Art Director (Unscripted TV)

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What does an art director do?

The role of an art director varies slightly depending on the kind of programme being produced.

In a studio show, art directors are responsible for turning the creative vision of the production designer into a reality by drawing plans and visuals and making models. They organise the art department and oversee the construction of the set. They are responsible for the way the set is dressed and the inclusion of any props. They remain on set throughout the production, to ensure the set is maintained and dressed appropriately to accommodate the varied content.

On shows where there isn’t a set, but where the content is filmed at various locations, they work with the producer and director. They create 'mini-sets', managing the dressing and styling of an area (indoors or outdoors) in which to film. Often, they design these props themselves and oversee their build.

In both situations they may also plan special effects like fake snow, pyrotechnics and gunge. If there is not a production designer on a production, they ensure that what they do meets health and safety guidelines, meets the needs of the producer director and is within budget.

Art directors are almost always freelancers.

What’s an art director good at?

  • Creativity: visualise what a production requires, the look of a set or location, imagine how it will accommodate the production brief and department requirements
  • Art: be able to draw conceptually and technically, work with specialist design software, build props and small sets, have knowledge of art history
  • Knowledge of construction: source appropriate materials and props, 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
  • Leadership: be able to share their vision with a wide number of different people, manage budgets and people, draw up schedules, prioritise and meet deadlines

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