(aka Props Master)
Property Masters* control all aspects of Property Departments. They oversee, and are responsible for, the procurement or production, inventory, care and maintenance of all props associated with productions, ensuring that they are available on time, and within budgetary requirements. They also ensure that selected props suit the film's style and overall design, and that they accurately reflect the production's time period and culture. Property Masters oversee the staff, and the smooth running, of the Property Department, working to high standards of accuracy and detail. As much of the work involved is administrative, the role is often office based. Property Masters are responsible to Production Designers, and work as part of the Art Department. They are the first members of the Property Department to be recruited onto productions, usually approximately five weeks before principal photography begins.
During pre-production Property Masters liaise with Production Designers and Art Directors to break down the script, and to determine what props are required. At this stage Property Masters may work with Production Buyers who carry out research into period props, styles of furniture, etc., by referring to archives, internet files, books and photographs, or by discussing the requirements with specialist advisors. Property Masters subsequently draw up complete properties lists, and set up and label the properties tables, which are used during production. From the lists, Property Masters select which properties are to be bought in, or hired, and which are to be made.
Liaising with Production Buyers, Property Masters allocate budgets to purchase, hire or create props, and plan and manage these budgets. They prepare the overall production schedule for their Department, and work with other members of the team to produce the day-to-day schedules. For purchased or hired props, Property Masters ensure that accurate lists of sources are drawn up and maintained by Production Buyers and Props Storemen*. For props that must be made, Property Masters work closely with Carpenters, Prop Makers, or other artists, to oversee and co-ordinate the construction and completion of these props.
Depending on the craft skills of individual Property Masters, the work may include planning, designing and adapting any special hand or set props required by the production. They attend all rehearsals, in order to note props' placement and use, and any change in action that affects props. Property Masters may also discuss the selection of appropriate hand props with Actors, and instruct them on the care, maintenance and possible operation of these and other props. Prior to the shoot, Property Masters work closely with Set Designers, Set Dressers, Props Storemen, and Dressing Props, in order to detail the furniture and set dressing requirements.
In the weeks immediately before the shoot, and during filming, Property Masters and Props Storemen co-ordinate the loading, transport and storage of all props, and ensure that dressing props are correctly placed for the use of the Dressing Props team. During the shoot Property Masters ensure that all hand and hero props are in place for the Actors and Standby Props. They also oversee the continuity of props between takes (via the Standby Props), and co-ordinate props storage between shoots or rehearsals. During post-production Property Masters oversee the return of all hired props to their sources, in the appropriate condition, and organise the sale or safe disposal of any other properties.
Property Masters usually oversee the work of a number of people, and must therefore have excellent leadership, management and motivational skills. As Heads of Department they should be able to cope with pressure, and be willing to work long and unorthodox hours to meet tight deadlines. Excellent practical, organisational, planning and time management abilities are vital, as are written and oral communication and presentation skills. Good computer skills (Mac and PC) are important. Property Masters must have solid financial skills, and be able to work within budgets. They need confidence in order to negotiate successfully with suppliers and manufacturers. Craft, repair and research skills are useful, and a full driving licence is essential. The role may involve significant manual labour and can be physically demanding. They must be aware of the requirements of the Health and Safety legislation and procedures relevant to their role.
The Property Masters' role is not an entry-level job. They usually have many years' experience in the Props Department, and have worked as Standby Props, Dressing Props, Props Storeman, and Assistant Property Master, on several feature films, in a range of genres. No specific qualifications are required for entry into the Art Department, but a background in Art or Design is preferred.
*this is a generic term, and may refer to a man or woman