Career Trends: Tips for Joining a Film/TV/OTT Art Department

5 min read

Edition: March 30, 2022
Curated by the Knowledge Team of ICS Career GPS

With increasing opportunities in the entertainment industry, a growing number of people are exploring art and production design for films, TV and OTT. (Image Credit: Canva)
  • Excerpts from article by  Prerna Chawla, published on

The entertainment (film, television, OTT) industry attracts a wide net of people with hopes and dreams of becoming the next big blockbuster director or a great actor who is immortalised onscreen. However, we rarely talk about a major contributor, the art department ― made up of skilled artists who create worlds within our world. 

Being a close knit community, little is known about the art department outside the industry.

At the helm of the art department is the production designer.

A production designer is in charge of designing the visuals for the film. They take cues from the director and script, design the spaces that the characters inhabit, colours, textures, and objects that make up what you see onscreen.

Whether you see a tea cup placed by the props person or an establishing shot of Hogwarts, the production designer collaborates with artists to create these visuals. 

How does one get into the art department?

Short answer: There is no single definite way. A lot of people chance upon such opportunities accidentally or get to know about them from someone who works in the domain.

Lately, however, with increasing opportunities in the entertainment industry, there has been a growing number of people immensely fascinated in physically creating environments for films, TV programmes and OTT series. 

Here are some tips that will help you get your foot in the door if you wish to become a part of the art department:

1. Hone your skills: There are a variety of jobs under the umbrella.

  • The art department has a wide variety of jobs, and any skill you already have will be useful.
  • You may be a sculptor, which could easily translate into becoming a propmaker or a fabricator.
  • An architect, too, could transition into the role of an art / set design director.
  • Office coordinators can make it as an art department coordinators, running the department.
  • In short, any education or trade skill can be translated to what is done in the art department.
  • Working toward bettering your skills is a great way to get noticed.

2. Get out there: Establish contact with crews of films you admire.

  • The community has always been very helpful to new comers and if you like how a movie looks, check out the crew names.
  • Social media and IMDb have made it possible to contact artists you admire and sometimes one can get lucky to find a mentor.
  • There are Facebook groups dedicated to our craft around the world.
  • Not only can you get great advice, you will connect with local art department folks who can help you along your journey.
  • As long as you respect a professional’s time and experience while contacting them, people can be very supportive! 

3. Get some experience: Seek art department apprenticeships.

  • The film industry has numerous unions, some of which have apprentice programmes that provide mentorship and on the job training.
  • The Art Director’s Guild (ADG) in the states has the Production Design Initiative.
  • The Directors Guild of Canada has The Guild Apprentice Program (GAP), and Screenskills UK has the Trainee Finder programme.
  • Such programmes pave the way for new talent with practical training. 

4. Present yourself well: Your résumé & portfolio should be precise and well crafted.

  • When applying for any art department position, especially entry-level, make your résumé easy to read and not more than one page.
  • It takes a few seconds for someone to reject your résumé because of frivolous spelling mistakes or the like.
  • If you have a portfolio, always make sure to have one PDF attachment or a website link instead of a few email attachments.
  • They are all visual people, so how you present your work matters. 

5. Have the right attitude: Be ready for rigorous teamwork.

  • While working on a film set, most crew members work a minimum of 12 hour days in a stressful and fast-paced environment.
  • They all do this because they are passionate about the art created and not just to collect the next paycheck.
  • In such circumstances, creating a positive and collaborative environment is of utmost importance.
  • Being a good team player goes a long way.

6. Observe and learn: Observation is key to telling stories.

  • Lee Ha Jun, the production designer of the Oscar-winning movie ‘Parasite’, once said in a panel discussion that even though the cellphone is a useful tool, the images he saw with his own eyes were the ones that helped him in his design process.
  • Observation is key to telling stories ― whether it was something you saw and had a visceral reaction to or a memory from childhood. 

Everyone has a different story about how they got into this world of film production. The more you look around and listen, the more stories you will find that will inspire and guide you.

Have you checked out yesterday’s blog yet?

IT Trends Transforming Education in 2022 and beyond.

(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in the article mentioned above are those of the author(s). They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of ICS Career GPS or its staff.)

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