Screen Creative Department Job Descriptions

Below is a comprehensive list describing the roles across Art, Construction, VFX, SFX, Action Vehicles and Costume in screen. This information has been extracted from the APDG Manual for Screen Design Practices.

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The production designer is often the first person selected in the design department and will be one of the first to start. He or she will then select their preferred senior department members based on their assessment of the needs of the production. The designer should have a voice in the structure of the art department they will lead, particularly when they feel it needs to vary from the staffing template presented in the initial production budget. The designer requires a period to analyse the scripts and begin research. In the early
stages of pre-production the designer needs to be involved in the selection of shooting
locations and studio spaces. The designer will prepare preliminary designs and or reference
materials either independently or with the help of illustrators, concept drafters and
design assistants for discussions about the design of the production. At an early stage, in
conjunction with the art director, they will decide on the priorities for allocation of expenditure
within the department based on their ideas for the design. Sufficient time to work
with the script and develop the design direction is the best way to solve creative
problems within the budget. The production designer will confer with the other design
departments to ensure a cohesive design approach across all fields. They oversee the
drafting/ documentation process and monitor the aesthetic aspects of manufacture
and implementation of their designs through pre-production and production to the
completion of shooting. Where visual effects are required, the production designer
will work with the VFX department regarding the look of these elements and to ensure
they are effectively combined with the physical designs. The production designer should
also be consulted on any post-production VFX work and titles sequences.

This role is required to oversee several art directors responsible for different aspects of the production. A large production may require more than one supervising art director (S.A.D). The position could be split into artistic, financial or site specific supervision responsibilities. The execution of this role varies with the production and the person appointed. In general they are responsible for the smooth running of the entire art department. They manage and guide the art directors below them, liaise with the production designer, implement their directives, and solve logistical design problems. The S.A.D. also reports progress of works and the financial position of the art department to production. They advocate for the conditions of the department members.

Tips & Tricks

  • ‘You need to know when to move on – when you need to say ‘no’ to designing another co-op, or working as an assistant, or when your association with a particular artist or company has run its course’
  • ‘If you are pitching to a company, make sure you like their work’
  • ‘Volunteer for something: join your guild, a writer’s group etc. Opportunities often come from making these genuine connections’
  • ‘Give yourself one goal for each job that you believe will make saying ‘yes’ worth it. For example, what is one thing you would like to learn from/on this job?’
  • ‘Imagine your CV in 5 years – what would you like it to look like? How can you work to achieve this?’

On a large production, where there are several art directors, each will be responsible for a particular area of the art department. They may be in charge of a geographic location for a foreign build, a section of the department like the drawing office, or an aspect of the production like location builds or studio sets. They will manage the people working in their area to ensure both artistic and timely practical outcomes. On small to medium productions, the single art director will be the practical department
head, directly beneath the production designer. Their role varies depending on the specific
needs of the designer, but generally they control the art department budget, manage
workflows, and have responsibility for design documentation and construction supervision.
As a sole art director, they would cover all of the areas listed in the role of the supervising art
director listed above. They work closely with the art department coordinator and should be
consulted on who fills that role. The art director also liaises with the assistant directors about
props, set dressing times and art department requirements during the preparation of their
schedules and daily call sheets. In the past, art director was the name given to the designer on television productions,
particularly long running productions where the set up production designer had moved on.
However, the title did not represent the role and responsibilities that were required of this
person and as such is no longer used. All subsequent designers are now recognised and
referred to as production designers.

An on set art director is an additional role. They are a constant presence on set representing the wishes of the designer. They ensure the set and props are as they should be throughout the shoot. They can make decisions or refer to the designer as changes are requested. They manage the on set art department.

The assistant art director’s role is to help with the artistic and technical development of the design. They assist the designer and art director(s) and they often oversee the proper functioning of smaller logistical details. One or more people are required in this role on large productions.

The art department coordinator provides the administrative support for the art director(s), production designer and wider art department. They monitor workflow and timesheets, keeping track of hours worked and projected hours required. Working with the art director, they ensure efficient use of time and logistical resources. They assist in ordering materials, couriers etc. and keep track of costs through petty cash documentation and purchase orders. They work closely with the accounts department. They manage and book swing gang labour and additional vehicles. They can also be responsible for organising clearances required for products and artwork used on screen. If so, all clearance documentation is passed to production for their records. This position is sometimes not allowed for in budgets prepared by English production companies, but is integral to the way work is divided up in an Australian art department.

From the production designer’s concept drawings and brief, the set designer creates working drawings (sketches, plans, elevations, sections, 3D models and details) from which studio sets, location builds and specific props are costed and constructed. They work closely with the art director(s) to help supervise construction on the sets they have drawn, ensuring the design objectives are realised. The set designer drafts by CAD or hand and provides timely updates to their drawings as the design develops and evolves.

A draftsperson provides additional detailed drawing documentation and helps to process the workload of the assistant art directors and set designers. The draftsperson may draw by hand or use CAD. On larger productions, construction and set decoration may employ their own drafters to help document detailed aspects of complex set builds or dressing items that require manufacture

The set decorator is head of the decorating team and is responsible for making design choices within the brief outlined by the production designer. Creatively, the set decorator works very closely with the production designer. They are responsible for everything added to a set after construction is complete on either a studio stage or location. On location, they document, remove and store existing items before the dressing begins. They make decisions about furniture, soft furnishings, wall finishes, practical lighting and all else that is to be added to the set. They manage the work flow and work quality of their department members, who can include practical electricians, carpenters, carpet layers, paperhangers, greenspeople, buyer/dressers and swing gang members. They manage their own budget allocation and are required to achieve their brief within the amount allocated. They keep the art director up to date regarding their spending and progress. The set decorator also works closely with the props master to ensure any crossover items are
covered in one or other of their departments. For example, an item may be selected by the
decorator to fit into the set design scheme and handed over to the props master and stunt
coordinator for rigging or reproduction as a breakaway prop.

Buyer/dresser is often a combined role. The buyer/dresser works under the supervision of the set decorator from whom they receive their brief to procure and install the items required. This role requires resourcefulness, practicality and good knowledge of a wide range of suppliers. It also requires a good “eye”, taste, and a knowledge or ability to research the needs of specific interiors and historical periods. Buying and dressing can be split into separate responsibilities depending on the work volume or skills required by a production. When it is split, a buyer’s role is to research, source and acquire the relevant set dressings. The dresser is then responsible for dressing a set from the initial block in through to resetting during shooting and then striking on completion. It is a physical role that requires heavy lifting, loading trucks, working with tools and on ladders.
Buyer/dressers should arrange for the provision of packing materials, blankets, bubble wrap,
tape, ropes and straps etc to ensure the items they are handling are protected against
damage. It is required that there be two people to dress a set, as many items require more
than one to lift safely. Also, those working with powers tools and at height should have
another present with them in case of accident.

The prop master is responsible for procuring all items that are to be handled by the actors, including baggage, food, drink, cigarettes, newspapers, photographs, letters, keys, wallets, money, computer and technology interaction etc. They are responsible for supplying the standby props person with their daily requirements. The prop master works with the set decorator to make sure cross over items are covered and liaise with the stunt department to source or create items safe for use in stunt situations, e.g., rubber knives, breakaway bottles etc. They work closely with the graphic designer and the prop makers to create necessary hand props. On large or complicated productions a prop buyer is employed to assist them. The prop master is responsible for managing their budget allocation and that of their team. Care should be taken by the prop master to cater to the individual needs of the actors they are working with regarding such things as dietary preferences, allergies and weight carrying capabilities.

A prop buyer works under the direction of the prop master to procure samples and source props. They require more experience than a runner as they need to make decisions and have knowledge of where to find a broad range of items. A prop buyer will often be given responsibility for a specific area within a production such as medical, military or technology items.

Prop makers are employed to produce otherwise unavailable or specifically designed items. For example, dummy weapons (under control of a licenced armourer), console panels for space ships, alien or futuristic technology, replica antique pieces, doubles of one-off items, complete replica vehicles etc. Prop makers can produce a vast array of items by many techniques in a huge array of
materials. Prop makers work under the direction of the prop master and art directors.
Occasionally prop makers and model makers work together using similar techniques and
some personnel fulfil both rolls simultaneously.

Standby props is the on set interface between the art department and the actors. They provide, set and reset all art department items for each scene. They also record and monitor continuity for props used. Standby props are resourceful people who are adept at overcoming problems arising from late requests or accidental malfunctions of set or props. As the on set representative of the art department they serve as a conduit for the actors and director to pass notes and requests back to the production designer. The prop master and standby props will establish a system for the hand-over of new props
required for each shoot day. General use ‘character props’ such as wallets, keys, phones,
pens, etc need to be packed in suitably labeled containers and loaded into the standby’s
truck prior to shooting. Standby props requires several days pre-production with the script to generate a breakdown
and familiarise themselves with the designer’s requirements. Where possible they should
attend read throughs and rehearsals and the final technical recce day(s). The standby props and assistant standby props require a paid pre-call each shoot
day as well as time at the end of the day to clean, sort and repack items to prevent
loss. On any standard day this should be at least 15 minutes before breakfast,
with any heavy props days flagged with the production manager well before for
approval for extra paid time. On episodic productions the standby needs time to
prepare for the upcoming block of episodes. Often this can be done by the assistant
taking over on set for a period. If this is not possible due to the nature of the scenes
or late availability of the script information, the standby needs to be paid to do this work
outside normal filming hours. Most standby props can reset set dressings that need to be moved during the day.
However, if this risks jeopardising their main responsibilities, standby dressers and/or an
on set art director are required.

The assistant standby props’ role is to assist and support the standby props. This person needs to become familiar with the props truck and its contents and establish a work method with the standby that best suits that production. This can mean taking on responsibility for specific areas such as setting up computers, phones or playback, food props or background extras. On episodic productions, the assistant should be prepared on occasion to take over the main duties to allow the standby time to prepare for the upcoming episodes. Usually this is arranged on a quiet day for on set props requirements.

