What do I want to do after I graduate? Set Decorator

April 11, 2017

I have been thinking about what I want to do after I graduate from university, and an area that has really interested me, as I have been building my scenes for my photographs is, set decorating for TV and film. I have been researching what this role entails and how you would get into the industry.

What does a set decorator do?

In a previous post I looked at the role of a set designers in blockbuster films and have come to the conclusion I am more interested in the details of a set that bring the scene to life. A set decorator takes control of everything in a set apart from the walls. They deal with all the background elements that aren’t construction.

This includes:

  • Furniture
  • Wall art
  • Light fixtures
  • Flooring/ Carpets
  • Car/Vans/Carriages

It is everything from the large scale props right down to a cube of sugar to go with a cup of tea -also provided by them. The dressing props they provide give a certain atmosphere and sense of period to a scene. The key aim of a Set Decorator is to tell a visual narrative, for example for a set of a characters bedroom they would create a back story for the character that would be based around what they had learnt from the script, production designer and director. They would take this back story and prop accordingly. In an interview, for Warner Bros. Property Department, Set Decorator, Amy Feldman, spoke about how she used wall art without frames to tell a story of how the character would have found the art and wouldn’t be able to afford to hang it properly. It is these kind of subtle details a set decorator introduces to a scene, because every little detail around them tells you who they are.

The Chain of Command

Production Designer

Set Decorator

Assistant Set Decorator

Set Decorator Buyer- sources and buys items needed

Set Dresser – carries out the task of dressing a head of the shoot and clears away afterwards

On-set Dresser – takes care of the set whilst the crew is there shooting

Breaking into the role

Good places to start to become a Set Decorator is to either become a runner of the arts department, quite a competitive role to get into with it being a starting point for most creative roles in the TV and film production industry.

Or, start at working at prop houses, this way you get to know people in the industry and learn about different props. In my opinion working in a prop house would be interesting, having all these interesting items ready for everyones needs.



Set Decoration is definately a line of work I would love to go into, I know I have a long way before a I would get there but I’m ready to put the work in.