What does a Set Decorator do?
The set decorator is responsible for the set decoration department. They are in charge of bringing a set to life based on the vision of the director. Whether it is an existing location or a built set, the set decorator is responsible for procuring items for dressing the set: furniture, décor, carpet, tile, painting, artwork, drapery, greenery, playground, etc.
The set decorator is notoriously confused with the prop master position who deals with the objects that actors actually handle. In other words, the set decorator deals with the background of the action. They purchase, rent, or have the construction coordinator build whatever is needed to bring the script's world to life.
During pre-production, they work closely with the director and production designer to establish the film's look, style, and feel. They start by breaking down the script. Next, they think of ways on how they can enhance storytelling through world-building.
Once principal photography begins, the set decoration department preps the location the day before the shoot. On lower budget films, the day before prep may not be feasible if the budget cannot afford it. However, if the set requires a monumental setup, the line producer needs to allocate funds for that prep day in the budget. Once production is done with the location, the set decorators are responsible for restoring the site to its original condition. Again, if the set had a grand setup, the line producer may need to allocate funds for a wrap day.
On smaller productions, this position is usually combined with the set dresser position.
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