1439315907The Riot Club. Photo: Nicole Dove. © Pinewood Films No7 Ltd.

Art Department Assistant

Industries:
Film
Personality type:
Creative
Departments:
Art Department

The lowdown

  • providing general support to other members of the Art Department
  • working on drawing and model making skills
  • monitoring and ordering art supplies

Is this role right for me?

To do this role, you will need to:

  • learn on the job
  • have basic free-hand and technical drawing skills
  • have basic computer skills
  • take direction and work as part of a team
  • have good communication and people skills
  • show initiative and awareness
  • respond and work quickly under pressure
  • have a strong visual sensibility
  • have a keen interest in design, architecture and film
  • know about relevant Health and Safety legislation and procedures
  • have a full, clean driving licence

What does an Art Department Assistant do?

Art Department Assistants usually start work in the early stages of pre-production and finish approximately a week after the film has wrapped (is completed).

On most films of a modest budget, they fulfil both the role of a trainee, working to improve their drawing and model making skills, and of a Runner, providing support to the Art Department.

In pre-production, they spend most of their time in the drawing studio, making sure that the Draughtsmen have all the necessary materials, including pencils, erasers, foam-core, card, spray paint, glue, detail paper, etc. and ordering any supplies required.

Art Department Assistants also perform basic running duties such as making tea or coffee, fetching lunch for Draughtsmen working at their drawing boards, etc.

They work with Assistant Art Directors to record detailed measurements of locations, and on bigger films help them with the construction of scale models for less complex sets.

Art Department Assistants work closely with the Art Department Co-ordinator, providing back-up and basic running duties between the Art Department office, the drawing and construction studios and the production office.

During filming, Art Department Assistants carry out vital roles, assisting the Standby Art Director and the Art Department Co-ordinator with any last-minute requests or changes to the sets.

They work on a freelance basis.

Will I need a qualification?

You will need to be a graduate in Fine Art, Graphics, Theatre, Architecture or 3D Design.

You can also take a specialist course in Film and/or Theatre Production Design.

If you are considering taking a film production course in higher education, the following courses have been rigorously assessed by the film industry and awarded the Creative Skillset Tick for the high standard of education they provide and the degree to which they prepare you for a career in film:

Film production courses awarded the Creative Skillset Tick

You could also take a short course in draughtsmanship.

Film Design International runs short courses in draughtsmanship for film and television at Pinewood studios.

What’s the best route in?

Competition is stiff and it can be difficult to get a job initially, but if you research forthcoming productions and contact Art Directors, you may get an opening as a Runner/Trainee or Art Department Assistant.

You could apply to be a trainee through Trainee Finder, which gives you hands-on experience in the industry and helps you build those all-important contacts that are essential when competing for a job:

More information about Trainee Finder

Where might the role take me?

The hours can be long, but if you’re a good Assistant who shows initiative and talent, you’ll progress relatively quickly through the ranks of the art department from Junior Draughtsman to Draughtsman and possibly to Art Director.

Interested? Find out more...

Websites

  • British Film Designers Guild - offers membership for every grade of the Art Department, and organises social events, bi-weekly screenings and a monthly newsletter
  • Cine Guilds of Great Britain - brings together major craft guilds of the British Film Industry to discuss matters affecting themselves and the industry generally
  • BECTU - the UK's media and entertainment trade union, covering broadcasting, film, independent production, theatre and the arts, leisure and digital media
  • American Cinematographer - has regular features on film design and digital production techniques

Publications

  • Ken Adam: The Art of Production Design (Faber and Faber) by Christopher Frayling
  • Production Design and Art Direction (Focal Press) by Peter Ettedgui  
  • By Design: Interviews with Film Production Designers (Greenwood Press) by Vincent LoBrutto  
  • Film Architecture: From Metropolis to Blade Runner (Prestel Publishing Ltd). Edited by D. Neumann 2001
  • Filming the Future (Aurum Press Ltd) by Piers Bizony
  • The Invisible Art: The Legends of Movie Matt Painting (Chronicle Books) by M. Cotta Vaz and C. Barron