Stagehands, who are also known as stage technicians, are the people who help out on set for TV shows, film shoots and theatre productions.
They are the lifeblood of the industry, preparing everything needed to make the show a success – props, scenery, lighting and sound are all executed by stage hands.
The ‘crew’, as all backstage personnel are known, work diligently behind the scenes to make sure everything runs as smoothly as possible, and knowledge of exactly how a production works is an essential part of the role.
There is also scope for learning about carpentry, lighting and sound – some hands specialize in these areas whilst others remain as full utility players, ready to accept any given role within the production.
Salary & benefits
As a full time stagehand, you could expect to earn between £14,000 and £18,000 per year, depending on the location of your employment and the seasons it opened.
However, many hands work on a freelance or part time basis, often combining it with other creative roles within the industry, and freelance rates vary greatly depending on the performances and locations of theatres worked in.
Most theatre productions take place in the evenings, so this is when most of the live work is done, although stagehands will often work from mid-afternoon to get through set up, until late at night, having cleaned up after the show.
If you travel on tour with a particular show, you could be on the road for months at a time, which can be unsociable and tiring, but you would be with a group of people who all were well aware of the life they chose, and you’d make many friends along the way.
Most people enter the profession by taking on a voluntary role at school or university level, before considering it as a career.
You would be best to start as a casual member of backstage staff, and to do so you would approach a local theatre to see if there were any vacancies.
Training & progression
Most learning would be done on the job, in terms of health and safety and set management, although a proficiency in carpentry, electronics or lighting could help you progress faster.
The progressions that are perhaps most obvious are specialisations in any of these different areas, or indeed becoming a stage manager at a theatre.