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What Is a Property Master?

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  • Written By: Cassie L. Damewood
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 30 August 2014
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A property master is the person in charge of the objects, gear and miscellaneous items necessary to produce theatrical plays, television shows or films. These items, commonly referred to as props, typically include every physical aspect of the set that is touched by actors except the costumes and weapons, which are generally the responsibility of the costume designer and weapons master, respectively. Items not touched by actors are normally referred to as set decoration.

Before the production gets underway, the property master typically meets with the production staff to determine the props that are needed. She normally confers with the production designer, set decorator, camera operators, director and script supervisor to assess their specific needs. The group normally exchanges ideas on what props are most appropriate for different scenes.

During this initial meeting, she commonly makes a list of the needed props. The props generally fall under one of four categories, generally including set, trim, hand and food. This list generally gets broken down into smaller lists, indicating what props are in stock as well as which need to be created from scratch, require purchase or can be borrowed. A thorough examination of the existing inventory of props normally follows to confirm the condition and availability of needed objects.

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If items are borrowed, the property master is generally expected to maintain accurate records of the transaction and promptly return borrowed goods. In the event a prop needs to be manufactured or purchased from a retail store, the property master deducts the cost from her production budget. Any purchases that exceed her budget typically must be pre-approved by the producer.

As the rehearsals for the production proceed, the property manager is customarily present to determine the viability of the props. If she notes, for instance, that a certain prop is too large for an actor’s hand or too small to be clearly seen by the audience, her job is to replace it with an appropriate size. She is generally expected to scrutinize every prop to make sure it adds to the quality and continuity of the production, and the actors are comfortable with it.

A property master position does not normally require any specific level of education. Many property masters have high school, college or community theater experience in production or set design. Completed classes in theater, television or movie production are generally desirable for property master job applicants. The ability to work with diverse personalities and availability to work long and irregular hours are considered assets for seekers of this position.

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