Set Wireman

  • Set Wireman

Not everything you see on screen is a trick; sometimes flipping a switch to turn on a light is just that simple. Just like an electrician wires a house, film and television sets can include practical wiring. Practical set wiring refers to any electrical apparatus seen on-camera that is actually used, like a table lamp that turns on or a working blender. All power being delivered to the production facilities—for example, to the costume trailer or craft services area—also falls under the domain of practical wiring.


Duties

The set wireman, known as such whether male or female, is responsible for all practical set wiring on film and television productions. This person works under the direction of the gaffer (aka the chief lighting technician) and in collaboration with the generator operator to provide electricity to all departments on location during pre-production and principal photography. He or she is tasked with installing all on-camera electrical fixtures, including the pre-wiring of scenery, sets, and props. This will also require the set wireman to work closely with the property master, set riggers, and grips to plan for wiring time in the shoot schedule, and to ensure the wireman has access to the sets or props to be given power. As instructed by the gaffer, the set wireman may assist in other lighting or electrical setup.

Skills & Education

A college degree in film and television production is recommended but not required for this role; training should include concepts of electrical engineering, high-voltage safety, set construction, and production lighting. This position demands that the technician have an expert-level understanding of electricity and proper wiring standards, as well as a familiarity with power distribution systems and generators. Some productions may require that the set wireman be a licensed electrician as dictated by state or local law, so attaining certification is prudent. This is the job for a tinkerer who enjoys taking gadgets apart and making experimental modifications to home appliances. Often the set wireman is expected to devise ingenious, crafty solutions to impossible problems on a short deadline, so clever problem solvers who thrive in hectic situations are a perfect fit.

What to Expect

The position of set wireman is a freelance, midlevel job that requires some professional experience in film and television production and/or commercial electrical engineering. Prior employment history as an electrical contractor is applicable to this role. On the production side, work as a set lighting technician or generator operator can lead to securing a gig as a set wireman. Technicians in this vocation are eligible to become members of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, the union that represents artists and technicians in theater, film, and television. Membership in unions, guilds, or other associations is an excellent method of networking, learning about potential gigs, and furthering your reputation within the industry.

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