What is a Property Master & What’s Their Role on the Film Set?
The Property Master or Prop master is responsible for controlling various aspects of the property departments including production inventory, maintenance of props, allocation, and return of props and various budgeting needs. Property masters procure property for production, take care of props during the production, and ensure that all necessary property is available on-time and returned on-time according to the negotiated contracts with rental companies or other vendors.
Property masters will oversee staff members ensure that the property departments run smoothly and that high standards regarding accuracy and detail are met. Their job is to work with production designers and the art department to ensure that property is recruited and procured for the set needs. These individuals generally come into the production 5 weeks or more before the principal photography takes place.
Property Master Responsibilities
Property Masters have several responsibilities in the production including working with design and fabrication to ensure props are acquired and ready for the production. They lead the property department and work under the supervision of the director, art director, and production designer. Their work begins in the pre-production phase when they initially receive the script.
The property master breaks down each scene and identifies any necessary items or property that will be required to bring the set to life. They must have a background in history and knowledge of all sorts of cultures, locations, genres, and props. Strong associations with local rental vendors and props sales are a must.
Property masters determine which props may be acquired through a rental company, which should be purchased, and which could be created by the production team. They are involved in most preliminary design meetings where they provide feedback into the overall aesthetic details of the production to ensure a cohesive visual look throughout the movie, show, or video.
The property master may carry out research into period props, various styles of props, furniture, and other needs that will make the film realistic. This includes the use of the internet, archives, books, photos, and other resources to determine properties that should be included in a set. Property masters procure various set items and must, therefore, have strong negotiation skills in order to negotiate contracts for said property with vendors.
They are often seen liaising with production buyers where they allocate budgets that are used to purchase, hire, or create props while staying within budget and schedule for the production. These individuals prepare the production schedule for their department and work closely with other members of the team to ensure daily schedules are followed and production property tasks are seamlessly being completed.
The Property Master loads, transports, and stores all props leading up until production. They are responsible for the safety and security of these items in between shoots and up until they are returned to their owners or sold for the recuperation of at least some of the budget that was used to procure them. Masters oversee the condition of all props and organize the appropriate sale or distribution of those that are not rented or disposed of.
Property Masters Skills
Essential skills of the property master include an ability to communicate well with others and the ability to negotiate contracts for property. They must be able to manage large projects and keep track of sometimes several hundred or even thousand items that are not theirs. They should be motivating and strong in order to move set property from place to place.
Additionally, property masters must have the following skills:
- Leadership skills.
- Strong written and oral communication skills.
- Ability to plan and manage time wisely.
- Ability to handle multiple projects and multitask with ease.
- Ability to drive from place to place to procure and return property.
- Strong financial skills and the ability to remain on budget.
- Good computer skills to keep track of property spreadsheets and other related documents as well as to research property needs.
- Knowledge of appropriate health and safety standards as they pertain to the set.
- Ability to manually move property in a physically demanding environment.
American Theatre Wing uploaded a fantastic video about Prop Masters and their role in film: