Art Director (Film Television Stage)
Kaihautū Toi (Kiriata Pouaka Whakaata Whakaari)
Art directors plan, organise and control artistic aspects of film, television or stage productions.
Salaries for art directors vary greatly depending on the size, length and budget of the production.
Salaries in the film, television and theatre industries vary greatly depending on the size and length of the production. The overall budget for a production also impacts on the salaries of the crew.
What you will do
The tasks and duties of an art director vary greatly depending on the size, type and budget of the production. However they may do some or all of the following:
- go over the script with the director to plan what sets need to be built
- prepare a budget for the art department
- hire art department crew
- design the set and co-ordinate its building to ensure it happens on time and within budget
- work with wardrobe and make-up departments
- work with special effects companies to design special effects
- book hire-equipment such as specialised props
- prepare a daily breakdown of the script before shooting to confirm all sets and props are complete and in working order.
Skills and knowledge
Art directors need to have:
- an understanding of the film, television and/or commercial production process
- knowledge of the different roles within an art department and how the department operates
- artistic and drawing skills.
Depending on the size and type of production, you may also need specific skills such as carpentry, painting, sculpting or mould making.
- work varying hours depending on the size, location and filming schedule of the production. It is common for art directors to work long hours that may include early mornings and weekends
- work indoors in studios, and outdoors on location
- may need to travel nationally and internationally to different filming locations.
What's the job really like?
Joe Bleakley - Production designer/Art director
"When you're working on a film that you really like, really believe in, and really think should be made, then that's the most wonderful thing," says Joe Bleakley, who has been working in the film and television industry for around 30 years.
Creating the directors vision
"In the purest sense, the director will have a vision based around the script, and it's the job of the art director to create everything that the camera sees in line with what the director wants the film to look like."
King Kong and Lord of the Rings
Over the years Joe has worked in various roles on numerous films, including The Lord of the Rings trilogy, Perfect Strangers and the re-make of King Kong. "I was an off-set art director on The Lord of the Rings and also on King Kong, so my work was focused on getting the sets ready before filming."
Getting into the industry
Joe's advice for anyone wanting to get into the art department of a film crew is to look at films and see what interests them. "There's a starting point for almost anyone, but you need to be able to define the area that you think you've got the most skills in and go for it."
To become an art director you usually need to have progressed through other roles within an art department to gain the necessary skills, knowledge and experience. A driver's licence is also usually required.
A tertiary qualification in any type of art/craft, drafting or textiles subject may be useful. A qualification in film, television or theatre production may also be useful.
Useful secondary subjects include art, history, art history, graphics/technical drawing and textiles.
Art directors need to be:
- imaginative, creative and artistic
- good communicators
- good at research
- able to lead, manage and motivate people
- able to work well under pressure
- well organised, with good planning and time management skills
- adaptable, and able to multi-task
- good at budgeting and financial planning.
Useful experience for art directors includes:
- film, television or theatre production
- any type of construction work
- creative pursuits such as painting or sculpting.
Find out more about training
- Screen Production and Development Association of NZ (SPADA)
- (04) 939 6934 - firstname.lastname@example.org - www.spada.co.nz
What are the chances of getting a job?
The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment estimates there were just 273 people working as art directors in New Zealand in March 2012, up from about 224 in March 2007. While the number of people in the role has been increasing, it remains a small occupation, and competition for jobs is usually high.
Opportunities growing as more films and television programmes are made in New Zealand
The number of films and television programmes being made in New Zealand has grown, creating more opportunities for art directors. In 2011, 11,219 hours of local television content were made, up from 10,784 in 2007. The growth in the number of films made in New Zealand over the last decade has also created more opportunities for art directors.
Strong competition for jobs in film and television production
Competition for art director jobs is high, partly due to an oversupply of students graduating with film and television qualifications.
Your chances of securing work as an art director are higher if you have experience in entry-level film and television production jobs such as an art department runner, which can lead to an art department assistant role, and then onto a specialty area such as a props buyer or set dresser.
Types of work varied
Art directors may work independently, for production companies, or for advertising agencies. They may work on:
- music videos
- television commercials
- corporate videos
- television productions
- theatre productions
- Web-based video clips
- short or feature films
- Copland, F, executive director, Screen Directors Guild of NZ, Careers New Zealand interview, March 2014.
- Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, '2003-2012 Occupation Data' (prepared for Careers New Zealand), 2012.
- Ministry of Social Development, 'The Social Report', 2009, (www.socialreport.msd.govt.nz).
- New Zealand Film Commission, 'Feature Films Made in New Zealand Since 1939', accessed April 2010, (www.nzfilm.co.nz).
- New Zealand On Air, 'Local Content Report 2011', June 2012, (www.nzonair.govt.nz).
- Statistics New Zealand, 'Screen Industry in New Zealand 2007', 2008, (www.stats.govt.nz).
Progression and specialisations
Art directors usually specialise in film, television commercials, or stage productions.
Last updated 9 June 2017