a prop maker.  It is vital that you are able to work on your own initiative but also as part of a production team if necessary.

Artistic flair is important as you must be able to visualise and create the staging ideas given to you.

Excellent attention to detail and accuracy is required for creating props.

An understanding of materials and their capabilities.

Having patience is an important aspect of this job as are strong communication skills and problem solving.


Entry Routesheader image

A qualification in art and design or technical theatre would be beneficial to gaining entry into this career.

Degree courses in Art/Fine, Art and Art and Design, both level 7 and level 8 are available from a range of IoTs:

Limerick IT - click here

DIT - click here 

IT Sligo - click here

IT Carlow - click here 

GMIT - click here

Dun Laoighre IADT  - click here 

CIT - click here

The National College of Art and Design (NCAD) which is a recognised college of UCD offer a range of undergraduate degrees in design and fine art.

The Lír offer a professional diploma in Stage Management and Technical Theatre and also a postgraduate masters in Fine Art – Stage Design in which you can specialise in set design. 

Another form of entry into prop-making is specialising in a related area of your choice for example a craft such as furniture making or in 3D design or fine arts.

Building up experience is essential in this line of work so doing some volunteering with local theatre groups, school/college productions, festivals and concerts will prove beneficial.

Last Updated: December, 2014


Further Informationheader image

A detailed description of this occupation can be found on a number of online databases. Follow the link(s) below to access this information:

Note: you will be leaving the CareersPortal Site

Go..Prop Maker - from:  N.C.S [UK]

Related Occupationsheader image

Contactsheader image

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Organisation: The Arts Council of Ireland
  Address: 70 Merrion Square, Dublin 2
  Tel: (01) 618 0200 CallSave 1850 392492
  Email: Click here
  Url Click here

bullet

Organisation: Design & Craft Council of Ireland
  Address: Castle Yard, Kilkenny
  Tel: (056) 77 61804
  Email: Click here
  Url Click here

bullet

Organisation: Association of Irish Stage Technicians (AIST)
  Address: Dunmaise Arts Centre, Church Street, Portlaoise, Co. Laois, Ireland
  Tel:
  Email: Click here
  Url Click here

 

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