The graphic designer creates graphic images such as computer and phone screen content, newspapers, signage, websites, labeling and packaging. The wide range of output means that the graphic designer needs broad skills in editorial, advertising, product and web design. They need an understanding of period design and graphic prop making, such as handwritten letters, diaries and book binding, to name but a few. They are often called on to generate graphic identity material for the production. While this is important, their main duty is producing the on screen graphics first. Due to copyright requirements most productions need to create fictitious brand names and
signage to avoid conflict with existing brands. To ensure this, the graphic designer should
have a clear and consistent understanding of what is permissible to produce. (e.g. ‘passing
off’, money and financial instruments etc as outlined in section 6.) The graphic designer
creates information sheets for each design outlining sources of images and content within
the graphics they produce. They should not proceed with designs that include elements
that are not cleared. This means designs should be completely of their own creation, or
includes only images, photos, artwork etc for which clearance to use has been obtained
from the rights holder. They will work closely with the art department coordinator to provide
this information to the production and their legal representatives as required.

An art department runner will typically do pick-ups and drop-offs between set, art department and suppliers. They are required to have a valid driver’s licence. There is often heavy lifting involved and longer hours. This is frequently an entry level position for someone with little or no professional experience. Experienced runners are highly sought after but hard to find as the best ones quickly move up into other positions in the art department. Qualities that a runner is expected to posses include; commitment to doing what is often a hard and menial job with care and a calm helpful demeanour, good communication skills, punctuality and an ability to keep track of their float and paperwork. It should be impressed on the runner that they must take extreme care with the items and people they deal with in their work. Long standing and valuable supplier contacts can be ruined by damage to items or rudeness. Training or skills in a particular area such as computer technology, construction or
prop making are usually advantageous. The art department coordinator manages the
person in this role.

The concept artist works closely with the production designer and sometimes with the director and creative producers. Concept artists can work in a variety of media such as conventional painting or drawing or in a range of ever-evolving digital programs such as 3D Max, Rhino, Photoshop, or a combination of all. They generate detailed images of key scenes and sets that are used to brief everyone
on the production. The concept artist’s work is used to discuss a range of visual elements
including design of the set, lighting, lens sizes and camera positions. The concept artist
is not a storyboard artist, they work on the broad visual and conceptual elements of the
design whereas the storyboard artist works on detailed shot by shot requirements. The two
roles do collaborate to generate a cohesive visual manual for the production.

Concept models assist the designer communicate the look of a production by creating 3D models of sets, props, vehicles etc. This can help speed up the approval process for a design as they help those who may not have an ability to understand the scale and 3D nature of a set presented only in 2D plans and drawings. Models are produced either as accurate scale models of the intended build including colours and finishes or in white card and left uncoloured. Models are very valuable in production meetings. They communicate clearly to all the extents and layout of the set and are useful in locking down blocking and camera angles. They also communicate complicated design ideas to fabricators that are hard to visualise from the multiple sections and elevations required in set drawings. Concept model makers often work closely with concept artists.

A storyboard artist works for the director with information supplied by the art department in the concept models, illustrations and plans. They create a comprehensive visual reference document of shots and blocking that is of use to most departments. The value of accurate storyboards cannot be over emphasized as they streamline the shooting process of what are often difficult sequences. On some productions this role is part of the production department as opposed to the art department.

The swing gang is a group of casual labourers engaged to move sets, scenery and dressings. They assist with dressing and undressing locations under the supervision of the set decorator and dressers. The swing gang members often have a wide range of skills that can accomplish a range of art department needs. It is useful to have amongst this group people with forklift, EWP, and truck licences. On a large production, there is often a permanent swing gang lead who is the organizer and coordinator of this group. Members of the swing gang use their mobile phones and often their own vehicles and tool kits. As such their casual rate should reflect this when required.

Model makers can produce a vast array of items for use on camera. Model makers may produce complete sets at reduced scale or forced perspective for instance. They may produce replica vehicles or most famously scaled sized space ships. Most model makers possess skills in many types of fabrication. Their methods may include,
but are not limited to, sculpting, 3D machining, 3D printing, welding, casting, fabricating, air
brushing, painting, texturing, etc. Model makers may be employed by the art department,
SFX department, props or in a separate model making department. Many overseas
educational Institutions now train model makers but there is as yet no formal training In
Australia. Many model makers are self taught with a background in hobby model building.
Model making requires an aptitude which cannot be taught. There is a large area of cross
over with the roll of prop maker, occasionally the prop makers and model makers work
together using similar techniques. Some personnel fulfil both rolls simultaneously.

The greens person and their department are responsible for providing, installing and maintaining plants and other landscape or agricultural elements. They also provide ground covering materials like mulch, sand and gravel. They work closely with the set decorator. They may also be responsible, in conjunction with the construction department, for any earthworks.

