Worked example for building a TV drama set on location


Independently produced TV drama. The production involves more than one contractor building a set on location at a disused warehouse.

The production company decide to build a mock-up of a Victorian street scene, using mixed materials and a scaffold support structure for the façade.

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 a Producer. The production company also has a Line Producer supported by a Location Manager (Scout), who liaises between the Producer, technical departments and Location Host, to manage 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 is sought early by the Location Manager and communicated to the Line Manager and other production team members, so that they can identify resource requirements etc. for the design and build process.

Information included:

  • Boundaries of the build site
  • Fencing / security – if any
  • Exposed edges
  • Fragile roof areas
  • Damaged or broken glazing
  • Ground contamination
  • Unsafe structures or areas that are out of bounds
  • Water supplies and any relevant drainage information
  • Existing services information eg electrical circuits, fire alarms etc. and any relevant test / maintenance information
  • The presence of any harmful substances eg asbestos
  • The location of any pits, voids or underground services
  • Any specific restrictions such as access, hours of work etc.
  • Relevant use of adjacent properties, which may affect traffic management

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 Art Department develop conceptual scale drawings of the Victorian facades and street scenery, which are given to the various departments to allow further design and planning.  The script and the production sequences also influence what construction is required.

The Construction Manager, along with selected department heads, further develop the design and produce final set designs, which take account of the use and conditions in which the set is to be installed. In this scenario, set flats, formers etc. are then manufactured off-site.  

HoD Rigging oversees the technical aspects of loading and support for the structures and facade.

Build and strike

Location rules and procedures are drawn up by the production company, following liaison between the Location Manager, Producer, Line Producer and Location Host. They include areas marked 'out of bounds'. The Location Manager communicates these rules and procedures to those involved in the construction of the set.

The Line Producer is responsible for coordinating the interaction of the various departments based on the production schedules provided. 

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

The Set Designer appoints a Set Dresser / Set Decorator to dress the sets 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 requires cooperation and coordination between those 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 Line Producer oversees the preparation of a construction phase plan (CPP) to cover the build and strike at the end of the production.

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Updated 2022-11-01