Becoming a Movie Costume and Set Designer — Career Roadmap and Salary

Costume designer is responsible for the appearance of characters in movies. Their job is to create costumes for actors that will better illustrate a story about the characters. Costume designers design costumes that should define the character in a particular period of time, or fit a certain personality. They work alongside the director of a production, and together, they create storyboards and samples.

The set designer creates the scenery for stage productions of movies by selecting various backgrounds, lightning, and props. Their job is to design and recreate the atmosphere of a particular time, space, and location. Set designers usually specialize in specific types of sets, depending on whether they want to work for television, movies, theatres, or trade shows. The role includes communicating with directors, which can require patience since the director can sometimes envision a completely different scene.

Education and Training for Costume Designer

Learning how to become a costume designer is reachable as there are many different programs that can teach you the fundamentals. First, students usually learn how to create costumes for theater, and a lot of those principles translate to film afterward. There are many benefits of going to costume designer schools; you can learn different methods and get to know the vast history of design.

Although previous education and training are not necessary for the job, they create a good foundation for it.

Qualifications for a Set Designer

The first step for many set designers is college. Some positions may not require a degree, but a bachelor’s degree program can equip students with the skill set necessary for their future career. The major subjects for these professionals include theater or scenic design, set construction and drafting.

In addition, there are numerous internship programs where you can gain valuable experience in creating designs for museums, motion picture companies or theaters. Participating in projects or going through educational programs will make a part of your portfolio, which is the main factor for employment in the film industry.

Expected Salary

According to the reports from the Bureau of Statistics, entry-level costume designers medial salary is somewhere between $17,000 and $25,000. The numbers are obviously higher for an experienced costume designer, and the salary goes up to $37,000. However, freelance rates can vary significantly, based on your previous experience and reputation. Once you have gained the necessary training, experience, and fame, you may earn over $70,000.

Set designers are getting paid a bit higher than costume designers, as their salaries vary between $26,000 and $95,000 per year. Independent set designers earn an average of about $43,000 per year, while stage designers working for movie studios have an annual income of nearly $80,000.

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