It can test your social and family life but its pays dividends with lots of flexibility, changing landscapes and the creative buzz you get from a job well done.
To get started? Well I would suggest getting very familiar, quickly, with film and TV making and the business as a whole. See what role you would love. What type of person are you? Some things I can’t answer. But I will tell you what I do know in this article.
Corporate video production. This would be a good blend of what you do now, with getting the creative buzz you want. Corporate video clients are usually quite down to earth and have a mix of experiences so a different walk of life could really add to their portfolio and team.
They usually farm out some aspects of the production. (This could be an experienced prod manager etc More often than not it is a usually a very experienced lighting cameraman) The downsides are that they might only shoot once a month. The rest of the time they will be planning, or pitching or networking. They are often quite boring or mundane subjects too. The next way to market to overseas travellers looking for UK based tax firms. That sort of Rock and Roll title deserves to have creatives sex it up a bit.
The upsides are that it is more financially sound. They pay the industries bills. The bread and butter, if you like. The crews will pay their mortgages with these corporate, commercial work that leaves them time to get involved in much lower-paid, more interesting development projects or music videos or comedies and more.
Film and TV production. This is alot more competitive but ultimately rewarding. There are streams of graduates that flood in from Surrey, Kent and the surrounding areas, all want to be the next big director, all willing, and ably funded by their parents, to work for free, to work slowly up the ladder.
I am often approached about running jobs, work experience requests all of the time and we can’t accomdate everyone. One example of this is a girl called Vanessa, who kept on getting in touch, we kept looking for days here and there for her, around her schedule of paid work, to come in a get involved. She was inexperienced but knew what she really wanted to do ultimately. She kept coming in to work for expenses only, paid by us. And she slogged her guts out, got stuck in, asked questions, got really friendly with production managers and every member of every crew and now she is turning down work from several different companies. If you do choose this route, generally be very flexible, open to helping in all areas of production. Ideally using your skills to get ahead. The downsides of this area of the industry are that you may get pigeon holed into one area. This is after chasing down lots of dead ends.You might also end up being a small fish in a big pond and never get your creative voice heard.
The upsides are working on some amazing sets, with celebrities, the best crew and the best kit, for the best results.
Music video, Self shooting, Independent productions, Freelance work
There are alot of start up prod co’s. Some go on to great things, others don’t go anywhere. You would need lots of kit and experience for this but you might find a smaller company will need someone of your skill set, to steady their ship financially and assist with admin/social media etc. This could be a possible route to getting creative and onto sets and into studios. The downsides are financial really, they may not take you on full time to start with and you may end up being another freelancer looking for work again. Being part of a small team has many benefits, you can really make an impact and you’ll get lots of responsibility early on and entrusted with more production roles quicker. There are some options/approaches below. This really is a personal choice of course.
Below are some options or approaches you could take to building your skills in the industry.
LEARNING THE ROPES
Take a photography course or film making course. Purely practical. You dont wont to be writing about the merits of ‘Taxi Driver’ in a post-modern, pre 911 era of New York do you? Do the course over several weekends perhaps while you are still in your current work. You’ll end up meeting some good people and doing other projects on the side. You’ll have access to kit and you can try and enter some film making competitions, 48hr film challenges etc and be privy to lots of network events.
Get a position where you can get ‘on the job’ learning. You could spend years, and years, in a highly competitive industry, making teas. Get in there with a crewing company, kit hire company and make sure you get a look at film and TV sets or studios. Get your hands on the kit and test it out. This will give you confidence about a specific area of production and it maybe a quicker route to be specialised in one area of expertise.
BEING A RUNNER
This is the tough one. Lots of people vying for places. Just go on a hunt. Look for production companies or 4RFV, Kays, Kemps, Mandy.com, Linkedin (maybe open a forum or look for similar people in your position, changing directions in life etc).
Start a Production Base, Shooting People account for £30 a year or something. They will have paid, and unpaid jobs and forums, and collaborations and directories. Someone will take note of you eventually so keep at it.
Look at this article on the role of a runner for more info.
You will meet all sorts of people. Lots of cast, crew, production teams, contributors and clients offering all manner of weird and wonderful products and services. The crew members that have learnt the lingo aren’t always the most knowledgeable, there are in-experienced, first time directors that have more creativity and drive than a whole production company combined sometimes and everyone is in the same boat. Technology of cameras, lighting, TV production and distribution are always changing so everyone is always learning.
Depending on your current situation in work and life. Aim to work on the below over time, bit by bit. Allocate a small amount of time every single day. Even if it is only 15 mins. This will get the ball rolling. Stick to a plan and build on the below projects. This might be along the lines of… Reading a production article, or connecting with 10x new people or watching 3x tutorials or researching production techniques. Make notes when watching Films and TV, even to the point of reading the credits and who was involved.
Start to break down the roles of TV and what might be involved. See the Queen Vic pub in Eastenders. How much was that set to build, how have they lit it, where would they fit the cameras, how much would that take YOU to create? Soon you wont be able to watch anything without giving it a bit of analysis.
Your To Do list
- Get connected. Get a good LinkedIn profile, Facebook, Twitter. You’ll meet so many people to bounce ides off of.
- Build a database. Use the directories. You’ll get to see a whole host of production co’s that could fit you and what you want.
- Learn the basics. Theres lots of tutorials on Youtube (3 point lighting, camera settings, how to storyboard, basics of film production, how to light location, how to light green screen)
Before you know it you’ll be a self shooting director, learning the new techniques for getting the most out of a peice of kit or researching the next shooting location. Remember to ask lots of questions, get stuck in to all roles and you’ll be on your way to a career in the wonderfull industry and beyond.
By Sam Parkinson – Studio Manager – 02077370007