Prop Making & Special Effects - BA (Hons) Degree
Why this course?
This course focuses on the design and manufacture of props for theatre, TV, film, display and entertainment industries. Current students come from a wide range of creative and academic backgrounds, but all share a joint passion for design and making. The course explores a wide range of creative techniques such as wood and metal work, sculpting, moulding and casting, decorative finishes, model making and soft props/puppetry, to create a broad creative skill set that will support your development as a prop maker.
- Highly practical industry-focused course
- Personal studio spaces
- Machine tools, plaster room, laser cutting and 3D printing
- Opportunities to work on productions in our theatre
"This is one of the only courses in the UK where the students are involved in live projects and commissions", "so impressed", "top quality", "spectacular" - see external reviews of our student work
Validated by University of the Arts London (UAL)
This programme is validated by University of the Arts London (UAL). UAL is a leading education provider in the creative arts, ranked second in the world for art and design (QS World University Rankings by Subject 2020). They oversee the standards and quality of our curriculum, which enriches your overall learning experience.
Each application will be assessed individually, including a review of your grades, interview, portfolio/audition and any experience.
Typical entry requirements are below but offers may vary:
- a relevant A-Level or Level 3 Extended Diploma
In exceptional circumstances, if you do not meet our entry requirements, your application may still be considered if you demonstrate additional strengths and alternative evidence. This might, for example, be demonstrated by:
- related academic or work experience
- the quality of the personal statement
Portfolio and interview
You will also be required to provide a portfolio and interview for this course.
Please bring a portfolio of work or samples, as appropriate, that best demonstrates your abilities. This should include a range of 2D sketchbooks, drawings, paintings, design artwork. 3D models, sculptures etc (or good quality photographs of 3D work).
Entry guide for more information about the range of qualifications we accept (including English Language requirements for international students).
Techniques explored include wood and metal work, sculpting, moulding and casting, decorative finishes, model making and soft props/puppetry. On the course you can expect to work individually and in teams.
All students benefit from inductions and access to individual workstations, the learning resource centres and extensive practical workshops. Rapid prototyping equipment such as laser cutting and 3D printing are also available to complement hand and machine tool processes. Dedicated moulding and casting areas are for use by all year groups as is our new walk in spray painting facility. Throughout your studies the cost of materials is fully funded on taught and group activities.
Work experience and employment links
The course is highly employment-focused and many of the projects are collaborations with professional clients. Throughout the course you are prepared for industry through work placements and portfolio development to ensure you are an industry-ready practitioner.
Industry links include:
FBFX , Glyndebourne Opera house, National theatre Warhorse, Elstree Film studios Last days of mars, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Leavesdon studios Edge of tomorrow, Chichester festival theatre, Royal Shakespeare Company, English National ballet, Souvenir scenic workshops, Bower wood, TMS, Whipsnade zoo, Artem, Robert Allsop & associates, All scene all props, Replica, Plunge Productions, Armchair armoury, Rainbow Productions, Universal Creations, Wild Creations, Foster and Partners
Materials may be supplied for taught sessions. Clients and in-house productions supply budgets for materials in the collaborative projects. The exception is if you decide on a project that needs materials outside the usual basics available.
Year 1 includes:
- An introduction to the practical, academic and support systems within the college. The practical inductions focus on the wood and metal workshop, studio and plaster and resin rooms to ensure you are inducted for safe practice and are developing basic relevant skills and knowledge.
- An introduction to broader concepts and context relevant to the arts industries, asking you to explore how they influence and shape your industry and ability.
- Developing your sculpting technique through a variety of tasks using water and oil based mediums, such as water based clay and plastaline/chavant. You will also explore mould making and casting methods in plaster, silicone, latex, foams, fibreglass to name but a few. You will also take a look at life casting of a variety of body parts. There will be workshops in finishing and decorative techniques.
- The application of practical skill within the context of internal and external projects. Previous examples are: Replica cannons for historical societies, Star Wars and Marvel replicas for display, giant foam flowers for teaching in a Zoo, an entire Egyptian tomb escape room, a corridor of fish, furniture for musicals, hand props for devised theatre, puppets for touring shows etc.
- Important techniques used when working with others, such as effective communication, problem solving and personal planning. All of these are practised working with the second years as props assistants and clients/directors/producers on a wide range of internal projects and external commissions.
- Individual practices and exploration of the more specialist area of model making for a wide range of potential outcomes. Key areas of focus are technical drawing, accurate cutting, relevant materials, digital production techniques such as laser cutting and relevant software. Previous projects include making models for stop motion animation and scale replicas for furniture designers.
Year 2 includes:
- An individual project that explores design, foam crafting, pattern making, mechanical processes and fabric techniques. This is usually explored through puppetry design and manufacture but has also looked at prop costume as well.
- Working in a team made up of fellow second years and taking the lead on the design, management, communication, production and delivery/installation of props for a wide range of internal and external clients.
- Continuation of practices with the added focus of managing a small team of first years. This will enable you to further develop your managerial skills and understanding of project management.
- Exploration of a context relevant to propmaking and SFX and an essay showing your developing understanding of your place within a wide ranging industry.
- Developing yourself as an industry ready practitioner. You will develop a relevant portfolio, digital footprint, business card and CV in preparation. You will explore the industry and the range of employment opportunities and engage in work placements to further develop your understanding of industry. This is all tied up at the end of the year with an exhibition that showcases your capabilities as a propmaker.
- Making an example of work that showcases your developed abilities and knowledge. Anything is possible and staff will work with you to ensure you get the maximum from the opportunity.
The focus of Year 3 is the development of the student as an individual through the practice, study and exploration of theatre skills. Collaborative theatre practice, pushing the creative potential of all theatre disciplines, is central to the philosophy of the course. Regular workshop and showcase productions enable students to develop their own skills to professional standards, preparing them for employment or postgraduate study.
Explore a 360 tour of our propmaking degree show
Check out this 360 tour of our 2018 Creative Industries Degree Show to see some of the incredible work our propmaking students have produced.
- Prop maker
- Model maker
- Art department assistant
- Set builder
- Production assistant
Some of our recent alumni careers:
- Three of our alumni are listed in the credits on Star Wars The Last Jedi (Alex McKenzie, Guy Watson and Cecelia Smith)
- Alumnus Kyle Whittington has worked on films, theatre and TV, including Justice League, Transformers 5, Red Dwarf and the English National Opera. He also guests at comic book and anime conventions across Europe, giving talks about prop making and costuming.
- Alumna Harriet Lansdown has worked as a set designer on shows including Starlight Express, Cats, Les Miserables and Miss Saigon, as well as the art department on TV’s Red Dwarf.
Tuition fees, student loans and bursaries
Additional course costs
Personal tools (small hand tools) and safety equipment (boots, masks). Full list supplied at interview. The basic tool spend per student is approximately £50-£100 at the beginning of the course.
Students may also spend approximately £50-£200 on materials for their final projects.