The armourer is a contractor often employed on a daily or weekly basis to supply and supervise firearms and other prohibited or restricted weapons such as certain types of knives, tasers, batons, replica guns, gun butts for holsters etc. Their responsibilities vary from state to state, for example in NSW they are also responsible for providing handcuffs. The amourer must be licensed in the state they are working in or be working in conjunction with one who is. On set, they are responsible for the maintenance of the weapons and the safety of the
actors who are using the weapons on screen. The armourer will work with the safety officer to
double check the safe state of the weapon before handing over to the actors. An amourer
is often required to train or familiarise actors in correct and safe handling prior to the shoot
day. Whenever weapons are required, an armourer must be employed. These items cannot
be provided or supervised by anyone other than a registered armourer.

Use of any animals requires a licensed animal wrangler on set, particularly in the case of native animals. The term “animal” includes all vertebrates, including birds and fish. They provide and supervise all animals – domestic, native and livestock to be used on screen and are responsible for their safety and wellbeing. The animal wrangler is also responsible for advice and supervision of the actors’ interaction with animals, for example facilitating horse riding lessons. They may be required to work with actors in other animal handling training prior to the shoot day. There is considerable paperwork to be completed and provided to bodies like the
RSPCA regarding the intended use of the animals to get the necessary permits required.
Some permits are site specific and take up to 10 days or more to process. This paperwork
will be required to prove any claims in the end credits regarding the responsible
handling and welfare of the animals used. The animal wrangler has the final word
as to the welfare and use of animals on set. They are not permitted to and will not
sedate animals for filming. Technically, animal handlers are not required for invertebrates
such as crustaceans, insects and spiders, but should, in the course of responsible
film making, be employed to handle these too. An animal wrangler is usually a contractor employed on a daily or weekly basis and
their rate reflects the responsibilities, preparatory animal training and expenses
that their job entails.


A construction manager works closely with the production designer, art director and set designers, They are responsible for the timely and cost effective realisation of the designs. They provide the art director with detailed costs for builds based on the drawings they receive. Where appropriate, they should attend location recces, and production meetings. They oversee the whole team of people involved in construction, which includes but is not limited to: foremen or leading hands, carpenters, labourers, trade assistants, runners, steel workers, props makers, scenic artists, painters, set finishers and plasterers. They can either be on staff and set up a workshop specifically for a production or be contractors working from their own premises on a quote for build basis. When quoted, the costs should include build, set finishing, transport to site, erection, strike and disposal. Construction managers working on site will often provide the bulk of plant and equipment
required for the build. A fee for this needs to be negotiated on commencement of the job.
(Outside contractors will include this cost within their quote.) The equipment provided should
be in safe working order and tagged and tested. A full list of items should be provided
to production for insurance purposes. The construction manager will ensure, through their
foremen, that people operating machinery have the proper competencies, experience
and guidance. In all positions listed below, construction department personnel may be required to
use their computer and CAD programs, vehicle, mobile phone and personal hand tools
and should receive appropriate kit allowances and reimbursements.

A stage hand is the construction crew equivalent of a removalist and storeman in one. They move set items from the workshop to the various places required e.g. paint shop, studio or location. They are expert in the packing, moving and transport of construction items such as large heavy finished set pieces, stacks of timber, pallets of paint, plaster etc. Most stage hands have a forklift licence, many have a truck licence. Stage hands attend to the general “housekeeping” duties, keeping workshops and studios clean, access ways clear, and the storage of stock, sets and equipment.

Labourers and TAs are crew who assist around the workshop, studios or locations. They are generally classed as unskilled personnel but may have film specific experience and as such are not just casual labourers. Many hold forklift or truck licences for instance.

Those employed as carpenters have trade experience and skills but may not always have specific set building experience. They work under the foremen, leading hands and set builders to build the sets.

Set builders are the construction crew that fabricate sets. A set builder is most commonly a carpentry based role but not always so, they may also be fiberglassers, steel workers or plasterers etc. Set builders are senior to carpenters and other regular trades persons and have film industry specific knowledge and experience not commonly held by regular industry tradespersons. Many set builders have specialised licences equipment like telescopic handlers, non-slewing crane, rigging, etc. Most set builders have many film credits.

The leading hand’s role is to manage a site or task specific work group. They usually liaise with a specific foreman and the relevant set designer and art director for the set they are working on. They are practical workers as well and will spend the majority of their time working on the construction alongside their group of workers. They will further break down set drawings into specific elements such as flattage, joinery (e.g. windows doors architraves etc.) plasterwork, or fiberglass. The leading hand must attend to every detail making sure the set is built to a high standard and faithfully to the design. They will assign tasks to particular crew they are managing and attend to build timelines. They will also coordinate with other work groups such as plaster or fiberglass to unite all the elements of a set. Leading hands often also manage stock levels of things like timber and hardware reporting to the foremen for re-stocking. It is the leading hand’s job to see their set through to a successful completion.

