Construction Foreman

  • Construction Foreman

Scenery is one of the most comprehensive visual elements of a film or television production. Sets establish a time and place but can also become characters in themselves, with great craftsmanship and effort put forth to providing an immersive environment in which the cast plays out the story. Just consider for a moment the iconic places audiences have traveled through scenery, like the bridge of the Starship Enterprise or the untamed and ominous ruins of Kurtz’s Cambodian compound. 


Duties

The construction foreman answers to the construction coordinator and is responsible for overseeing the crew of carpenters in building sets and scenery for film and television productions. This person should be able to perform the duties of the coordinator and supervise the department in his or her absence. On large productions with a significant number of crewmembers within the department, the foreman acts much in the same fashion as a foreman on a residential or commercial construction project. He or she delegates specific tasks to the carpentry crew, ensuring that all projects are accomplished in accordance with the designs set forth by the production designer and art director and that all scenery is completed on deadline. When working on a small production with few carpenters, the foreman may do a considerable amount of the construction while assigning additional tasks to the rest of the crew.

Inevitably, glitches will arise on the job; it is the foreman’s duty to mitigate issues that could delay production. Such hindrances could include encountering an unforeseen structural design flaw or a delay in receiving necessary construction materials. The foreman will work with the coordinator and other members of the crew to quickly devise a solution and get the team back to work. If the production designer, set designer, or other senior personnel is not available to consult on design matters, the foreman and coordinator have the authority to make decisions on the fly. The construction foreman is also responsible for managing personnel within the department, mediating internal conflicts and addressing performance issues. It is the foreman’s job to see that the crew is working effectively and efficiently to ready the production to begin on time.

Skills & Education

Practical experience in carpentry is necessary, which can include commercial and residential construction. A specific college degree is not required, though degrees in theatrical design or film and television production with an emphasis on scenic design are encouraged. The foreman must understand the basic principles of construction, as well as the standard techniques regularly employed in the fabrication of sets and scenery. Other proficiencies include familiarity with the proper use of manual, electrical, and pneumatic shop tools and the ability to accurately interpret blueprints. Some experience in the use of software like AutoCad is beneficial. The foreman should be an effective leader, capable of training and educating others, offering guidance to the carpentry crew.

What to Expect

This is a senior-level position within the construction department, which requires significant work history in film and television production. To seek advancement to the role of construction foreman, one should first gain experience as a carpenter’s assistant or entry-level carpenter. From there, accumulating credits on film and television productions can lead to opportunities to work as a lead carpenter, and eventually to the foreman position. You should expect a significant amount of manual labor working in a scenic shop, where the work is often dirty, sweaty, and somewhat hazardous. There is an inherent risk to personal safety when working in construction of any kind, but proper training and attention to your task can avert accidents.

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