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A Day in the Life - Construction Manager - start of article

A Day in the Life - Construction Manager

Bad Wolf Studios is home to a wide variety of positions within the film and TV industry. There are many different roles within a variety of departments. This week we’re shining a light on Construction managers Steve and Brian who work for one of our sponsors, 4Wood. The company are responsible for building some of the most spectacular sets for Film and TV, most recently ‘His Dark Materials’ but also ‘Sex Education’, ‘A Discovery of Witches’, ‘Doctor Who’ and many more. Steve and Brian gave us some time out of their busy schedule to tell us more about what it is they do and the kind of work they undertake at Bad Wolf Studios.

As construction managers, it is their responsibility to oversee construction of the sets from the earliest drafts and drawings, right up until filming begins. The construction managers receive artwork from the art department and then use these to bring the sets to life. The earliest concept drawings are usually not that detailed, but they act as a guide so that Steve and Brian can then start ordering the correct materials and sorting out the crew that will be needed; everything from scaffolders to painters. They’re not just building sets but proper constructions that must look the part and also be structurally sound both on location and in the studio.

The concept art will regularly change during the build, so a major responsibility of the construction manager is to stay on top of things throughout the entire process. They allocate the team when the schedules change and so must be adaptable to these changes. No schedule is set in stone, and neither is the script. This means they must constantly be on the ball to let the team know all the most up to date information and what changes need to be made.  

Throughout construction, the team must adhere to strict CDM health and safety measures to ensure all crew are safe. To prevent accident or injury, Steve and Brian do ‘Toolbox Talks’ - brief health and safety presentations, usually about potential problems that may arise on that specific day on site. With added Covid 19 requirements, health and safety is a vital component of the job.

Construction managers for 4Wood, Brian and Steve
A set that was built for 'A Discovery of Witches'

It can be a very difficult job, as you have a lot of important duties throughout the construction of the sets and are given very little time. The schedules for the days filming are in a constant state of flux, so there is never anything written down. This can be problematic when you have to manage large groups of people, something Steve and Brian must do on a daily basis.

However, when the set is finally built and ready to begin filming, there is a sense of tremendous achievement. We were lucky enough to be given a tour of the sets that are currently under construction for the second series of His Dark Materials, and it really was a privilege to see. The amount of work that goes into even the tiniest details are outstanding. It’s clear to see why they are proud of them when they’re built!

There isn’t really an ‘entry-level’ job when it comes to becoming a construction manager. Fields such as carpentry are a good way to start as it gives you a general understanding of what set construction entails. This is also true for roles such as a welder, plasterer, electricians, scaffolding and similar kinds of jobs. This area of work requires a lot of patience and a calm head under pressure. A production is a collaborative effort after all, so excellent people skills are also vital.

Having a good level of psychical fitness is also a must as a large element of their job is walking! The sets that are built can sometimes be huge, and a construction manager needs to be in all places all the time, and therefore constantly on the move.

A huge thank you to Steve and Brian from 4Wood for taking time out of their busy schedules to speak with us and for giving us a tour of the fantastic sets.

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