There may be multiple foremen and there may be two tiers of foremen necessitating a supervising foreman. The roll of the construction foreman is to assist the construction manager and or ‘2IC’ with the day to day running of the construction department. Usually the foremen will be assigned specific sets or a location to manage. They will often manage a specific portion of the construction crew e.g. the joinery shop, the fiberglass shop, the plaster shop, the steel shop or a more general set building crew, or a combination of them. They will, in consultation with the construction manager, break down the set drawings provided by the art department into various elements to be built by their specific crew. They have input into methodology and material choices. The foreman will often be responsible for arranging the hire of plant and machinery required for their build. The foreman usually takes responsibility for site safety, making sure that relevant crew are qualified and hold the correct licences or skills and experience to perform high-risk work. The construction foreman is usually a very experienced member of the construction department.

The construction buyer’s role is to manage the procurement of all the various disparate items required by the department. They will source items at the best price through negotiation and experience. The construction buyer will liaise with the construction manager and the coordinator with regard to purchase administration and cost tracking. The construction buyer arranges the logistics and timely delivery of items required by their department. The buyer in association with the coordinator often manages the construction runner’s daily workload.

The construction coordinator is responsible for the management of the construction department office. They handle most administration related to the department. Usually they will collate all construction crew time sheets, process all purchase orders, liaise with the production accountants, produce cost reports, distribute call sheets to relevant personnel in the department, advise personnel on schedule changes and deadlines, manage the vehicle pool, place orders, hire equipment, contact crew in regard to start dates, place of work, roles involved etc. Like most film industry coordinator positions this is a demanding, fast paced and highly skilled role.

This person assists the construction manager with the day to day functioning and management of the construction department team. The ‘2IC’ will analyze in detail the set drawings provided by the art department and divide up the workload amongst the set builders and carpenters. Importantly, they manage the distribution of the drawings and track amendments, ensuring that their crew is working with the latest version of amended plans. The ‘2IC’ will help costing set builds, managing crew recruitment, ordering materials, tendering set elements to outside contractors etc. The construction ‘2IC’ is usually an extremely experienced member of the construction department.

The scenic artist is a specialist painter and set finisher who is in charge of the painters and brush hands within the construction department. They have comprehensive skills and experience in achieving any finish required and work in many media in addition to just paint. They provide painted backdrops if required and finishes on sets such as texture, ageing, wallpaper, marbling or wood-graining. Scenic artists may also provide original artworks as part of the set decoration.


Special effects (SFX) encompasses a range of physical effects such as fire, smoke, water, wind, explosions, pyrotechnics, bullet hits and rain. They oversee special builds and engineering required such as collapsing structures, gimbles and the preparation of vehicles for collisions and explosions. On set they provide and supervise these physical effects.
The structure of the SFX department will be informed by the script requirements and the
budget of the production. Those employed must have all necessary qualifications, licences
and insurance. Copies of these should be provided to production for their records prior to
shoot. On set there should be someone identified as the SFX supervisor. The SFX supervisor
and safety officer have the final say on safety of crew and performers when any physical
effect is to be employed. They will keep the AD department informed of set up and reset
progress, their requirements of time, safe clearance area and radio use restrictions.
On smaller productions, SFX work under the umbrella of the art department and their budget
is usually an allocation within the overall art department budget. On bigger or SFX heavy
productions, they can be an autonomous department. Either way, they work closely with the
art director regarding their input and requirements.
Special effects source and obtain permits for their works as required. They should also make
any necessary notifications to authorities such as police, fire brigades, CASA etc. It should
be noted that these permits are time and location specific and require lead time to obtain.
Last minute schedule changes can jeopardise the ability to shoot if these permits are not
correctly in place.

The action vehicle department supplies and supervises all vehicles being used on screen. This includes cars, buses, trucks, motorbikes etc. They may also be responsible for watercraft and aircraft. The action vehicle supervisor is responsible for ensuring all vehicles are transported to and standing by on set in good time, that they are fit for purpose, safe, reliable and roadworthy. They maintain and dress vehicles on set. (Petrol, jumper leads and number plates etc) The vehicle department is responsible for safely setting, resetting and positioning vehicles to shot. They liaise with stunts and SFX in the provision and preparation of vehicles for their input. The action vehicles coordinator obtains all relevant permits and paperwork, such as
unregistered vehicle permits. When sourcing vehicles, the coordinator should provide to
production a list of vehicles and values for insurance purposes. They should condition report
all vehicles as soon as they become responsible for them. With production, they should
create an agreement to be used for the hire of private vehicles that stipulates conditions
of hire, complaint resolution and remuneration. When a vehicle is to be used in stunt
work, they are responsible for the safety of cast and crew with the stunt coordinator
and safety officer.

