Worked example for a studio based, film set construction


An independent, UK based, film Production Company is producing a film. The production involves more than one contractor building a set in a studio.

The Production Company decide to build a two storey part interior of a building, including a staircase for the performance.

Acting as the CDM Client, the Production Company also plans, manages, monitors and coordinates the set construction and therefore it retains the CDM Principal Designer (PD) and Principal Contractor (PC) roles.

The Production Company discharges these CDM duties with the assistance of those working for it as part of its production team.

The production is operationally led by the Producer. The Production Company also has a Unit Production Manager, supported by a Unit Manager, who sits between the Producer and the technical departments, to manage the production on a daily basis, including the design and build of the set.  The Director is also involved in this work.

The technical heads of department (HoD) include a Set Designer, Art Director, Construction Manager, Director of Photography, HoD Rigging, Set Decorator and Prop Master for the Production.  For the purposes of this scenario, HoDs are an integral part of the Production Company and not contractors in their own right.

Pre-construction information

The pre-construction information required for the design and build process includes access to the external storage areas, the size of the studio and door openings,  the permissible floor loadings, location of pits / tanks, permissible gantry loads, chain tackle capacity and power provisions.  Other information includes parking, hot work permit requirements, existing dirty water management, water supplies, existing welfare arrangements, etc.

The Production Company ensures this information is communicated to the relevant individuals in their production team and contractors at the right time.

Planning and design

The Producer, Director, Production Designer and Director of Photography decide on the overall look of the set, with the help of a concept artist. The script and the production sequences also influence what construction is required.

Having approved the conceptual artwork, the Production Designer asks the Art Director and a drafter to produce scale construction drawings. These drawings are passed onto the Construction Manager, DoP, Gaffer and HOD rigging who share them with their teams. This gives departments an opportunity to discuss specific requirements and factor in any alternations. The Construction Manager decides how the set will be built safely, taking into account the use and conditions in which the set is to be installed.

The Grip is consulted to ensure the floor loadings would support the use of a camera crane. In this scenario, additional steel construction on the load bearing floor was not required. 

Build and strike

The Unit Production Manager oversees management of the build. They liaise with the Studio Manager to agree what the stage rules are, prepare schedules and coordinate the work of the various departments.

HoD Rigging oversees the rigging team who erect the supporting structure for the timber flats, formers etc, which have been manufactured off-site. A Structural Engineer checks the completed structure to make sure that it has been built according to the design.

Other trades including plastering and finishes for the set are planned for and managed as required.

The Set Designer appoints a Set Dresser / Set Decorator to dress the set, which includes some fixings, street furniture etc. In turn, a Prop Master heads up a small team to carry out this work. Safe access to parts of the structure like window openings require cooperation and coordination between those people carrying out concurrent or consecutive activities on the set.

The Director of Photography engages a Gaffer. The Gaffer (acting as a CDM contractor) is responsible for overseeing the installation of temporary electrical supplies and rigging to support these.  The Gaffer supervises a Rigging Gaffer (electrically trained) and Electrical Rigger (rigging trained) who install cable runs, rigging etc. 

A special effects (SFX) company (acting as a CDM contractor) installs SFX into the set. Following discussion and agreement with HoDs, some late additions to the set structure are made to accommodate SFX.

The Unit Production Manager oversees the preparation of a construction phase plan (CPP) to cover the build and strike of the set.

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Updated 2022-11-01