Getting Into Stage and Set Design and Management

Many people dream of being on the big screen or starring in a live show; however, much of the action that takes place during filming or live events actually happens behind the scenes. In fact, an argument can be made that people like stage and set designers and managers actually put in more work than actors.

Becoming a stage designer or set management professional requires a lot of focus, attention to detail and a passion for creativity. If you’ve considered getting into stage design for movies or live production, below are some things to think about:

How’s Your Tech Knowledge?

Even the most low-budget productions require that stage designers and managers have some degree of technical knowledge. On top of that, you’ll need to know where to acquire technical components to implement or replace on-stage or on-camera equipment. For example, understanding how to source projector bulbs at wholesale prices will carry you a long way in the industry as will understanding how to properly set up projection lamps and complete projector bulb replacement on the fly.

How Are Your Team Skills?

Working in stage and set design and management means that you will work alongside other professionals. These people may include directors, producers, wardrobe and makeup artists, actors and actresses, food vendors and more. As part of your job, you’ll need to be able to clearly communicate with others and work through problems as a team. Remember that the goal of the crew is to make the production look and feel true to the director’s vision.

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What’s Your Educational Background?

In the world of showbiz, professionals come from all walks of life and many different backgrounds. Some have formally studied their chosen profession while others were discovered on the street. As a result, there’s no specific educational requirement to get into stage design and management, but training in things like interior design, art, photography, carpentry or electrical engineering can be helpful.

What Are Your Salary Expectations?

When it comes to getting paid, salary ranges for stage design vary. Some factors that can affect your pay include your status as a full-time or contract employee, your level of experience, the size and scope of the production and your individual role in a production. According to some sources, stage design professionals can expect to make close to six figures per year, but once again, many different factors can play into your pay.

Can You Multitask?

Stage design professionals are required to divide their focus between many moving parts. One moment you may be working with your lighting team to adjust shadows for a shot, and the next, you may be assisting with the load-in of a heavy set piece. All of this is taking place while you’re keeping track of the time remaining before a shoot begins, and you’re also talking on the phone with a delivery company across town about an appointment for new on-stage furniture.

In a nutshell, you will be expected to multitask all day long, even when working on smaller productions. You serve as a central coordination hub for all things related to the design and presentation of what appears on-stage or on-screen.

Can You Take Pride In Your Work Without Being The Star?

Finally, you have to be willing to take a back seat to the stars of the show. This often means keeping your ego in check even when you know you have put in so much work. If you’re the type of person who needs to be recognized for your work with attention and praise, stage and set design and management might not be for you.

On the other hand, if you can take satisfaction in witnessing all of the moving pieces of a production come together based in large part on the things you created, you might be someone who has a long, successful career in stage and set design and management.

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