Set & Props Construction


Set & Props Construction

Set & Props Construction

Toi Waihanga

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New Zealand Diploma in Scenic Construction & Properties

Toi Whakaari Set & Props is a two-year practical course leading to The New Zealand Diploma in Scenic Construction & Properties. We are the school’s ‘makers’. We construct, sculpt, carve, mould, cast, paint, engineer, laser-cut and 3D-print. In recent years this has included constructing a full-scale spacecraft interior and a four-metre-tall moa. We work closely with Toi’s other departments, enabling the collaboration required to succeed in the stage and screen industries. We have a close relationship with leading industry practitioners, who work as guest tutors. They also provide work placements and mentor our students’ personal projects. Students graduate from this course with a wide range of skills. They can manage construction processes, work as part of a team and meet deadlines – as independent contractors or industry-ready employees.


"All the courses at Toi Whakaari mirror industry practice creating a close connection and deep understanding of the arts industry. The Set & Props diploma helps foster the students into fully fledged practitioners; you develop craft skills as well as the ability to problem-solve and collaborate with others. The excellent facilities ensure that you graduate with a wide range of experience and proficiency in various materials and techniques. Whether you end up working on smaller theatre productions, bigger film sets, or in other creative pursuits, your time at Toi Whakaari will undoubtedly help you cultivate a strong creative voice.

Fil Kopelman, Graduate 2019

Course Information

The diploma is an intensive, full‐time two-year course for up to eight students a year. Students collaborate with designers, costumiers, actors, filmmakers and directors to create major stage and screen productions, with an emphasis on work from Aotearoa and the Pacific.


First-year students have four terms of craft skills classes.


Term 1: Carpentry, props making and painting.

Term 2: Sculpting, carving, moulding and casting

Term 3: Computer-aided design and manufacture, including laser cutters, CNC routers and 3D printers. 2D to 3D pattern-making techniques and fast prototyping projects with EVA foam.

Term 4: A major build for a theatre production. Advanced carpentry and welding.


Classes for first year students are interspersed with work on larger projects, such as building and painting sets and making props and scale models for film and theatre.


Second-year students choose lead production roles on school productions to develop their specialist areas of interest. They also select two industry internships with professionals.

These enable students to participate in a professional environment as well as build contacts for future employment.


A major focus of the second year is to create a ‘major work’. This is an independent research project that allows students to explore a specialist skill. Past examples have included camera-quality scale model miniatures, ‘hero’ prop swords, and an eco-friendly football table.

School year

Feb - Nov


2 years

NZQA Accreditation

Level 6

Domestic fees

For 2022 NZ$8,054 per year

International fees

For 2022 NZ$29,458 per year

Application Process

2023 SET & PROPS APPLICATIONS ARE STILL OPEN. Entry to Toi Whakaari Set & Props has several easy steps. First, make an online application. You'll also need to submit a portfolio of up to 10-15 images of your own work. We'll also ask you some questions about your ambitions for studying with Toi Whakaari – we want to hear about your goals and aspirations (see below). We also need two references from suitable referees who can tell us more about why you’re a good match the course. We like to treat the application process as a dialogue and are happy to talk and advise you through the process. Starting the process early gives you time to develop your submission. The next stage, is a face-to-face interview during our two-day Applicants’ Weekend. If you live outside NZ/Australia we’ll interview you by video call.

Personal Statement Info:

In the Personal Statement section of the Application Form please answer the following questions (150-200 words each MAX):

  • Select two or three of your most significant achievements to date and explain why you believe they are significant. What have you discovered about yourself from these achievements?
  • What do you hope to gain from your time at Toi Whakaari?
  • Why have you chosen to study Set & Props? Include some reference to how much theatre and screen work you see and how you see yourself as a future practitioner in this, or related fields.
  • You are encouraged to share some personal insights and influences that have shaped you.

Portfolio Info:

In the Portfolio section of the Application Form you can either: enter a link to your website/Tumblr/Dropbox or other online portal, or you can email us a ZIP file of images (up to 10-15 images). We are looking for potential and ability in the following areas: drawing; painting; sculpting; making skills; planning; experimentation with methods and materials; design process; collaboration; visual communication and conceptual thinking. Put together a portfolio which gives us an insight into:

  • your process: the way you work things out; e.g. inspiration, research and working drawings. Include plans/images of the development stage for a project you have done (or dream of doing). We are happy to accept these as an accompanying workbook as well as inside your portfolio.
  • your experience in your own area(s) of interest (screen, costume, set, props, stage, performance art, etc).
  • your passion! This might be a project that you are proud of or that you have initiated.

You are more than welcome to bring hard copy/made elements to your interview.

Career Pathways

Possible occupations that Sets & Props can enter include: 

  • Set or Scenic Carpenter
  • Scenic Welder/Metal Fabricator
  • Scenic Artist/Paint Special Effects
  • Props Maker
  • Scenic Sculptor
  • Film Art Department – Offset and Stand-by
  • Exhibition and Event Display 
  • Property Construction and Finishing
  • Model Maker
  • Soft Prop and Costume Prop Maker
  • Visual Effects and Prosthetic Special Effects
  • Puppet Maker
  • Prototyping for Industrial Design

“My dream has always been to create wings and my time studying at Toi has been invaluable for building up my skills and growing relationships.This has resulted in an invitation to work in the states with a professional wing maker. The experience of studying at Toi will continue to guide me on my path forward for many more years to come”. Photo credit: Heaps of Pics Photography.

Lotte van Ginkel, Graduate 2019

The Set & Props course supported me in my 2nd year as I produced my first short film. Through the culture of the Kura I had the opportunity to collaborate with both students and professionals from different disciplines while making “Excavation Point Thestias”. I was challenged to understand and integrate my collaborators skills into my vision. It pushed me to be a better maker and artist, but most importantly a clear communicator. These experiences at Toi Whakaari continue to serve me in the industry.

Fil Kopelman, Graduate 2019