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Stagehand

  • Hours

    Variable

  • Starting salary

    £12,000 + per year



 

The work

Stagehands, also known as stage technicians or crew, work 'behind the scenes' with props, scenery and special effects in theatres, concert halls and TV/film studios.

As a stagehand, your knowledge of exactly where and when to move objects and scenery would be a vital part of any performance. Your tasks could include:

  • loading and unloading equipment
  • helping carpenters to build and put up scenery
  • attending rehearsals, to become familiar with every scene change
  • moving scenery, furniture and heavy equipment during performances
  • opening and closing theatre curtains between acts
  • operating manual and automated scenery-moving machinery
  • clearing the stage or studio and backstage area at the end of the performance.

You would work as part of a team under the direction of a master carpenter, technical manager or stage manager.


Hours

Your hours would vary according to the needs of the show. Most theatre performances take place in the evening, but you would also work in the afternoons during rehearsals or matinee shows. In film and TV most of the work is in the daytime

You might work in one venue, or travel to different venues when on tour. The work can involve heights and some heavy lifting. You would wear black clothing during performances, for making scene changes in the dark.


Income

Full-time stagehands could earn between £12,000 and £15,000 a year.

However, many stagehands work on a freelance or casual basis. Pay rates can vary widely. You could negotiate your rate based on the type of production and your own experience and skills.

Figures are intended as a guideline only.


Entry requirements

You would often start as casual backstage staff – to find work, you could approach a theatre's resident stage manager or master carpenter.

You don't need any formal qualifications to work as a stagehand. Stage managers will be interested in your experience and practical skills, so it would be useful to have backstage experience from school, college, amateur or fringe productions. You may also find it helpful to have skills and experience in carpentry, electrical work, sound or lighting.

If you want to progress into stage management or technical work like sound or lighting, you might find it useful to take a course in technical theatre or stage management before looking for work. Relevant courses include:

  • BTEC Level 2 and 3 Certificate/Diploma in Production Arts
  • BTEC Level 4 HNC Diploma and Level 5 HND in Performing Arts (Production)
  • degrees and foundation degrees in stage management or technical theatre.

You should check entry requirements with individual colleges or universities.

See the Creative Choices and Get Into Theatre websites for more information about careers in the theatre, case studies and networking opportunities.


Training and development

You will learn on the job from experienced crew. You may also be able to take short courses in skills such as:

  • health and safety
  • scaffolds and towers
  • using hydraulics and pulleys
  • pyrotechnics.

See the Association of British Theatre Technicians website for details of short courses for stagehands and other backstage technical staff.

If you want to progress into technical and production roles, you could take a technical theatre or stage management course at drama school or university. You can find a full list of approved courses (usually degrees or diplomas) on the Drama UK website.

See the Related profiles for more information about technical theatre and stage management.


Skills, interests and qualities

  • physical fitness and stamina
  • the ability to work well as part of a team
  • a patient and flexible attitude
  • the ability to work under pressure
  • enthusiasm
  • a head for heights
  • good awareness of health and safety
  • an interest in theatre and live performance.

More information

Drama UK (Opens new window)
www.dramauk.co.uk

Stage Management Association (Opens new window)
First Floor
89 Borough High Street
London
SE1 1NL
Tel: 020 7403 7999
www.stagemanagementassociation.co.uk

Get Into Theatre (Opens new window)
www.getintotheatre.org

Association of British Theatre Technicians (Opens new window)
55 Farringdon Road
London
EC1M 3JB
Tel: 020 7242 9200
www.abtt.org.uk

Broadcasting Entertainment Cinematograph and Theatre Union (BECTU) (Opens new window)
Tel: 020 7346 0900
www.bectu.org.uk


 

Opportunities

You could work for theatre venues, TV or film studios, touring theatre companies and large-scale concert tours. Freelance work is common.

Some jobs may be advertised in The Stage or on crew recruitment websites, but it is also common to find work through word of mouth.

With experience, you could lead a crew of stagehands and scene builders, or become a production carpenter. You could eventually progress to tour manager or stage manager.

You may find the following useful for job vacancies and general reading:


 

Related industry information

Industry summary

The film industry is part of the creative industries, which is represented by Creative Skillset. This includes: advertising; animation; computer games; corporate and commercial production; fashion and textiles; film; interactive media; photo imaging; publishing; radio; and television.

The UK industry is an independent creator of feature films, a co‐production partner and a provider of services to the international film industry. It is an industry made up of a small number of large companies and a very large number of smaller companies, which have an occupationally diverse and highly skilled workforce characterised.

