Any set decorators/designers here? Sort of on topic?

Egon Spengler

Master Member
I didn't post this in the off topic forum as it seems a little more on topic than not. I'm talking about set design/decorating. If it's considered off topic still, please move it to the OT forum.

The reason I'm even posting this topic is that recently I had the opportunity to decorate/design a set for a short film recently. It was my first real "job" doing this. Other than this opportunity I've only built small sets at home, props, costumes, etc.

I did a great job and everyone loved it, but I felt like I really needed more to bring to the table.

I was wondering what essentials other set decorators/designers bring to the job?

Also, on set I was in charge of building up the look of the set, deciding the placement of props, deciding how to dress the room, and placement of furniture and gathering together items to place into the room. I was in direct communication with the director and producer as well and in charge of getting it all together. What title or titles apply to me then? I thought it was set decorator, but some on set were calling me the art director, or production designer. So which is it or is it more than one actual "title" job that I was performing?

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First, look at Art Directors Guild: Art Director, Graphic Artist, Illustrator, Matte Artist, Model Maker, Digital Artist, Scenic Artist, Set Designer, Title Artist , it´s the website of the art director´s guild of America, lots of good information there.

Second, your job was really a lot of jobs rolled into one, which is not uncommon in small budget work environments or even in foreign industries such as our german system (which is a total mess, actually).

I´d say you were "the art department", since you did all the work ;)

If you didn´t plan ahead in form of drawings, working on the script from the beginning and having a script, I´d hardly call you a "production designer", since he/she is the creative brains of an operation.

Art Director has the creative overview and coordinates constructions and timing, with a huge creative input.

Set Designer does a little bit less than the Art Director, the coordination part is much smaller if even there.

Set Decorator does not mean the he decorates the set, but actually works as a creative buyer for furniture, decides with the Art Director on textiles and textures etc.

Set Dresser puts everything in the set and arranges things.

Props buyer is close to the Set decorator.

Standby props people work during the filming to have everything on hand and look for continuity etc.

I think the ADG site gives a better breakdown of all the various jobs, there is a ton more for specialties like digital props, distressing sets, standby construction crews and what not.
Sounds like you were probably the production designer, according to this definition:

In Film

Set dressers arrange objects on a film set before shooting. They work under the direction of a leadman, a set decorator and a production designer. Set dressers place furniture, hang pictures, and put out decorative items. They are also responsible for some light construction and assembly of small items, such as air-conditioning ducts. They also move items as necessary to make room for the filming equipment. During the shoot, the prop department works with an on-set dresser to ensure that the props and furnishing are in the proper location for the script and to maintain continuity, as scenes are often shot out of order.
Regarding "essentials", it´s not uncommon that they have a degree in architecture or at least some artisan background. But there´s tons of different people around with loads of different backgrounds.

At one point I am going to move this thread probably to the OT, since it´s not about props or a project unless you post pics of your work :p ;)
I have filled that role many times. I prefer Art Director myself. But, you technically filled many roles. Sounds like anything from Art Director on down would be a safe one to pick. Part of it is what you want. I would stay away from the Production Designer credit on this one. People are always trying to give it to me thinking their doing me a favor by upping my grade. They are not. It drags you down to be miss labeled. Ever see the end credits of some small production and you see a name 14 times? Do you think, "hey, that guys got a lot of skills"? No, you thought it had no budget and no crew. Pick one title and stick to it. If you want to succeed in the film industry, people look for stability. If you have 14 credits, all different and not at the level you appear to be, you have no credibility. If you have 14 credits all in the same, or slightly lower role, even if their small productions, you have some credibility. I had a resume cross my desk with all PA, sound op, and grip credits and one or two Production Design. No Art Director, No props, no set dresser. Obviously, this guy worked a shoot like yours and is not qualified to be my Production Designer. Find the role you want to be in and work toward that.

I hope this helps.
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