What Do Greensmen Do?

Alicia Sparks

Greensmen are the workers on film sets charged with taking care of any plants and other landscaping materials. Usually, a greensman works with television or movie set plants. Depending on the production and location, his services might be used for indoor or outdoor theater, too. Greensmen, also called greenskeepers, don’t usually receive formal greensman-specific training, but they do often have training and experience with horticulture. The process of a job as a greensperson for film sets can vary from acting as an apprentice for an established greensman to signing up with an employment agency that provides various workers for the film industry.

Someone with experience working in a nursery or greenhouse may do well as greensman.
Someone with experience working in a nursery or greenhouse may do well as greensman.

A greensman is in charge of taking care of and maintaining all the greenery on a set. He handles flowers, ferns, bushes, trees, grass, and any other kind of flora a set requires, and this flora may be real or artificial. Since greensmen are often in charge of developing the additional landscaping that surrounds the plants, their duties often extend to other materials. For example, a greensperson might be in charge of setting up the rocks involved in a garden or stones that line a park’s walkway. He might also handle the sand for a beach scene.

A greensperson may be in charge of handling the sand for a beach scene.
A greensperson may be in charge of handling the sand for a beach scene.

Often, a greenskeeper is in charge of more than just maintaining a set’s plant life and landscaping tools. Depending on the production, some greensmen are in charge of creating the plant part of a set’s scenery from the ground up, so to speak. This makes the greenskeeper responsible for choosing the plant life and other landscaping materials, as well as positioning them in attractive ways appropriate to the scene. In such a situation, it’s common to think of the greensman as an extension of the production’s art department. He must understand certain facts, such as the kind of flora indigenous to the story location and how that flora would look under normal circumstances.

Typically, there is no formal, official training an aspiring greensman can undergo to become a licensed greenskeeper. Still, a greenskeeper has a certain skill set. He might learn it working as an apprentice under other greensmen or while employed in related businesses. For example, someone with experience working in a greenery or greenhouse or for a landscaping business might do well as a greensman on film sets. Even a person with a “green thumb,” who has a passion for gardening and landscaping, might have the skills necessary to work as a greenskeeper.

For greensmen, getting a job usually isn’t as simple as checking the classifieds or sending out resumes. These methods are certainly options, but sometimes it takes a few more steps. Since greensmen work almost exclusively on film sets, it’s beneficial for them to have some connection to the film industry. Sometimes, a greenskeeper will begin working as a movie extra to become familiar with sets and get his foot in the door. Other times, he’ll register with an employment agency that provides temporary and permanent help to local film industries.

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