What does a set decorator do?
Set decorators are storytellers. They create the background of the action, explaining the context, adding mood and visual interest as the drama unfolds. While prop masters deal with the placing of objects an actor holds, set decorators are concerned with the walls, floors, vehicles and furniture.
Before filming begins, set decorators work with the director, art director, props master and production buyers to go through the script and work out what sets are needed. They make a list and a plan for the props master to follow. Then they buy or hire the items and get in props makers to make furniture.
The day before shooting set decorators arrive early to begin dressing the set. After the director and director of photography have checked it, the set decorators move on to the next scene. Once a scene has been shot, they are responsible for striking (taking apart) each set.
What’s a set decorator good at?
- Understanding film: be able to pick up the director’s vision, know how a background can tell a story
- Style: have a good eye for decoration, a sense of colour and form, precise attention to detail
- Historical knowledge: research different eras and dress a set authentically
- Communication: work closely with the production designer and other departments, share the vision with the team
- Organisation: break down a script for set requirements, manage staff, budgets, complex schedules and transport