Model makers specialise in designing, creating and producing three-dimensional scale models and miniatures for use on film productions. They may be responsible for creating models for the Visual Special Effects unit, props for the Props Master*, or specific items for the set and scenery. They liaise closely with Production Designers in order to establish the appearance of the models required. The work requires imaginative flair, good drawing skills, and practical hand skills, such as sculpting and modelling. They must also be able to communicate effectively. Most Model Makers working in the film industry are self-employed, and work on a project-by-project basis.
Model makers are responsible for building the models used to enhance sets, or to replicate structures in miniature, e.g., they may be required to construct a nine inch high replica of the Great Wall Of China, or to make miniature copies in clay of large cities for use by the Visual Special Effects unit. Models are made in a range of materials including clay, Plaster of Paris, plastic, or metal, using a variety of different techniques. For models with moving parts, Model Makers may employ basic engineering techniques and, in some cases, electronics. They use a range of hand, power or machine tools, including computer-assisted equipment. Model Makers create models that accurately portray the requirements and ideas of Production Designers, Props Masters* or the Visual Special Effects unit.
In consultation with one of these practitioners, they initially use freehand drawing skills, or computer-aided design (CAD), or perhaps an illustrative model, to help visualise the finished product. Once this model is approved, they build a detailed model. They may also be involved in sourcing appropriate materials and resources, and consulting with other departments. Model Makers must adhere to strict Health and Safety guidelines, and carry out their tasks in a safe work environment, as some of the materials used can be dusty and may produce dangerous fumes.
Model Makers must have the imaginative flair to help visualise and realise designs in 3D. They need good drawing skills, and the ability to read and understand plans and technical drawings. They must have practical hand skills for sculpting and modelling, using hand and power tools. They need to be familiar with a wide range of materials, and with the techniques required for working with them. They must be able to work accurately, paying close attention to detail, and be able to discuss ideas and concepts with Designers and other colleagues. They should also be able to work to tight deadlines.
Most Model Makers in the film industry have completed a Model Making course. Qualifications include the SQA National Certificate in Model Making, BTEC National Diploma in 3D Design, BTEC Higher National Diploma/Certificate, BTEC HNC in 3D Design, or they may take a BA degree course in Model Making, offered at a number of HE institutions throughout the UK. Detailed knowledge of the requirements of the relevant Health and Safety legislation and procedures is essential.
Individual course accreditation in certain subject areas is currently being piloted. As part of Creative Skillset's and the UK Film Council's Film Skills Strategy, A Bigger Future, a network of Screen Academies and a Film Business Academy have been approved as centres of excellence in education and training for film.
Where to go for more information
Creative Skillset is the Sector Skills Council for the Audio Visual Industries. The first sources of information for all jobs in the industry are the National Occupational Standards. Browse Creative Skillset's website for links to our network of training partners, information about training and access to the comprehensive Creative Skillset/BFI course database. Finally, Creative Skillset Careers is UK's only specialist media careers advice service; for detailed media careers information and advice, visit http://www.creativeskillset.org/careers/.
*this is a generic term, and may refer to a man or woman