We interviewed a professional production designer who had been working in theatre, film, and television since 1990.
What fascinated you in to production design?
I had always loved theatre as a child since she saw I saw my first pantomime. When I realised I had a natural ability for art, it made sense to become a theatre designer.
What sort of problems did you encounter?
It’s a very competitive industry, you have to be highly ambitious and really good skills to succeed, and also you work on a self-employed free lance basis which means you have to find your own work. You have to be disciplined with cash flow.
What qualifications did you take?
You have to have aptitude for art and design; it helps to be interested in history as well. The other qualifications are 3D design; this is the subject you have to be strongest in. I had also done a bachelors degree in theatre design, a master’s degree in Film/TV design. I had done a foundation course before the subjects. All of these took me 6 years.
How do you deal with finding work?
You have to get yourself an agent to find you work who then takes a percentage of your pay as a fee. You should also network with the people in the industry.
How much did you get paid?
The pay is very good in film and television, especially in commercial work. In commercial work, you can get over £600 a day, this is because it’s a free lance job, and you have to balance periods of unemployment.
What are the pros and cons of being a designer?
The pros for being a designer is that it’s extremely varied, you are always doing something different. It’s also extremely creative. You also get paid well when you are the head of the department, and the best thing is that you get to travel a lot.
The challenging parts of being a designer are that it’s a very high responsibility and stress; you also have to manage tight budgets and deadlines. The job is very insecure as you may not get employed for a long time. This is a very demanding job it may take over family life.
Have you ever had a bad review?
Yes actually once. This was due to a technical issue about sight lines. You have to make sure the entire audience can see the stage.
What’s it like showing your work to an audience?
It is very exciting, especially in some nights, when you sit amongst the audience and they have a positive reaction. You realise that you have a significant impact in how much the audience enjoys and understands the performance.