Film Industry

Prop Master Guide: What Is A Prop Master & How Do I Become One?

Photograph of the blog post author, Sam Jones

Sam Jones

24.6.2021

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Behind each good movie is an excellent prop master. This often-overlooked aspect to a film’s production is as essential as any, and can make a film into an inonic piece of work.  

Star Wars props made by a prop master

When looking at the makings of a film we tend to focus on production, cinematography, and set design. Props are something we see in every film but are usually taken for granted and their impact is less considered. Of course, without props, a film would be lifeless and boring. 

Here we want to highlight the hard work undertaken by prop masters and how you could become one. We will discuss the details of the role; what is required to become a prop master, where to find prop master jobs, and the associated salary. 

What Is A Prop Master? 

A prop master

Prop masters have control over any movable objects on a set. Also referred to as property, they run the property department and navigate all making, storing, transporting, and positioning of all props.

Prop masters have a considerable role to play when it comes to film and TV sets. Often the unsung heroes of production, this high-pressure role has a huge part to play. 

What Does A Prop Master Do? 

Now we’ve touched on what a prop master is, we”ll look more closely at what is required of them. 

Before Production Starts

Acquisition by a prop master

Prop masters coordinate every aspect involved in any single prop on set. Usually starting work weeks before production starts, they liaise with directors, set decorators, and production coordinators to plan props.

After completing the research a prop list drafted, listing the details of every prop that will be needed during production. Depending on the era and location of the plot, prop masters will research the appropriate designs associated with that setting. 

Prop Acquisition 

Acquiring film props

Following this comes the acquisition of those props. All within a budget, prop masters will now have to source everything on the prop list. Depending on the size of production, they might buy, rent, and make the props required. However, often for larger productions they have a prop team dedicated to designing and making all the desired props. Food stylists are commonly hired for larger production but if not, prop masters are also demanded to source all the appropriate food for the set.

It is also worth mentioning that these individuals have to oversee any animals involved on set. They are expected to find and contact animal vendors to source animal acting that may be required. 

Of course, backups are needed for every prop on set. Breakages often occur and a whole scene’s production can’t be put on hold because of a broken prop. Working all within a budget and deadlines, all the props have now been sourced and production can begin. 

On Set 

Prop masters on the set of a Western film

Now that all the props are acquired, what does a prop master do on set? Now they coordinate all the storing and positioning of props throughout the whole production. Health and safety have a huge part to play here with potentially hazardous objects on set.

Prop masters have complete responsibility for every aspect involved and will have a crucial part to play during filming. 

How To Become A Prop Master

Now you know what a prop master does! When thinking of films we often think of props in passing but not the efforts behind them. Now your understanding of the tasks involved has been broadened, we hope you have a new appreciation of them. 

Knowing more about the role, does being a prop master sound like the perfect job for you? Despite the demanding work, they can turn their imagination into real-life objects that create the illusion of anything from fantasy worlds to war zones. If you’re reading this and can feel your creative itch trying to break free, maybe prop master is the perfect occupation for you. We will now discuss how to become one and how viable it may be for you. 

There is no singular best way in working towards a prop master role. We will talk about the main ways and how you can achieve them. It is worth noting that the role of prop master is not entry-level. Generally, vast experience is required for this demanding role and can be highly competitive. However, in this is your dream job there are two main ways of entering the role, and qualifications aren’t the be-all and end-all. 

Despite your qualifications, certain qualities will be necessary for becoming a candidate. As the role of prop master encompasses many different aspects, a variety of strongly exercised skills will be needed. Financial planning, creativity, leadership skills, and IT skills are some key traits that will be required for any prop master role despite the level of production. 

What Qualifications Do You Need To Become A Prop Master? 

Prop master degree

Gaining associated qualifications is the usual way of getting into a prop master role. Arts, design, and film schools are often sought-after institutions for potential candidates. Institutes like Oxford University and the University College London are the top schools for arts and design courses and have made some top prop masters. But university-level degrees are not the only qualifications on offer. Many courses offer skills involved with arts and design which are appropriate for entering any role involved in props.

However, no matter the institute you attend or qualifications you gain, entering straight into a prop master role is very unlikely. Arts and design courses can only prepare you for the technical aspects. Organising props for live sets is a whole different story and something that can only be improved on with experience. Entering lower skill roles like storeman and assistant prop master is a usual way of gaining this experience. Having these qualifications makes entering that first role a lot easier and highlights you as a potential candidate to progress. 

