Production Designer – Lisa Davidson

What is your job role and what does that involve?

I am in control of the whole look of the show, from set builds and decoration to props and dressing bought and put in. As head of the Design Dept I am also responsible for the well being of all the design staff, being in control of health and safety at all times. Insuring all staff are in a safe environment & have the required training. I complete risk assessments for all low, to high risks involved at any point during prep or filming.

Key tasks include:

  • Create & design fully functional studio sets to be safely built, painted and dressed as the brief demands
  • Design, set and strike location sets with a full pre dress team – then put it back to how it was
  • Produce architectural technical drawing to scale in both metric and imperial
  • Manage Design team staffing, training, safety
  • Control and management of the overall department budget
  • Break down scripts
  • Prop buying and hiring with the buyer
  • Liaise with special effect and stunt coordinators to manage and organise stunts & dangerous effects safely, to budget and time scales
  • Complete risk assessments

What have been your career highlights so far?

  • Working on the Coronation Street Live Episode involving the Tram crash.
  • Being part of ITV’s Heartbeat
  • Being recognised with an RTS nomination for Excellence in Production Design
  • Being head of a wonderful team for a programme that’s always in the top 5 on iplayer.

What do you love and what do you hate?

  • I love a challenge, I’m constantly problem solving or coming up with solutions that will work for everybody. Whether brief, budget, script, director or producer requirements.
  • I hate rudeness, everyone is a person…. We’re all making the same show. Lets be nice to each other.

How did you start your career in the Art Department?

  • Work experience at Yorkshire Television, Leeds.

What training have you had?

  • Degree in Design for Television at Nottingham Trent Uni
  • BBC Safe Management of TV Productions & Food Hygiene
  • ITV Management Health & Safety Course

What key skills do you need for your job?

  • Listening skills
  • Keynote
  • Photoshop
  • Script Breakdown
  • Excellent at forming relationships
  • Technical drawing
  • Car driver
  • Health & Safety experience
  • Risk Assessment
  • Budget management
  • Problem solving
  • Staff management
  • Knowledge of architecture, materials, mediums
  • Art and Design skills
  • Drawing/ sketching / painting

Plus many, many more I can’t think of!


When you are recruiting for your team what do you look for..?

  • Repeat work with same designer
  • Art skills
  • Driver
  • If they’ve done a TV design course or theater design course

What’s the one thing people should be aware of pursuing this role?

  • Very long hours and repetitive work
  • Also some of your best work if often destroyed as part of the scene
  • Any location dresses have to be put back to how they were afterwards which is sometimes sad.

What advice would you offer out to those looking to be in the art department?

  • Try to get on set as much as you can, it doesn’t have to be in a design roll, just get on there, get your face known, don’t get in the way.
  • Watch and learn, observe.
  • Send emails that are personally written for the designer to show its not a blanket email. Put yourself on their radar letting them know your availability. Don’t be upset if they don’t reply. They’ve got you on their radar now.

What do you wish you had known when starting out?

  • Not to say yes to everything… scripts can be changed to suit. (Sometimes)

What are your top tips?

  • Work hard, learn fast, use common sense
  • Push yourself, don’t give up
  • Do your research, learn about the show or the production or the role
  • Always have another iron in the fire – you could be out of work for months at a time.
  • Try and get a base in another city.
  • Learn to drive
  • Always listen and be polite.
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