In collaboration with the production designer and concept artists, VFX help determine the
boundaries between physical builds and any digital set modifications and extensions. They
also consult with the production designer and SFX to achieve or augment any physical
effects such as rain, smoke, atmosphere and explosions.
VFX fixes for problems encountered on locations are becoming more cost effective than
any physical build could be, and often a better choice from a design point of view. As this
interaction between the physical and virtual sets increases across all production genres,
it is ever more important for the VFX team to work closely with the production designer to
successfully achieve a unified aesthetic outcome. Much of the work of the visual effects
department (VFX) is produced off site from the main production office and is added after
principal photography is completed. The production needs to facilitate good access for
the two departments to interact across the barriers of location and time. Designers need
good access to the VFX supervisor during shoot and VFX need access to the designer in
post production. This includes the costume and make up and hair designers where their
work is being affected.
Some processes that were once the domain of VFX are becoming available to the post
production house in the edit suite. Small cover ups and screen inserts etc can be achieved
here. Often on set during shoot, it is promised that a problem is ‘an easy fix in post’.
To ensure this happens, the designer needs access to rushes to check for and document
problems that will need correction in post.


RESOURCE: An in depth breakdown of costume department roles can be found here.

The costume designer is the head of the costume department and is responsible for designing the look of all characters including extras. The costume designer and costume supervisor start before other members of the department so they can research the production requirements, generate script breakdowns and begin the budget process. The costume designer creates a visual guide, which includes costume drawings, references and costume breakdowns based on their interpretation of the script. These visual resources are key to achieving a cohesive overall aesthetic and are used to engage the directors, producers and actors in the conceptual development of characters. The costume designer and costume supervisor work with the budget and script to determine
staff, wages and on screen spend to achieve the costume design requirements. The
costume designer goes on to manage the realisation of the costumes, which includes
briefing the buyers and technicians and costume fittings with the actors. Costume fitting
photos are presented for discussion and selection to the director and producers, executive
producers, studio and network, as required. The costume designer always endeavours to be on set to establish new costumes and
new characters.

The role of the costume supervisor is to support the costume designer and manage the financial aspects of the costume department as well as the logistics of staff, materials and workflow. The role is parallel to that of the art director in the art department. They work with the production accountant, production manager and line producers to manage
the costume budget and solve budgetary and logistical problems. A costume supervisor starts
at the beginning of the costume pre-production. They ensure that all the costumes are ready
and available for cast fittings, which they schedule in consultation with the costume designer,
costume makers and the production coordinator. Once a costume has been approved, the
supervisor will ensure that the costume is on set as required by the shooting schedule. The costume supervisor also manages post-production – the packing up or ‘wrap’
of a production. This position requires overtime when shooting as the supervisor prepares for the next shoot
day and finalises extras requirements.

This role is usually required on big budget television productions and feature films where the volume and complexity of the costume requirements mean that the costume designer needs a creative assistant to achieve the brief. The assistant costume designer assists the designer with research and development, fittings, and briefing other members of the costume department on the continuing aesthetic.

A costume illustrator may be required on larger scale productions. They are employed to draw and interpret the costume designer’s ideas to aid the communication process between departments. Depending on the production requirements, this role may be limited to pre-production however, on large scale productions it is a full time position.

A costume coordinator is required on large or complex productions. Their main role is to assist and support the costume supervisor in managing the logistical side of the costume department. It is an administrative position including management of paperwork and data entry required for budget management, sourcing materials and managing staff requirements, timesheets etc. It is important to note that the person in this role does not manage the budget nor are they
responsible for the workflow of the department. It is occasionally the practice to use the
term ‘costume coordinator’ instead of ‘costume supervisor’ to save money on wages. This
is not a fair cost saving measure as the difference in responsibility and skills is considerable.

The costume standby is the costume department’s main representative on set. They take responsibility for correct appearance and functioning of each costume on screen. They track continuity and facilitate special effects, stunts, sex scenes, etc. The costume standby also serves as a conduit of information to the costume designer
and supervisor. They solve problems in real time and take care of both the costumes and
the actors’ wellbeing. A costume standby is often called upon to fix, alter, age or change
a costume according to the director’s wishes at the last minute. It is their responsibility is
to perform these functions as quickly and seamlessly as possible whilst maintaining the
integrity of the design. A standby requires a thorough understanding of all other crew jobs
on set and how the technical and practical demands of filming will affect a costume.

This role exists on large scale productions. Their responsibilities are the same as the costume standby but are limited to one or two characters where the needs of particular costumes and/or actors are so involved that a single person is required to maintain them.

This is the costume standby’s assistant and is responsible for preparing and checking that all costumes are ready for filming as per the designer’s instruction. A costume standby will always work with an assistant costume standby. They are required to prepare costumes ahead of schedule and make sure an actor travels to set wearing the correct costume in the desired way. They often help actors to dress if the costume is complex. This role is also required to undertake costume maintenance such as cleaning, ironing, steaming, mending and alterations. Costume maintenance can be a huge job if there is a lot of rain, mud or blood involved. The assistant costume standby will also go on set to assist the costume standby if their time permits and assistance is required. This is the costume standby’s assistant and is responsible for preparing and checking that
all costumes are ready for filming as per the designer’s instruction. A costume standby will
always work with an assistant costume standby. They are required to prepare costumes
ahead of schedule and make sure an actor travels to set wearing the correct costume in
the desired way. They often help actors to dress if the costume is complex. This role is also
required to undertake costume maintenance such as cleaning, ironing, steaming, mending
and alterations. Costume maintenance can be a huge job if there is a lot of rain, mud or
blood involved. The assistant costume standby will also go on set to assist the costume
standby if their time permits and assistance is require

