et decorators play a unique and vital role in film and television production. But what does a Set Decorator do, exactly? They are the artists behind the scenes, creating the physical world in which the characters exist. The importance of set decoration in storytelling cannot be overstated; it provides depth to the narrative, enhances the mood, and aids in character development. Let’s get into it!

Watch: Tim Burton's Eccentric Set Design 

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What Does a Set Decorator Do in Film?

First, let’s define Set Decorator

Before diving into the details of the pivotal role a Set Decorator plays in film and television production, let's look into a more precise definition of this crucial job.


What is a Set Decorator?

A Set Decorator is a professional responsible for decorating the film set. This includes selecting, designing, and sourcing the furniture, drapery, lighting fixtures, artwork, and countless other objects that populate the sets. It's important not to confuse a Set Decorator with a Production Designer or an art director. While they all contribute to the overall look of the project, their roles differ. 

The production designer oversees the entire art department and develops the visual concept of the production, while the art director manages the construction of the sets. The Set Decorator, however, is in charge of everything that goes inside those sets.

The Set Decorator conceptualizes and sources the elements needed to dress a set, while the set dresser physically arranges these elements on the set under the decorator's guidance.


What Does a Set Decorator Do in Film?

  • Studying script and history
  • Procuring set objects
  • Coordinating with the director and designer
  • Managing post-production set cleanup

Set Decorator Job Description

What does a Set Decorator do in film?

The tasks of a Set Decorator are many can be divided into three main phases: pre-production, production, and post-production.

For a quick reference on what does a set decorator do, check out this mood board we made in StudioBinder. Click the image to see the entire collection of sets.

Set Decorator Moodboard  •  See the entire collection

Reading Scripts to Understand Story and Setting 

Before any actual decorating happens, a Set Decorator must read and understand the script. This helps them grasp the story, its setting, and what kind of ambiance needs to be created. For example, take a look at this still from Knives Out

Note how every aspect of this set has been intentionally placed and curated. How does this fit the story? The characters? This is an important aspect of the Set Decorator’s role.

What Does a Set Decorator Do in Film — Role Explained Set decorator responsibilities Knives Out example

Set Decorator responsibilities  •  Knives Out example

Researching Historical, Cultural, and Practical Details for Authenticity 

Depending on the script, Set Decorators might need to research different historical periods, cultures, architectural styles, or interior design trends to ensure the set's authenticity.

How the set decorator helps tell the story

Purchasing, Renting, or Creating Required Set Pieces 

Once the research is done, the Set Decorator sources all the items needed to dress the set. This could involve purchasing, renting, or even creating unique pieces to fit the story.

Career as a Set Dresser (Film)

Collaborating with the Director and Production Designer to Achieve Aesthetic 

The Set Decorator works closely with the director and production designer to make sure the set aligns with the overall visual concept of the production. 

Ensuring Safe Removal and Storage of Set Pieces

After filming wraps up, it's the Set Decorator's responsibility to ensure all set pieces are safely removed and stored, especially if they're rented or will be reused in future productions.

Function of a Set Decorator

How to become a Set Decorator

Becoming a Set Decorator involves various routes, often based on personal interests, skills, and opportunities.

Formal Education 

Many set decorators have degrees in related fields such as art, design, film studies, or theater. This gives them foundational knowledge about visual aesthetics, storytelling, and practical aspects of set design and production design. 

To learn more about the role of production design and its importance in story and film, check out our video breakdown.

Production Design — Filmmaking Techniques for Directors: Ep2


Internships provide hands-on experience and can be an excellent opportunity for networking. Interns may assist with tasks like research, sourcing materials, and dressing the set under the supervision of experienced professionals.

Entry-level positions in Art Departments 

Many Set Decorators start their careers in entry-level jobs within art departments, such as set dressers or prop assistants. This offers valuable industry experience and insights.

What Does a Set Decorator Do in Film — Role Explained Bridgerton Set Dressing

Bridgerton  •  Set Dressing


Some Set Decorators start as freelancers, working on smaller projects like plays, musicals, operas, or low-budget films. This can help build a portfolio to showcase their work and creativity.

Continued Learning and Skill Development 

The field of set decoration is constantly evolving, so ongoing learning is crucial. This could involve attending workshops, taking online courses, or staying updated with industry trends and technologies.


Building relationships with industry professionals can lead to job opportunities. This can be done through attending industry events, joining professional associations, or online networking.

What Set Decorator Jobs Pay

Set Decorator salary

The salary of a Set Decorator can vary widely depending on several factors, including the scale of the production, the decorator's level of experience, and the location of the project.

According to PayScale, as of 2021, the average salary for a Set Decorator in the United States is approximately $55,000 per year. However, it's important to note that this is an average figure, and entry-level Set Decorators may earn less, while those working on large-scale productions or with extensive experience can earn significantly more.

In addition, many Set Decorators work as freelancers or on a contract basis, which means their income might fluctuate based on the number and type of projects they work on each year.

Lastly, benefits such as health insurance and retirement plans are often dependent on whether the Set Decorator is a member of a union, like the Set Decorators Society of America (SDSA) or the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE). These organizations often negotiate for better pay and benefits on behalf of their members.

Resources for Becoming a Set Decorator

Find Set Decorator jobs

There are several reliable resources for finding Set Decorator jobs, ranging from general job search websites to industry-specific platforms. Here are some you may consider:


A popular job search website that frequently posts Set Decorator positions across different locations and production scales. Visit Indeed to explore available jobs.


LinkedIn is not only a networking site but also a robust platform for job hunting. You can find numerous Set Decorator jobs in the United States and globally at LinkedIn Jobs.

Entertainment Careers

This site specializes in entertainment industry jobs. For Set Decorator positions, particularly related to prop setting, visit EntertainmentCareers.Net.


SimplyHired offers location-based job search. For instance, you can find Set Decorator jobs in Florida here.


Known for company reviews and salary insights, Glassdoor also has a good collection of Set Decorator job listings. Check out Glassdoor.

ZipRecruiter is another resource where you can find Set Decorator jobs near you. Visit ZipRecruiter to explore.

Up Next

Discover more filmmaking roles

A Set Decorator plays an essential role in the film and television industry, creating immersive environments that enhance storytelling and bring scripts to life. To continue through our series of the various filmmaking roles and positions, you can explore similar jobs like Production Design, Art Director, or Director. Or you can jump over to our Film Crew Index to browse the entire range of filmmaking roles. Understanding what everyone’s role on a film set is will help make you a better overall filmmaker and a more efficient crew member.

Up Next: Explore more crew positions →
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