Key facts:

  • Around 27,800 people are estimated to work in the film industry, which is 5%of the creative industries workforce.
  • 62% of the workforce is in cinema exhibition, 34% in film production and 4% work in film distribution.
  • There are around 400 permanent companies in the film industry, but this can fluctuate depending on the number of productions that are being worked on. (production companies form for a particular production then close when completed)
  • 43% of companies are production, 13% are distributors and 44% are cinema exhibition companies.
  • In 2006, the UK film industry contributed £4.3 billion to the UK economy.

Jobs in the industry include: Production Accountant, Art Director, Production Designer, Director of Photography, Camera Operator, Grip, Casting Assistant, Catering Crew, Plasterer, Carpenter, Stagehand, Costume Assistant, Director, Publicist, Editor, Make‐up Artist, Unit Nurse, Best Boy, Location Manager, Composer, Actor, Re‐recording Mixer, Foley Editor, Boom Operator, Production Manager, Runner, Screen writer.


National and regional data

The largest number of employees in film is located in:

  • London
  • South East
  • Scotland

With access to resources and support from EM Media, the East Midlands have produced some successful writers, directors and companies. Threshold Studios, based in Northampton, have produced films for the First Light young filmmakers scheme and with Warp Films on the Creative Skillset‐funded Darklight women directors project. Nottingham's Spool Films/Confetti Institute also supports emerging film and digital content talent. The Media Archive for Central England (MACE) and the Bang Short Film Festival are also hosted in the region. Around 100 people in the film industry live in the region.

Warner Bros, Parallax East and the Content Providers are located in the East of England. The region also has a range of multiplex and commercial independent cinemas. Screen East invests in projects that aim to increase audiences in rural and urban areas of the region that are underserved by cinemas. The region is particularly strong on organisations focusing on archive work. Around 100 people in the film industry live in the region.

London's film industry alone has a turnover of around £13 billion a year, it is the largest post‐production centre outside of Hollywood and of the top 15 grossing films of the last decade, five were made in and around London. Around 5,700 people who work in production live in London.

The North East is home to several established independent film and TV production companies, such as Costal Productions and Ipso Facto Films, as well as new companies, such as Standing Stone. There are three international film festivals in North East England: AV, Northern Lights and Animex.

In the North West, Merseyside markets itself as having the most significant film industry outside London and North West Vision and Media reported that 2006 was the busiest year to date for filming in the region. Around 300 people in the film industry live in the region.

Over 1,700 people working in film production crews live in the South East, with 2,000 performers. Others working in Facilities provide services for film, with 5,700 employed in the sub‐sectors of post‐production, studio and equipment hire, special effects, outside broadcast, processing laboratories, transmission, manufacture of AV equipment and other services for film and TV. A number of high‐end film and documentary companies exist in the region, including Spice Factory and Seventh Arts. Pinewood Studios is Europe's largest film and television studio facility, providing a work base at full capacity for some 3,000 people working in production and facilities.

Much location filming is undertaken in the South West and a number of film festivals take place in the region each year, including Wildscreen, Encounters, the Cornwall Film Festival and the Cheltenham Screenwriters Festival. Around 600 people in the film industry live in the region.

Film production in the West Midlands is limited to a small number of independent organisations, but there are no distribution companies. Screen West Midlands offer a range of support for emerging film talent and also invest in productions through the Film and Media Production Fund. There are 46 cinemas in the region, including multiplexs, an IMAX and a number of smaller independent and art cinemas. In Birmingham, Star City, the UK's largest multiplex with 30 screens, specialises in Asian cinema. Around 100 people in the film industry live in the region.

Yorkshire and the Humber have a strong independent film sector around Leeds and Sheffield and is home to the nationally recognised Warp Films and Warp X. The UK's premiere documentary festival, Doc/Fest, is based in Sheffield. Bradford is home to major film and animation festivals and Leeds offers international children's film festivals. The Yorkshire Film Archive is one of the UK's most successful and progressive, having recently won major funding to start digitising its archive content. Over 100 people in the film industry live in the region.

Around 300 people in the film industry live in Northern Ireland and 600 in Scotland.

During 2007‐08, over 90 productions were shot in Wales, bringing in an expenditure of approximately £31.9 million. The £7million Wales Creative IP Fund has been a major boost to film production in Wales, financing feature film productions like the Edge of Love.


Career paths


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