A Prop Master also called a Property Master is a person who handles the property department of a film, video shoot, movie set, or play. The primary role involves procurement or manufacture of set materials, such as props. Qualified persons must be able to inventory, locate, and safely store finished props and the materials for manufacturing props. The position is very much akin to a project manager of sorts that ensures that all props are available and in good condition when needed.
What to look for
Look for successful work history that matches the type of project for which you are hiring. A Property Master with work experience on music videos will find it very challenging to manage the props for a major motion picture.
Look for Prop building experience. Prop building experience helps to ensure that your key candidate has the knowledge to understand the deepest aspects of producing a set.
Look for someone with outstanding people skills. This is a people-oriented position and team building is a must. Leadership, motivation, artistry, concept development, and diplomacy are key traits.
Know what you need
Will you need special effects?
A profession will understand what the requirements are for special effects, such as fireworks and whether or not local permitting is needed, how to address safety issues, and where to buy the effects that match the director’s vision for the video.
Is this a period piece or stylistic?
It is good to have someone who understands specific periods and the intimate details of that period as a Property Master. This helps to ensure the accuracy of scenes and improves the viewing enjoyment for your viewers.
Is the project shoot indoors, outdoors, or both?
The location of the shoot is critical and it is important that the person who handles the props also understand how to set up a scene in a variety of ways. The best director is limited by the skills of the people who support them. That means a Property Master must understand the intimate details of shooting video of people indoors vs, outdoors.
Questions to ask a potential candidate
How many people have you managed?
Team building and motivation of team members are incredibly important to keep people and task on track and deliverable when they are needed.
How do you handle conflict?
The Property Master is part of the director’s team and responsible for delivering the director’s vision to the crew associated with creating the platform from which the director can create their vision. Being able to handle conflict in a way that produces results is critical.
What areas of props are your expertise?
Some are masters of every department while others may have more experience with prop storage over prop creation or dressing props. Understanding their expertise helps you find the perfect fit.
How do you motivate your team?
Motivation is a key tool for this position. Everyone must work together and under the specific direction of the director for a project to be successful. Understanding how motivation works is key.
What is your experience with budgeting?
Part of what this position does is to handle (usually a large) budget for supplies, rentals, and for labor. Someone with excellent financial understanding, budgeting, and costing is important.