Stagehands work closely with all members of the Construction team, as well as with other departments, on a film production. They are involved in Pre-production, Production and Post Production. On large films Stagehands have their own Head of Department, Supervisors, Chargehands and Stand-by staff. They contribute to the construction, transportation, rigging, de-rigging and storage of sets. The role requires a broad knowledge of the processes of film production, together with a combination of accredited qualifications and on the job experience.
Stagehands' responsibilities are wide and varied. They contribute to the building of sets, working closely with Carpenters, Plasterers, etc., and are responsible for controlling the stock of raw materials, and producing various effects, e.g., ageing down. Stagehands look after the "housekeeping" of the building stage, ensuring that the area remains debris free, and that a clear and safe working environment is maintained.
They hang backing cloths, or cycloramas, and also work with the newer types of backing materials required for Computer Generated Images, etc., which must be handled with particular care. Once the sets have been built, the Stagehands are responsible for transporting them safely either within the studio, or to other locations. They decide on the correct mode of transport, and order the appropriate size of truck or shipping containers, as well as ensuring that any necessary paperwork is completed. Stagehands load and unload all set transporting vehicles, and ensure that the contents are safely and securely packed and unpacked.
During the shoot, the Stand-By Stagehand works closely with all other departments of the film unit, attending to any construction work required, e.g., floating walls or ceilings, hanging black drapes, blacking out, etc. Once the shoot is completed, the Stagehands, in close collaboration with the Rigging Department, "strike" (dismantle and remove) the sets, and ensure that they are safely and securely disposed of, stored, or returned to the appropriate place, as well as ensuring that any necessary waste disposal is carried out according to the requirements of relevant legislation.
Stagehands require a diverse range of skills. They must be able to read and understand a stage plan or layout so that items are correctly and efficiently produced, handled, transported, used and stored. They drive and tow various vehicles safely within the confines of a busy film studio or location, as well as using other specialised set piece moving and lifting equipment. They must know the different types of wood available, how to order and store them, and how they can best be used in set construction.
They must be aware of the Health and Safety legislation and procedures across a wide range of activities, including Electrical Safely, Lifting and Handling, Disposal of Hazardous Waste, etc. Stagehands must be flexible and adaptable to keep pace with ever changing procedures and techniques. They must be able to work effectively, safely and collaboratively with a range of different departments and individuals, requiring excellent communication skills, and the ability to work both independently and as part of a team.
Stagehands require a wide range of industry experience and knowledge, combined with the necessary licences and certificates of competence to drive and operate a variety of vehicles and machinery, a thorough knowledge of the relevant legislation, including Health and Safety requirements and qualifications, and the ability to work effectively with a range of other departments. While no formal academic qualifications are required, it is essential that they have a high level of numeracy and literacy, as well as good communication skills, in order to carry out their role effectively.
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 Creative Industries' Sector Skills Council. 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 creative careers advice service; for detailed careers information and advice, visit www.creativeskillset.org/careers.