Prop Making & Special Effects - FdA (Foundation Degree)/BA (Hons) Degree
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
- Materials supplied for taught and group practices
- Opportunities to work on productions in our theatre
- Optional third year to gain BA (Hons) degree
"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 student work >
Portfolio and interview.
Individual offer conditions will vary. Normally a relevant A Level or Level 3 Extended Diploma.
Industry experience may be taken into account.
Cross-college entry guide
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:
, 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
Years 1 and 2
The Foundation Degree in Propmaking and SFX course consists of 12 modules delivered over two years - modules 1-6 in the first year and 7-12 in the second year. Most of the time the modules are delivered in order, but the nature of creative opportunities sometimes changes this.
Materials are supplied for all taught sessions. Clients and in-house productions supply budgets for materials in the collaborative projects. The only module where you may need to fund materials is module 12 Final major project, as the project you decide on could need materials outside the usual basics available.
Module 1- Introduction to discipline practice
This module introduces you 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.
Module 2- Academic practice
This module introduces you to broader concepts and context relevant to the arts industries and asks you to explore how they influence and shape your industry and ability. The product of this unit is an essay.
Module 3- Discipline based skills
This module is focused on developing your sculpting technique through a variety of tasks using water and oil based mediums, such as water based clay and plastaline/chavant. It also explores mould making and casting methods in plaster, silicone, latex, foams, fibreglass to name but a few. The unit also takes a look at life casting of a variety of body parts. This all ends with workshops in finishing and decorative techniques.
Module 4- Applied discipline based skills
This module focuses on 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.
Module 5- Inter-discipline practice
This module focuses you on 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.
Module 6- Discipline based skills development
This module takes you back to individual practices and explores 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.
Module 7- Specialist discipline skills development
The second year starts with 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.
Module 8- Applied specialist discipline skills
In this module you will find yourself 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.
Module 9- Collaborative practice
In this unit you will continue with practices similar to module 8 but 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.
Module 10 - Applied academic practice
Following on from module 2 in the first year, you are encouraged to explore a context relevant to propmaking and SFX and produce an essay showing your developing understanding of your place within a wide ranging industry.
Module 11- Industry practice
This module underpins the year by focusing you on 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.
Unit 12- Negotiated practice
This is your Final Major Project. In this unit you get to make 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.
Year 3 (optional)
For more information, go to the BA top-up page
On successful completion of the two-year FdA course, students can either progress to the third year BA top-up course, or enter employment.
- Prop maker
- Model maker
- Art department assistant
- Set builder
- Production assistant
Three of our recent alumni are listed in the credits on Star Wars The Last Jedi (Alex McKenzie, Guy Watson and Cecelia Smith)
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.