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.
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.
2023 SET & PROPS APPLICATIONS ARE NOW OPEN AND WILL CLOSE 30 SEPTEMBER 2022. 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):
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:
You are more than welcome to bring hard copy/made elements to your interview.
Possible occupations that Sets & Props can enter include:
“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
Francis’s career spans many media and production roles working predominantly in theatre but also for film and television. Until 2017 he was based in Edinburgh and as a designer he has worked for most of the major producing theatres in Scotland, as well as major companies in London, Birmingham and Bristol. His primary interests in live theatre are site specific work and new writing. Francis has also designed large scale public and corporate events for major clients like England’s National Trust.
As a set and props fabricator, he often constructed his own designs, whilst also working for other media and commercial clients. As a scenic artist he painted international touring shows for the Royal Shakespeare Company and the Royal National Theatre, as well as film work at Pinewood, Elstree and Shepperton film studios.
His parallel career in higher education has included running the MA in Stage and Screen Practice at Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh and establishing Scotland’s only independent school for stage design, Scenehouse. He is passionate about enabling fellow learners to explore the techniques, tools and practices of creativity and helping them make great work.