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Career: Set Designer

 
A Day in the life of a Set Designer

Okay, so it’s not the award everyone stays up until midnight to see who won, but the importance of a set designer to a play, musical, or movie is paramount. From minimal productions, like grade school plays, to multimillion-dollar movies, the set is a silent supporting actor. Moods, meaning, and media are all affected by the set design. Any flaw – a misplaced building, an uncomplimentary color scheme – can ruin the authenticity of any production. Set designers are involved in all aspects of “creating the scene,” from stage construction to costume creation to the use of props. They research, design, and supervise construction of the visual aids required in stage, film, and television productions. Set designers have above-average artistic ability. They are drawers, painters, sculptors, sewers, and carpenters of the set. Set designers usually start with freehand sketches of what the scene should be. They then move to scale models, working in tandem with the director of the production, the production manager, and writers. Once their plans are finalized, the set designer supervises construction workers who build the sets. They also work with people in charge of lighting and sound. They have to have a strong understanding of theatrical rigging and safety. Lately, as the trend of movies using computer generated worlds, specially trained set designers are called upon to create fantastic worlds using a mouse and a keyboard. The set designer has to take into consideration a production’s budget when building sets. The smaller the budget, the more creative the set designer may have to be to build a world that entrances the audience without costing a fortune. Set designers mostly work in large production theaters and movie studios, and they work long hours, particularly up to the night of the first performance.

Paying Your Dues

Set designers usually attend specialized design institutes, or artistic academies. However, the ability to build a set can also be gained through on the job training. It’s not hard to imagine a set designer starting out their career with small church productions, working their way up to school plays, college productions, and then Broadway. Okay, it’s a long shot, but with a ton of talent and determination, it’s not impossible. Most set designers study specific courses, gaining degrees in theater. Set designers are required to attend interviews or auditions, and to bring with them a portfolio of past design or artwork. Some work under the tutelage of more experienced set designers.

Associated Careers

Good set designers have an artistic ability that can translate into many other professions including, painters, sculptors, carpenters, and florists. The skills needed to build entire worlds in a limited space come in handy if a set designer wishes to pursue similar – but technically more demanding – careers as architects and even city planners. Being in the theater profession, set designers can also make the transition to stage manager or director.


 
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