The costume buyer is responsible for procuring all materials and accessories required for a costume. They photograph, obtain samples, hire or borrow items and buy fabric and clothing according to the costume designer’s brief. There is a strong creative sensibility required for this role as they are required to think laterally and interpret the design brief according to what is available to purchase. Buyers work closely with the costume supervisor who monitors their expenditure and schedule. Costume buyers are responsible for large petty cash floats, which they manage through the
accounts department. Buyers are also expected to have access to a credit card, as many
suppliers who loan items for fittings will only do so with credit card security. In addition to this
there is an ever-increasing amount of sourcing and buying being done on line for which a
credit card is essential. Many productions don’t supply company credit cards, as a result
personal credit card or cash card use is required. All credit card use procedures should be
negotiated with accounts at the outset of the job and not after the event.

This is an entry level role. A costume assistant is a general assistant who moves between office and set depending on which requires the most assistance. Jobs include basic costume maintenance, picking up and dropping off costumes and materials to set or specialist makers/retailers, maintaining a tidy work environment, restocking costumes into stock, tidying the fitting rooms, identifying shortages in materials, junior buying tasks and assisting with art finishing. There is often considerable driving involved, particularly when there is no costume runner in the department.

This is a vital role in the costume department, helping the designer facilitate the unique aesthetic that a production requires. Art finishers possess specialty skills that include: dying fabric and specific color matching required for continuity purposes, aging techniques that are subtle and realistic, textile skills such as screen printing and felting. These techniques combine to give a costume character, detail and believability on screen,
something that is not achievable using new clothes either store bought or newly tailored.
They are also coordinate and communicate with industrial laundries about the technical
details involved in stone washing, enzyme washing and large scale dyeing. Almost all
productions require these skills to some extent. If the budget is tight, engaging an art finisher
may only be possible for a limited period. Although usually based in a workroom at the
production office, the art finisher also works from set to achieve a look in situ if the shooting
schedule requires it. An art finisher requires a kit allowance as most often the tools they require are not covered in
a costume department set up such as dye vats, airbrush and compressors, specialty inks and
dyes. There are also important WHS requirements for this role as the art finisher frequently uses
chemicals and sprays to achieve their aesthetic brief. This requires the production to provide
a well ventilated space with extraction fans as well as a toxic waste storage and disposal
plan, washing machines, dryers and stand up dryers as well as a wet room with proper
plumbing. On larger scale productions the art finisher will also require art finishing assistants.

The extras costume coordinator is required when specific costumes or styling for the extras is part of the design. An often overlooked design requirement, extras help to create the world of a production and as such, controlling their aesthetic is as important as any other aspect of the design. The extras costume coordinator works with extras casting to realise the brief from the
costume designer and director. They liaise with the costume supervisor for all financial,
logistical and practical aspects. They source costumes to be fitted and altered ahead of
time and approved by the costume designer before they are due on set. The extras costume
coordinator is required on set on the day of filming to facilitate the dressing process and
do last minute fittings if numbers, casting or the brief change. On large productions this role
requires assistant(s) and extras costume standbys.

Costume runner is an entry level position in the costume department and as such usually does not require prior experience. The role is to perform the unskilled tasks to enable the skilled crew to concentrate on their particular jobs. A runner will typically do pick-ups and drop-offs between set and the costume department or suppliers. There is often heavy lifting and long hours involved. The costume coordinator or the costume supervisor manages this role. When a runner is specifically required for a workroom, they are answerable to the workroom supervisor.

A workroom supervisor is required on large productions where costumes are manufactured in-house. The workroom supervisor manages the workflow, schedules and materials purchasing for all the various costume makers. They ensure that the costumes are produced on time and are ready to fit, as needed. The workroom supervisor is required to manage financial aspects of the construction process under the instruction of the costume supervisor. Overtime may need to be negotiated for this role if the workload is heavy.

A costume cutter works closely with the costume designer to create a pattern from which a costume is made. Their work examines technical aspects of the design including shape, fit, period techniques and material specifications to draft patterns and realise the costume design. A costume cutter is present in all fittings for costumes they cut. A costume sewer will usually work with a cutter to create the garment. Levels of seniority, skill and experience in this role form the basis of pay rates.

A tailor is a more specialised costume cutter, specific to tailored clothing of both men and women’s suits. The earlier in period a production is set, and the higher the class of the characters, the more tailoring is involved.

This is a specialty role that may be required on large scale productions. It is specific to items of costume that require sculptural elements. For example, pregnancy bellies, armour and sculptural jewellery

A costume sewer works closely with a costume cutter or a tailor to assemble a costume. There are various levels of costume sewers that are paid on a sliding scale defined by their experience and the complexity of the costumes to be made. This is usually a workroom position.

