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Production Design and Art Department Apprenticeships

As an addition to our forum on expanding diversity and equal access in the art department, here are some resources for entry-level production design training.

We are definitely interested in expanding this list, so please email us if you know of a design-related program we could add!

If you are in the USA and interested in helping create more apprenticeships and opportunities for BIPOC members, reach out to Art Department United, a group recently formed to affect change within our profession.


The Production Design Initiative

Art Directors Guild, USA

The Initiative, administered and funded by the ADG, is designed to provide mentorship, supervision and on-the-job training to future production Designers and art directors.
Applicants must show some experience and/or educational background relating to the discipline of design for the narrative arts, and must supply a portfolio conveying skills and experience.
Once admitted, the participants names are placed on an availability list managed by the Initiative's staff supervisor.
Announcements go out to all guild production designer/art director members that initiative participants are available for immediate placement on film, TV or commercial projects.
Participants are hired, compensated and insured in the same manner as all other production assistants by the producers of the particular production. They are supervised by the show’s production designer and art directors, who serve as the primary mentors and networking agents for the further placement and advancement of the participants.
During their time in the program, the participants are encouraged to attend all ADG events and programs.
At the end of approximately 260 days of consecutive or nonconsecutive participation, the participant's mentor/supervisors will submit formal letters of review to the ADG Council, addressing the applicant’s abilities.
Find out more here:

The Apprentice Program

Directors Guild of Canada

The Guild Apprentice Program (GAP) is administered by the Ontario District Council and is designed for people who are not yet eligible for DGC Membership because they require more experience in the professional field in the screen-based industry. GAP is a 12-month program, permitting its members to work on Guild productions in the PA/Trainee Category, one of which is a Trainee Assistant Art Director. Successful completion of GAP constitutes eligibility to join the DGC.
Applicants are invited to interview with representatives of the Art Department Caucus to show a portfolio of work, highlighting graphic and/or design work.
Once admitted, GAP trainees are required to take the DGC Ontario Fundamentals and Departmental Training courses. Trainees are also strongly encouraged to attend other professional courses at the DGC as an inexpensive way to gain marketable skills and with other active Members.
The Guild will help trainees find work by allowing them access to the HotList (a list of active, Guild-signed productions in Ontario with contact information), adding them to the DGC Ontario Availability List and posting their personal page on DGC Ontario’s website.
All Apprentices hired on Guild-signed productions must get paid the minimum rates as per the DGC's Standard Agreement. Once trainees complete a certain amount of work days they are eligible to join the DGC.
Find out more here:

Trainee Finder

ScreenSkills, UK

ScreenSkills is the industry-led skills body for the screen industries in the UK, funded by a mix of government funds and industry contributions.
ScreenSkills' Trainee Finder is an entry-level annual placement scheme that matches trainees with productions who have paid into the skills investment funds for on-set and on-the-job training. In return, the production companies can claim back some of the trainee's salary.
Art Department Trainees are eligible to join the scheme after providing two testimonials and must have less than one year of experience in their chosen department. The trainees are interviewed and selected by industry professionals. Successful trainees are then invited to attend a mandatory induction weekend in which they receive training in set etiquette and how to navigate the industry as a freelancer, among other things.
Any production that contributes to the various ScreenSkills funds is able to view trainees' CVs and contact the them directly for an interview. If the production is interested in hiring the trainee, a contract is issued between ScreenSkills and the production. The production then issues the trainee with their own contract and must pay at least the national minimum wage, if not the national living wage. The production also designates a supervisor, whose role is to be the point of contact and guidance for the trainee and support their own production training needs.
Throughout the year the cohort of trainees also get access to further support, being offered training in first aid, health and safety, and green sustainability, as well as more personal support with managing finances and mental well-being. Masterclasses from leading HODs are offered to various grades, as well as visits to eminent suppliers and one-to-one support through a network of regional industry practitioners who are alumni of the scheme.
Any participating production company is able to claim back a large portion of the trainee's agreed salary. By subsidizing part of the trainee's salary, ScreenSkills ensures a continued supply of a new generation of talent, capable of world-class creative content.
Find out more here:

Scenic Artist Apprenticeship

United Scenic Artists, USA

The craft of scenic art involves being able to master and execute the following skills: Lay-out, surface decoration, sculpting, mold-making, casting and painting of scenery and properties for all media, plus the execution of models, miniatures, and some graphics. The ability to match color, create faux finishes and paint Trompe L’oeil are essential skills for a scenic artist. USA 829 scenic artists are expected to meet a very high standard in these areas.
The Scenic Artist Apprenticeship is a three-year program for people interested in becoming USA 829 scenic artists.
The Apprenticeship Program looks for applicants with a working knowledge of art, theatre, film and related industries, but with less than three (3) years of experience. United Scenic Artists administers a three-part test for all applicants: a trade-specific test, a portfolio review and a practical skills test.
Once accepted into the program, the apprentices are assigned to a variety of different jobs such as movies, network TV, cable and episodic TV, scenery supplier shops, Opera, and perhaps commercials that require a large crew. The apprentices' pay rate starts at about half the rate of a journeyman, and increases gradually. By the end of the three-year program, apprentices will be earning full Journeyman wages.
The basic demands of the apprentices will be to complete approximately four thousand (4,000) hours of training in a variety of specific skills. Included in these hours are seminars that the apprentices are required to attend, homework assignments and a personal sketchbook focusing on figure drawing and architectural studies. Class work, homework projects and the sketchbooks are reviewed and critiqued by the instructors and committee members.


Equity Through Design Mentorship

United Scenic Artists, USA

Equity through design consists of stage and film design professionals, members of United Scenic Artist Local 829, creating mentorships that emphasize Black, Indigenous, and People of Color [BIPOC] from a range of junior high school, high school and college students.
The program aims to expand the mentees' orientation towards careers in Film/TV/Theater by providing interactive career discussion panels and one-on-one artistic, personal and professional mentorship. Inherent in the mission is the intent to develop an awareness of the design and craft-oriented career possibilities in the field as well as guidance toward film and theater educational programs in the New York area. At the heart of these efforts is giving attention to the individual students and fostering a reciprocal relationship between USA 829 and scholastic organizations in an effort to shift the culture of both the schools and the entertainment industry toward values of diversity, equity and inclusion.
Equity through design strives to be a resource for advocacy and a learning center for our community: encouraging educational institutions to recruit and retain an inclusive student body, supporting diverse students to become professional artists with a sustainable lifetime in the entertainment arts and pushing our industries to be centered on an anti-racist ethos.

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