Understanding the set decoration roles and hierarchy on any film or television project is very important before starting in the industry if you plan on working with the art department and set decoration.
Set decorators help interpret the script with the help of the production designer, director of photography, and director. Set decorators do not function independently but they are an independent entity.
The roles and hierarchy listed below is the standard that you will find in most union production offices and film sets in North America. These roles are representative of the various set decoration crews I have personally worked in over the years. These roles may differ slightly by project, budget, region and union.
Set Decoration Roles in Film and Television
The set decorator is responsible to the production designer and the art director for the co-ordination and realization of: the dressing of all decor; the carriage, movement placement and preparation of all dressings within all studio and/or location sets; the maintenance, replacement and listing of inventory; monitoring the dispersal of the assigned set decorating budget; delegation of work for the efficient operation of the department; completing of decorated sets, camera ready, prior to the requirements of the production schedule.
ASSISTANT SET DECORATOR
The assistant set decorator is responsible to the set decorator and may, in the absence of the set decorator, assume all responsibilities of that position. According to the instructions of the set decorator, the assistant is required to assist the set decorator in the research, purchase, rental, leasing and acquisition of all items and materials used as set decor; the carriage, movement, placement and preparation of all dressings within all studio and/or location sets; the maintenance, replacement and listing of inventory.
SET DEC BUYER
The set dec buyer is responsible to the set decorator. Under supervision of the set decorator, the set buyer may purchase, rent or acquire items to be used as decor for all studio and location sets.
The lead dresser is responsible to the set decorator or in the absence of the set decorator, the assistant decorator or buyer. The duties of the lead dresser shall be to oversee and maintain the standards of the set decoration department in dressing and wrapping of sets, and to carry out tasks as assigned by the decorator or his/her assistant or buyer. The lead dresser shall expedite work to accommodate scheduling and ensure the proper tools and materials are available to the dressing crew to complete assigned tasks.
ON SET DRESSER
The on set dresser is responsible to the set decorator and props master for on set continuity of set dressing and the placement of all set dressing on set.
– Placement and replacement of all set dressing for camera.
– Care, safety and cleaning of all set dressing pieces.
– Placement and replacement of all set dressing as per the Set Decorator, Propsmaster,
Script Supervisor and Camera Department.
– Clear knowledge of camera lenses so that he or she can anticipate the shot.
– Policing of set to prevent damage to all set dressing.
– Care and watering of all indoor plants and floral arrangements.
The on set dresser is responsible for a full tool and hardware package, flat dolly, truck dolly, furniture moving blankets, packing material, cleaning kit, ladders and camera.
The set dresser is responsible to the set decorator. In the absence of the set decorator, or if otherwise required, is responsible to the assistant set decorator or buyer or lead dresser. According to their instructions, the set dresser may assist in: the safe and efficient pick-up and return of all items and materials used as set decor; the carriage, movement, placement and preparation of all dressings within all studio and/or location sets; the maintenance, replacement and listing of inventory. The Set Dresser should be able to perform these tasks without direct supervision.
This post is a continuous work in progress and will be updated frequently. How would you describe the roles within the set decoration department? As always, I’d love to know your thoughts in the comments below.
Rose Lagacé | @artdepartmental
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