A milliner in the headwear team makes hats, headpieces, helmets and any other specialty items designed to be worn on an actor’s head and are usually required on large scale and period productions. They work closely with the costume designer to realise the headwear designs and attend fittings where they help the actor understand how a piece is to be worn. Importantly the milliner also works closely with the make-up and hair department to ensure
that each piece is worn correctly, particularly when worn in conjunction with wigs where
an actor’s head size and shape could differ from their normal measurements. Getting
headwear right on screen is crucial to the believability of a character’s look. A hat being
worn at an angle that is even slightly wrong can distract a viewer’s eye and make the whole
costume seem unnatural. For this reason, a milliner is sometimes required on set to stand
by on their work.

A shoemaker is usually required on large scale productions. They work with the costume designer to create the footwear. They are often required to create specialty shoes to help with specific needs, such as building heel lifts for short actors or creating shoes to represent something like a clubfoot or a deformity. The shoemaker is present in any fittings that involve their creations.


The make-up and hair designer is the most senior member of the make-up and hair team and designs the look of all hair and make-up involved in the production. They are briefed by the producers, director(s) and studio representatives and collaborate with the production and costume designers to achieve a seamless aesthetic for a production. The make-up and hair designer puts their team together based on the skill-set required for each production and decides who will work on each cast members on a daily basis. Their responsibilities include cosmetic make-up, body make-up, facial hair, hairstyling, wig
work and basic special make-up effects. Where 3D prosthetics are required, the designer
consults with a Special Effects (SFX) make-up artist or studio to create the look and pieces
required. There is considerable crossover between the SFX department and the make-up
and hair department. In addition to the design work, the make-up designer also oversees the budget,
accounts, purchasing of make-up and hair materials and equipment, scheduling and
booking of crew. They attend production meetings, collaborate with the stunt department,
visual effects (VFX), SFX, costume, art department and extras casting to advise of any
specific needs. The designer will also work closely with the assistant director department
to prepare both the daily and advanced schedules and address any issues that may
arise. On large productions some of the administrative tasks may be delegated
to the coordinator or other crew members, but ultimately the responsibility remains
with the designer.

The make-up and hair supervisor/coordinator is responsible for supporting the designer. They manage administrative tasks that include monitoring financial aspects, communicating with the accounts department, sourcing and purchasing make-up and hair materials and equipment and tracking orders. They can also be responsible for ongoing stock-takes, general paperwork and booking additional crew. Depending on their skills, they will also look after cast hair and make-up.

The key make-up artist is a position for a person with over 10 years’ experience. They perform daily make-ups on lead cast members with the assistance of more junior members when required. The key always works to a brief set by the designer and will work along with the designer to execute especially complicated make-up designs. The key make-up, as with other department members, works between set and the
make-up bus/room throughout the shooting day to perform touch ups, repairs as
well as changes to cast looks as dictated by the script or director. They stand by on
set with their lead cast to maintain continuity and also prepare materials and
equipment required for the following day’s shoot. The key make-up artist is also responsible
for maintaining their cast’s facial hair as well as any artificial facial hair on wig lace
or hand laid and is required to remove make up, wigs and prosthetics at the end
of each day. All make-up artists are responsible for the continuity of their cast members and keeping
individual continuity photographs and notes.

The key hairdresser works under the make-up and hair designer. They execute the daily continuity hairstyles and look after the general condition of a performer’s hair. This includes continuity haircuts and colours. However, specialist hair colouring is sometimes necessary. The key hairstylist works with hairpieces, extensions, off the shelf and/or hand made wigs.
They are responsible for fitting, colouring, and cutting for cast and stunt/picture double wigs.
Key hair is also responsible for blocking, cleaning and resetting of wigs and hairpieces at the
end of each day. This can sometimes take up to 2 hours after camera wrap. They will stand by on set with their lead cast and maintain continuity throughout the day.
If the wig requires repair work, it is returned to the wig maker.

A make-up artist has a minimum of 10 years’ experience and works under the position of the key make-up to execute the brief set by the designer. They work with make-up and minor special effects techniques to create the looks required
and are usually responsible for actors in supporting and minor roles. They assist the key and
designer when required. This position is generally required on set as a standby for supporting cast and extras,
maintaining continuity.

A hairstylist is an experienced artist with a minimum of 10 years’ experience who works under the position of the key hairstylist to execute the brief set by the designer and is usually responsible for actors in supporting and minor roles. They assist the key and designer when required. This position is generally required on set as a standby for supporting cast and extras.

(Experience 1-10 years) A make-up and hair assistant has between 1 and 10 years’ experience. They are
required to assist make-up and hair artists as directed by the designer and look after minor
cast and extras.

A trainee is someone with limited skills and experience, with a minimum of 1 year’s make-up school training and up to 5 years’ professional experience. They are fully supervised and trained on the job. They can also work as a personal assistant to the designer who will act as their mentor. A trainee can also come from a college on work experience.

A special effects (SFX) make-up artist can be either a part of the make-up and hair department, an out-sourced specialist or a part of a SFX house/studio. They work to a brief given either by the make-up and hair designer, or by the director and production designer.