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Reel Opportunities

Set Decorator

Also known as: Set Dec, Set Dresser, Stylist (commercials)

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

Who does a Set Decorator work with?

In larger productions, Set Decorators will have a team made up of Assistant Set Decorators, Buyers, Set Dressers, painters, drapers, cabinet makers, sculptors and so on. They report to the Production Designer and work closely with the Art Director and Props Master.

How do I become a Set Decorator?

There is no standard career path to be a Set Decorator. Often, they will have experience working as a Production Buyer or an Assistant Set Decorator. They have usually worked in the art department for several years or in set design in the theatre.

Here are some tips:

Educational Requirements: If you want to go to university, courses in art and design, architecture, photography, theatre, graphic design or graphic communication are useful.

Get experience: Volunteer to do set decorating for student videos. Or decorate stage sets in amateur theatre productions.

More tips

For more tips on finding job opportunities, lists of training programmes, and other great resources, check out our Career Resources page.

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Job Profile Design by Dave Gray. Based on an original concept by Ian Murphy/Allan Burrell.