Apprenticeship 

A prop master apprenticeship

Another way of gaining access to this role is through completing apprenticeships. Despite being rarer within this specific role, apprenticeships are an extremely good way to start your prop master career.

Giving you real-life experience and knowledge within the world of props can make you a more prominent candidate than one who simply has qualifications. Of course, these options completely depend on your position but we want to highlight that attending highly regarded arts and design schools is not necessary. 

How To Become A Prop Master Without Qualifications

An impressive build by a prop master

Maybe you want to become a prop master but don’t have the associated qualifications or the means to gain them. Don’t worry! Your dream job could still be on the horizon. 

Experience is key for this role. Like we previously said, even with qualifications, the experience will be needed to enter a prop master job. Working your way up the ladder in film prop jobs may be a slightly longer route, but potentially more viable. Roles working with standby props and dressing props can be the perfect way to gain the required experience. Being lower-skilled roles generally higher qualifications aren’t needed and a passion and interest in the industry are all that is required.

If a prop master is your true calling, your skills and dedication will undoubtedly make you a top candidate for promotions getting you one step closer every time. Volunteering in any role involved with art and design will aid you in entering these entry-level roles and can be a great way to get a feel for what working with props is really like. 

As we said, qualifications are not necessary for gaining experience to become a prop master. However, if you want to become a proper master for sets like Star Wars or Game of Thrones, you’re likely to require a top art and design degree. Having to organise a monumental number of props and a huge team for big film sets is a role only for the best of the best. This is certainly not the case for smaller productions but is worth noting depending on the end goal of your prop master career. 

Where To Find A Prop Master Job?

Now you know what is required of you to become a prop master all you need to do is go out and get that all important experience! But we know finding a job is easier said than done.

Here we will break down the usual means of finding a prop master job and share with you some resources. 

Freelance 

Star Wars has some of the industry's most impressive prop master creations.

Freelance work is common within prop masters. With film production being so varied for different films within a single production company, prop masters can be acquired due to their past works. Having worked successfully on a past film that is similar to a new production can make you the obvious option and might result in you being scouted for. 

Gaining Experience 

prop master

Working your way up the ladder without qualifications is broader when discussing the most viable way to find appropriate roles. Simply working in your local theatre or small film production company can be the start you need.

Fixed positions are less common for prop master roles but can come up from time to time and can be a more stable option for a career. 

Online Resources 

Usual job hunt pages like Indeed can be a viable way to find a job within film production and prop master roles. However, there are other career websites targeting film production offering more variety within the industry. Sites like Skreenskills and Production Hive are solely dedicated to advertising production, film, and tv roles and useful information and news about the industry. 

Prop Master Salary UK

What kind of salary can a prop master expect?

Becoming a prop master should be because you love what is involved with the role. You should want to dedicate yourself and be strongly passionate about film production. With such high-demand tasks and pressure, this is not a role that should be sought after solely because of salary. Saying that, even if this is your passion of course the salary is a big factor. If film prop is your life but the salary cannot sustain you, of course this is not a viable career route for you. 

We bet you’re wondering, actually how much do prop masters make? This depends completely on the scale of the production you’re working on and what is expected of you. Overall though, a prop master salary uk can be substantial and maybe more than you think. 

The expected salary of a prop master role is £30k-£60k. This might be very tempting but is a deserving wage for what is required. The scale of production will dictate if you earn the higher or lower end of that estimation. More commonly freelance prop masters are paid depending on their day-to-day work often earning from £190 to £375 a day! As much as both the annual and freelance salary are substantial by any means, prepare yourself for a considerably lower salary when first entering the role. 

Now You Know How To Be A Prop Master 

Harry Potter's prop masters were in charge of all kinds of magical trinkets and charms

And that’s a wrap! We’ve discussed everything associated with a prop master role and how it could be your next dream career. 

There is no singular best way to become a prop master but experience and skills are key. Having a strong passion for film production is a must with high-pressure tasks expected of you. If you can work through months of planning, organising, sourcing, and executing, the rewards from this role can be fulfilling. If your dream is to turn ideas into a visual reality, then you have the drive needed to become a prop master. Turning directions into real life visual content is a creative’s dream and can turn a career from a mundane task to a life passion. 

We hope you enjoyed this article and now deeper understand the role of prop master and what is required of them. If film production is your passion and throughout reading this article think you have what it takes, your new prop master role might be just around the corner. 

Here’s a few other articles that might interest you: Film Production: A Guide On The 7 Stages Of Film Production, Movie Props: 11 Of The Most Famous Movie Props, or The Best Film Production Companies In The UK.

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