Understanding the scenic paint department roles, responsibilities, and hierarchy on film and television projects is essential before entering the entertainment industry if you plan on working with the art department, set decoration department, props department, construction department, locations department, and especially the scenic department.
Below we have laid out the positions within the paint department including the various job descriptions and hierarchy.
Scenic Paint Department Roles and Responsibilities in Film and Television
KEY SCENIC ARTIST
The duties of the key scenic artist include the supervision and organization of the painting of sets, parts of sets, props, backdrops, cutouts, and any painting or ageing of set dressing or decorations.
The key scenic artist is responsible for all painting of buildings, both on location and stage sets, including scenic painting mattes or scenic backdrops, painted illustrations, painting and ageing of signage and other graphics.
They are also in charge of the purchasing and procurement of all necessary materials and equipment in addition to the disbursement of the approved budget. They may delegate some of this work to run the scenic department efficiently.
The production designer and art director hire the key scenic artist as their superior, often on advisement by the production manager or construction coordinator. The key scenic artist performs the functions of all the following categories except for the painting of signs which may be done by a sign painting specialist.
The paint foreman performs all functions as listed above, in coordination with the key scenic artist. They must be able to assume all responsibilities in the event of the absence of the key scenic artist.
The on-set painter must perform all duties of the key scenic artist while on-set on a shoot day, working under the direction of the cinematographer, camera operator, and key scenic artist in coordination with the on-set carpenter and on-set dresser.
Other miscellaneous duties shall include the maintenance and integrity of all sets and set pieces as well as adjusting reflective surfaces quickly and efficiently.
SCENIC ARTIST or SCENIC PAINTER
The scenic artist works with and is supervised by the key scenic artist in producing specialty finishes such as marble, wood grain, ageing, breakdown, and other faux finishes. They must be able to execute the painting of a graphic or pictorial nature on various scales including scenic backdrops, and cutouts.
The scenic artist is accustomed to the key scenic artist’s duties and assumes them on a short-term basis when necessary. The scenic painter performs all the duties of a painter as well as accept responsibility for specialty finishes such as wood grain, marble, ageing, breakdown among other faux finishes under the direction of the key scenic artist or their representative.
The duties of the sign painter include the preparation, layout, and painting of all signs under the direction of the key scenic artist.
The duties of the plasterer include the preparation of moulds for casting of plant-on ornamentation (including plaster, rubber or fibreglass resins), the preparation and mixing of concrete, and supervision of the application of concrete work.
The duties of the painter shall be to carry out, without direct supervision and to the satisfaction of the key scenic artist, sanding, filling, sealing, priming, undercoating, spray painting, faux cement, painting and varnishing of sets, props, permanent buildings, interior and exterior, both in the studio and on location.
Conversations with Top Scenic Artists
How would you describe the scenic paint department roles and responsibilities?
If you have any questions or need any clarification, please let us know your thoughts in the comments below. This post is a continuous work in progress so we’d love your feedback.