Prop masters, or property masters, make sure that actors have the right props when they need them while staying within budget. Prop masters usually work in offices for production companies or freelance for multiple organization and report to production designers, managers, and directors.
Property masters have a variety of tasks throughout the production process. Their general duties include:
Prop masters are responsible for a production’s props before, during, and immediately after filming. According to prop master Elisa Malona, these professionals work with objects that actors interact with rather than static items, which are considered scenery rather than props.
Prop masters typically start working five weeks before a production’s principal photography starts. This position can be stressful but extremely rewarding, and they need to be able to handle a lot of different responsibilities if they want to be a great prop master.
Work for a prop master begins long before a production’s rehearsals start. Responsibilities during the pre-rehearsal period include:
A prop master’s vision starts taking shape when they begin building props. Typical responsibilities for prop masters during this time include:
There is more work required before a production’s technical rehearsals begin. Here are some of a prop master’s responsibilities during pre-technical rehearsals:
Once technical rehearsals begin, prop masters start working with people who will use props during production. Their responsibilities during this period include:
During production, a prop master’s extensive preparation comes to fruition. Their work continues throughout the run of the production with the following responsibilities:
The strike process is the part of post-production where crews strike, or dismantle, the set. A prop master is active during this process with the following responsibilities:
Prop masters rely on a variety of skills to succeed in their roles. Some of these are innate skills, while they may learn others in school and through on-the-job experience. Some of the skills prop masters require include:
Working as a prop master is not an entry-level role. While they don’t need specific qualifications, earning a fine art, design, or film degree can help prop masters secure work. Prop masters should also gain firearm certification. This training helps them safely work with guns and other weapons and allows them to teach their skills to actors and stunt people. They also need a full driver’s license to transport props from suppliers to rehearsal spaces and sets.
After graduation, prop masters typically work in a props department for several years. The following are common entry-level roles for aspiring prop masters:
Working on a range of different projects in various genres helps prop masters advance in their careers.
Working as a prop master is an exciting challenge, as every project and production can differ dramatically. The skills prop masters use can transfer to other industry roles, as well, including makeup, special effects, and set decoration.
Prop masters usually work full-time hours while they’re engaged in production. However, their schedules may change depending on the production’s needs. They may also have periods of time between productions when they do not have to work.
Prop masters spend most of their time in offices with access to a desk with a computer, internet, and a phone. They also work in scene and costume shops, rehearsal spaces, and on set. According to prop professional Joanna Tillman, you need to be a savvy shopper to be a prop master, so the job often involves long hours browsing the internet for the right props.
Working as a prop master can be physically demanding. Prop masters need excellent mobility for carrying large props, crawling into tight spaces, and climbing ladders and stairs. They should be able to lift 50 pounds on their own, or between 100 and 200 pounds with others. They should also have good eyesight to distinguish colors, patterns, and textures.
With the right skills and experience, you can enjoy a rewarding career as a prop master.
You can learn more about film and how you can improve your skills by applying to the Nashville Film Institute here.