What does an art department assistant do?
Art department assistants help the whole art department, but particularly the art director. In a studio, they help dress the set and manage the props, ensuring they are in working order and available when needed.
They also help with styling when the filming is on location, where there might be a very large area needing styling and props. If an art department assistant is experienced, they might be the only person from the art department on location.
Otherwise, much of an assistant’s work is in the preparation before filming. This involves helping with the sourcing and purchasing of materials, as well as the building, painting and finishing of props. They sometimes design and make props themselves.
Generally, art department assistants are expected to pitch ideas and assist in any way that’s required, from helping transport items and making coffee to filling the gaps of any work that needs doing. On smaller budget studio shows, they might do the work of a runner alongside their other responsibilities.
Art department assistants sometimes secure staff jobs in bigger art departments. As freelancers, they are often requested by art directors with whom they have formed good working relationship on previous projects.
What’s an art department assistant good at?
- Art: draw conceptually, technical and freehand, work with specialist design software, build props and dress sets
- Attention to detail: have thorough research skills, source correct materials and props, be organised and tidy
- Knowledge of construction and design: research and be aware of the latest developments in production design
- Knowledge of production: understand production techniques, studio environments, studio capabilities and the challenges of working on location
- Hard work: be able to multi-task and meet deadlines