Assistant Property Master
Just about everything an actor touches or uses in a scene is considered a prop. Taking into account the full run of a two-hour movie, that could amount to hundreds or even thousands of objects. To keep the massive inventory organized and make sure that every item is at the cast’s fingertips when it’s needed, the assistant property master is the right hand of the department.
Under the supervision of the property master, the assistant begins work during preproduction by helping perform a script breakdown and assembling a list of props to be purchased or fabricated. Where necessary, this person carries out research relevant to the historical context of the setting and environment to ensure adherence to the director’s vision. In the absence of the property master during production, the assistant is the department representative on set. In relation to principal photography, the assistant property master ensures all props arrive to the shooting location in a camera-ready fashion and are placed on set to the prop master’s satisfaction. During filming, the assistant maintains prop continuity between scenes. He or she also makes repairs to damaged items or facilitates replacements of props as needed.
Skills & Education
The assistant prop master must have a thorough knowledge of the production process; this includes experience performing a script breakdown and historical research; an understanding of how to source props from rental houses; and experience cataloguing for tracking scene continuity. Artistic and technical skill in the fabrication of original props is also necessary. A college degree in film and television production or theatrical design is beneficial to this career. Where the props department must supply firearms or other weapons for filming, the assistant property master will be required to carry applicable certifications related to acquiring and storing regulated weapons and special effects ammunition.
What to Expect
Assistant property masters typically graduate to the role from another junior position within the art department; this could be as a painter, props technician, faux fabricator, or production assistant. Most crucial to advancing your career is developing positive working relationships with senior department crew. To do this, you must build a reputation for being dedicated, highly organized, and proactive. On set, the pace can be frantic. If you take initiative and do not wait to be ordered around, you’ll become a valued member of the team. In this role, the amount of autonomy you have will be dependent on the property master. In many cases, it will be your role to deal with the minute-by-minute needs during filming. A successful assistant is one who can quickly evaluate and fix problems without having to halt work to hunt down the boss.
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