Art Director (TV or film)

Job Description:

An art director for TV, film or theatre supports the production team and directors in bringing their creative vision to life.

Job Category:
Culture, Media & Sport

What you will do:

As an art director, you could be working in the studio or theatre, or on location. In both roles, you’ll be managing a design team who is responsible for set, costume and lighting.

If working in a studio or theatre, your day-to-day duties could include:

  • meeting the production designer to discuss their vision
  • drawing up designs for a set
  • making model versions of sets
  • planning the implementation of special effects
  • ‘dressing’ the set with props and final touches

If working on location, your duties could include:

  • meeting the director and producer to get a sense of their vision
  • visiting locations to conduct a ‘recce’ – understanding the key features of the location
  • designing props for a mini-set
  • overseeing the set build and any special effects
  • styling areas indoors and outdoors to make them suitable for filming


You’ll need:

  • knowledge of media production and communication
  • to be able to use a computer and the main software packages confidently
  • broadcasting and telecommunications knowledge

As well as:

  • to be thorough and pay attention to detail
  • the ability to work well with others (teamwork)
  • leadership skills
  • the ability to use your initiative & a willingness to solve problems
  • the ability to accept criticism and work well under pressure
  • ambition and a desire to succeed
  • creativity & good drawing skills
  • the ability to think on your feet
  • flexibility to respond to varied hours and location needs
Illustration of employee looking at workspace

Entry Requirements:

Becoming an art director in the TV or film industry typically involves pursuing higher education and gaining experience rather than specific GCSE subjects. However, certain GCSE subjects and skills can be beneficial for developing the foundation needed for a career in art direction in the entertainment industry. Here are some relevant GCSE subjects and skills:

  1. Art and Design: GCSE-level courses in art and design can provide you with fundamental skills in drawing, painting, and visual storytelling. These skills are crucial for creating concept art and designs.
  2. Media Studies or Film Studies: If your school offers GCSE courses in media studies or film studies, taking them can provide insights into visual storytelling, cinematography, and the elements of film and TV production.
  3. English: Strong communication skills, including reading, writing, and oral communication, are essential for script analysis, collaboration with production teams, and conveying artistic ideas effectively.
  4. Mathematics: While not directly related to art direction, basic math skills are important for budgeting and cost estimation, which are part of the art director’s responsibilities.
  5. Computer Skills: Proficiency in using graphic design software, 3D modeling software, and other digital tools is valuable, as art directors often work with digital media and design software.

Art directors play a critical role in shaping the visual aspects of TV shows and films, and their work influences the overall look and feel of productions. While specific GCSE subjects can provide a foundation, higher education and practical experience are typically the keys to becoming a successful art director in the entertainment industry.

Post School

There are no set qualifications needed for this role, but artistic skills, work experience and networking are important.

It is advisable to start by studying for an arts qualification at college or university, like a diploma in art and design. Alternatively, an apprenticeship as a junior props master or prop technician on TV could also be beneficial.

You’ll need a portfolio to show off your artistic skills, and this should include a mixture of painting, modelling and graphic art.

It also may be helpful to have a driving license.

Working Hours and Environment:

You will usually work freelance, which means your hours could be changeable and you will likely be working on various projects at once. If working on live TV, on-stage or on documentaries, this could mean working late or unsociable hours. If working on location, you could be working outdoors and would likely be travelling often.

Career Path & Progression:

You could start off as a TV runner – in the art department if possible – or assisting the stage crew in theatre, and work your way up with experience.

Once you’ve gained experience as an art director, you could also move into similar roles in TV, film or the theatre industry, like a production designer. Or, you could side-step into an art director role in another industry, such as advertising.