Q&A with Art Department Stylist, Thor Mrozek

Q&A with Art Department Stylist, Thor Mrozek

In our latest Expert Q&A we talk to Art Department Stylist, Thor Mrozek, about his career in TV.

What does the role of an Art Department Stylist involve, and what does a typical day look like?
An Art Department Stylist is essentially an On Set Dresser and the role can be interchangeable with that of an Art Department Decorator or Prop Master depending on the budget of a production. In my case I have worked primarily with Greens (plants) and background aesthetics.

There are seldomly typical days as often, any given day can produce unforeseen challenges whether working in a studio or on location. Liaising with the Production Designer or Art Director has often been the norm and when neither are available, I’d consult an Assistant Art Director or simply work off an initial brief until otherwise directed.

When on location doing a set dress or being on standby, the first port of call is usually with the Locations Department to ensure logistical needs are met. The only typical aspect of the role are the long hours, especially when on standby, however this can sometimes be balanced out when striking a set.

What got you interested in the Art Department side of the TV and Film industry?
I suppose I’ve always had an affinity towards it. From my early days in school where I received accolades for Theatre Technical (as we hosted regional play festivals) to supervising the Art Department for the most reputable events company in South Africa. While I was there I did everything from sign writing to props building, which included various methods of moulding and casting to airbrushing huge photographic backdrops for corporate events and films, before large scale printing technology pretty much made such things obsolete.

Throughout it all I have also focused on my personal paintings over the years and had several exhibitions throughout London including Chelsea Town Hall where I exhibited alongside some really great artists looking to get a foothold in the fine art scene.

So given my experiences, it only seemed natural that I would gravitate towards TV and Film.

You’ve worked on some huge high-end TV projects including The Crown and Bridgerton for Netflix. Does the scale and budget of these type of productions change the way you work?
In short, no. I apply the same degree of professionalism regardless of the production or its budget. With some larger productions I might find myself dealing with more people but ultimately, I’m still doing the same thing.

What’s the most challenging production you have worked on and why?
That would have to be The Great (a period drama about Katherine the Great). Running lead on five sets in the woods in Kent was extremely challenging and required liaising with three Assistant Art Directors and an award-winning Art Designer. It was a rush in more ways than one and a fantastic experience.

The challenges were mostly logistical, and we found ourselves at the mercy of the weather a lot of the time considering a snow environment was required. For the first time on a large production I had scope to take charge of a team over a prolonged period to transform an English Forest into a Scandinavian one. Not only did I facilitate the placement of over 150 7-16 foot-tall pine trees and various other shrubs, but we transformed a 300m stretch of road/forest track to be period appropriate, as well as doing other dressings where needed.

What tips would you give someone who’s starting out in the Art Department?
A good friend of mine once told me that listening is a skill. There is a definite hierarchy in the film industry, and it should be noted and respected. Listen to your department head and pay close attention to what is required of you. Be creative and express yourself but always be mindful of the etiquette that comes with working in TV and Film, especially when working on set.

What projects are you currently working on?
I am currently between projects. Given that most productions are based or reliant on seasons and the weather, I subsidise my income as a multi trader with a carpentry bias during Winter months. I am told that there are several projects in the pipeline and as anyone familiar with the film industry knows, discretion is key to getting a call back.

How would you like your career to progress moving forward? Are there any
other areas of the industry you’d like to work in?

I have always had an eye for the aesthetic and an ability to translate a vision into reality. I wouldn’t want to stray from the Art side of the industry and suppose I might enjoy the role of a Prop Master or even that of an Art designer.

Given that I’m very much a hands on sort of person I’d prefer a role that still allows me to get my hands dirty. That said, I realise a degree of admin may be unavoidable if I were to pursue a higher departmental position. It’s certainly something I’m considering and am keen to see how this upcoming season plays out.

Thor Mrozek is an Art Department Stylist and a ProductionBase member. If you’d like to be featured in a future Q&A, let us know!