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How to become a Prop Maker

prop maker careers

What does a Prop Maker do?

Prop makers are responsible for producing the objects (properties) that are used on stage in a theatre, or on a film or television set. They may also be involved in hiring, adapting or borrowing props.

Working to instructions or a design brief from the production designer, stage/set designer or props master, prop makers might create props from rough ideas or from other people's designs. Depending on the production, they may have to carry out historical, cultural or science fiction research in order to create accurate and realistic props.

Prop makers need a wide range of skills in areas including carpentry, sculpting, casting and moulding, upholstery, welding, technical drawing and computer-aided design. They use a range of hand and power tools to carry out their work - anything from needle and thread to welding equipment – and work with a variety of materials such as metal, latex, fibreglass, wood or fabric. They may have to create moving or illuminated models and props and so a lot of people who go into this will have studied theatre design.

The Skillset website has more detailed information about specific job roles within the props, art and set construction departments in film and TV – see Further Information.

What's the working environment like working as a Prop Maker?

There are no set hours or standard environment for prop makers, but they normally work long hours, especially as a production deadline approaches. Many prop makers are freelance, although some may be attached to large theatre venues. Weekend and evening work is common.

Prop makers could work in studios or backstage, in prop rooms, or on film sets and on location. They may have to spend time away from the workshop, studio or stage while researching and finding props.

Conditions backstage may be cramped and prop makers may have to work with strong smelling adhesives and paints.

What does it take to become a Prop Maker?

To be a prop maker you should have:

  • technical and craft skills such as model-making, electronics, DIY or furniture making
  • artistic ability
  • an interest in the performing arts and in design, with artistic ability
  • good communication skills
  • the ability to show a high degree of attention to detail
  • creative problem-solving skills and be able to work on your own initiative
  • an understanding of materials and their capabilities
  • the ability to work within a budget, and produce work to deadlines
  • computing skills, for creating props using computer-aided design.

Prop Maker Career Opportunities

Prop makers are usually self-employed and work on freelance contracts. The skills needed are similar for both film/TV and theatre, so prop makers can find work throughout the UK in:

  • film studios - mainly in London and the south-east
  • TV studios and production companies
  • theatres in towns and cities around the country
  • commercial theatre companies operating in London or touring the country
  • theatre in education.
It is rare for theatres or film and television companies to have prop makers on their permanent staff, and most employ them on short-term contracts. Prop makers need to make contacts and then be recommended in order to move from one job to the next. There are also advertisements for prop makers in the trade press.

Further information

If you would like to know anything about Prop Maker that does not appear on Hotcourses, further information can be found below.

Skillset Careers
Tel: 08080 300 900 for England, Wales and Northern Ireland
Tel: 0808 100 8094 for Scotland

Prospect House
80-110 New Oxford Street

FT2 Film and Television Freelance Training
4th Floor
Warwick House
Warwick Street

Association of British Theatre Technicians
55 Farringdon Road
Tel: 020 7242 9200

National Council for Drama Training
1-7 Woburn Walk
Tel: 020 7387 3650

Creative and Cultural Skills
Tel: 0800 093 0444

Broadcasting Entertainment Cinematograph and Theatre Union (BECTU)
373-377 Clapham Road

Facts and Stats:

  • Nearly one in 10 people watch television every day in an average week. The average amount watched remains at 26 hours a week. 59 per cent of those surveyed watching between two and five hours a day.
  • Filming for an episode of Eastenders normally starts six weeks before its transmission.
  • 60 per cent of people in broadcasting work on a freelance basis. The UK has some 240 radio services. The average listener can only pick up 15, six belonging to the BBC and nine commercial ones

Courses to help you become a Prop Maker