Set construction helps to create a motion picture’s unique world. While some parts of a movie may be shot “on location,” the use of sets is common for a variety of reasons. For starters, it’s easier to ensure privacy and security, and you won’t need to secure permits. Further, it’s easier to control sound, lighting, and special effects. It can be a lot of work building realistic sets for a film, but it’s also very rewarding.

How are film sets built?

Typically, film set construction begins with a scale model or drawings. A typical scale drawing will include the ground plan, elevations, and which sections of the set are needed. Set builders also typically rely on detailed drawings that include thematic elements. Today, most of this work is done using computer drafting programs like AutoCAD and Vectorworks.

Who builds film sets?

After years of working in skilled trades, most film set builders fall into the industry as former architects, carpenters, drywall installers, engineers, home renovators, painters, plasterers, or riggers.

There are many roles to fill in film set construction:

  • Art Director – Interprets blueprints and works as a liaison between production designer and construction manager.
  • Concept Artist – Helps determine the creative vision for the set.
  • Construction Manager – Oversees material transport and the hiring of the construction crew.
  • Construction Supervisor – Interprets drawings into labor and resources to get the job done within budget.
  • Craftsmen – Carpenters, painters, plasterers, riggers, model makers, and stagehands who build the set.
  • Draftsmen – Creating the AutoCAD renderings of sets to aid construction and production.
  • General Foreman – Assists the Construction Supervisor in organizing labor crews.
  • Production Designer – Works with the script and director to determine the look of the set.
  • Prop Fabricator – Makes custom items, backups, and film props that cannot be procured.
  • Prop Master – Rents, buys, or borrows all the items that actors will handle.
  • Set Decorator – Adds wallpaper, flooring, paint, furniture, artwork, and other details to the set.
  • Supervising Art Director – Oversees the team of Art Directors, each working on a section or single set.

Some work can be outsourced to drape shops, prop shops, special effects companies, and others. In addition, freelancers may be hired to keep the process moving along. In the US, unionized trade workers can be found through the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE).

Need a Film Set Construction Crew?

Most film sets are built in three to seven months, but elaborate productions can take up to five years—so contact Movie Prop Rentals today to learn more. Our experienced crew can handle an entire film set build, setup, and tear-down. We have a prop warehouse with tens of thousands of items used in motion pictures and a 3D fabrication studio where we can make custom film set components.

Our experienced Set Designers and Art Decorators have worked on movies like The Last of the Mohicans, Bad Boys, Jeepers Creepers, and Into the Blue. We’re based in Miami, Florida, but we can travel wherever you are. Now that you have a better understanding of what goes on behind the scenes– let’s build! Contact us for a free quote.