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How Do I Become a Set Dresser?

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  • Written By: Sheri Cyprus
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 30 October 2016
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To become a set dresser working in film, TV or theater, it's a good idea to establish a background in art and design as early as you can. Being a good set dresser means being able to set the desired mood or feeling in a room by paying attention to the details, so practicing doing this can help you gain in-demand skills. Take industry-approved courses in how furnishings, objects and different colors appear on camera. Being a creative, organized person who is also flexible and innovative may help you a lot in your goal to become a set dresser.

Rather than painters who create paintings to be purchased, set dressers must never think that what they do on a set is necessarily finished until it's approved by an art director. They must be able to omit something from their set design and replace it with another item and/or offer new ideas without any notice. Such flexibility in design is essential if you hope to become a set dresser, because the focus must remain on creating a realistic look. You'll have to keep in mind that art directors are looking for realistic-looking details over pure design elements alone.

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Being able to understand the lifestyle of the characters, whether it is a theater, TV or film set, is crucial. You will likely have to not only add furnishings to the set, but also stock the fridge and cupboards with items that makes sense for a certain character in the production. If you want to become a set dresser, you'll have to consider details such as a crafts project a character may be working on, what section of a partially read newspaper to leave open or what medicines to have in the cabinet if he or she is supposed to have a cold in the scene. Being able to inject the character's personality into each set is important.

After graduating from an art college, you may be able to break into set designing on commercials. Getting an entry-level job as an assistant set dresser may be possible after college, as might an internship. Look for an art school that covers design on camera and other aspects of the entertainment industry. If you can, choose a program that includes an internship assisting a set dresser, as this will give you some experience. Conduct informational interviews in the entertainment field and mention that your goal is to become a set dresser.

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