This entry-level position in film, television, and live production works within the scenic or construction department and is vital to the efficient operation of the scene shop and to building of sets during pre-production.
The carpenter’s assistant answers directly to the lead carpenter and construction foreman, and is under the supervision of the construction coordinator, the head of the department. The responsibilities of the assistant include moving and storing of construction materials within the shop or on location and the general cleanliness of the facility. Typical tasks may include sweeping the shop, cleaning tools, and generally ensuring a safe working environment by keeping workspaces clear of obstructions or a buildup of sawdust that may pose a fire hazard. This person will also perform additional tasks as delegated by carpenters or other department crew. He or she is to adhere to all procedures established by the department head and may be required to provide a minimum of personal protection equipment and hand tools while on the job site.
Skills & Education
Employment as a carpenter’s assistant requires only a high school diploma, but advancement within the scenic department will require an advanced education. Degrees in film and television production or theatrical design with an emphasis on scenic construction are recommended, though equivalent professional experience will suffice. Training in stagecraft is most important to this career field and involves learning the construction techniques commonly used in entertainment production as well as the use of shop tools and construction materials. Additional courses in art history, drawing, sculpting, and computer drafting are valuable.
What to Expect
The role of the carpenter’s assistant may be freelance and hired during pre-production, or this person can be employed full-time at a scenic shop that caters to film, television, and live productions. This is not a glamorous job, but it is the standard entry-level gig for those looking to learn the trade of stagecraft and advance to the role of scenic carpenter. Consider this an apprenticeship that allows you the opportunity to seek mentorship under industry veterans in your chosen craft. Dedication and hard work displayed in the menial tasks of the assistant will prove to your employer that you have the necessary passion and drive to succeed at the next level on the crew. When you’re on the job, never complain; those whom you work for expect you to treat the job as a privilege and appreciate every trashcan you empty. It is all part of paying your dues. Never wait to be asked to help. The more proactive you are and the less supervision you require, the more trusted you would be to take on more responsibility.
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