Phillip Pond, a recent graduate, was asked to create a diary of his time in gaining work experience as a runner in the Film and TV industry. We got him in to help out a big production we had in our large greenscreen studio.
Phillip, like others, has found it hard to get their foot in the door…
‘Hi my name is Phil, I have graduated from Bournemouth University with a BA Hons in Film Production and Cinematography.
I have been asked to write this article to highlight the realities of being a runner starting at the bottom in this wonderful industry.
I will be frank: it’s hard.
Most people will tell you how wonderful it is, only mentioning the good that come from working on some really interesting things I would not perhaps enjoy.
Don’t get me wrong, I have had some good experiences, and I will elaborate on those in later blogs but here I shall tell you about working first-time as a work experience runner in a green screen studio and the realities of my chosen profession.
Up and Running
Getting your foot through the door is the key thing but don’t go in thinking you will instantly become a director or producer or a DOP or you will be very disappointed indeed. You need to leave your ego at the door and realise that you will have to work hard to achieve those things.
To start with you will need to find a placement and with people graduating each year a fresh crop of people are only just around the corner. That is the first challenge, as you will be fighting amongst many to get these coveted positions. You will need to be prepared for rejection. A lot of places will ask for you to send your CV in and say they will keep you in mind and you won’t hear anything again. This can be solved with badgering but you need to be respectful about it. Being keen is good, nagging will get you removed from the system.
After you eventually get through, someone will offer you a job and you will be excited and turn up all wide eyed. Remember that being inspired is good but be prepared for a reality check.
The reality of working at a studio is be prepared to make a lot of tea/coffee and other jobs you are more qualified for.
The key is to have an attitude of “these jobs are NOT below me.” If you go in thinking “this is not what I should be doing, I have a degree I’m better than this” you’ll not appear sociable and friendly. Which would be a shame, as the main point for a runner is to meet interesting people, have good conversations, gain contacts and knowledge. So you have to do your job with a smile. Paying your dues is key, every one has done it, all the greatest film-makers from the past 100 years have paid theirs, its time to pay yours.
If you get asked to turn up at 8 you turn up at 7.50 and if you are going to be late, let them know. With running more than other jobs in the industry always try and do more than your jobs worth, do that and you might get to sit in on the recording and from there the journey begins.
I turned up on my first shoot and 5 minutes after walking through the door I was sent on a mission to get props and water, I had some simple jobs to start with like making teas and coffees but because I followed my rules above I was asked back for more interesting and demanding roles. It is hard getting through the door and these lower level jobs wont get you much money. But, if you are willing to put the work in and willing to put your nose to the grindstone with a smile on your face. you will get what you want eventually. You just have to suffer the long hours and pay your dues just like me.
My Day as a Runner
I worked at Camberwell Studios for a day doing a running job on an educational shoot . Not the most interesting to some but fascinating to me. Because I had the right attitude and I got on with crew ,I got invited back for more shoots. The attitude and atmosphere in Camberwell Studios is great. Its has excellent facilities and really nice staff. I guess other places would be the same but you have to be prepared to get your hands dirty to get what you want. Do not expect and easy ride every time. ‘
By Phillip Pond
Phillips experiences highlight the very competitive nature of gaining work experience. I would like to share some key points to all of your budding students and graduates looking for work experience.
For those in Uni
Make films, edit, make other peoples films, take a camera everywhere with you or get involved in other Uni projects. I spent my time in the edit suite helping others with edit problems and inevitability continued on these projects with them alongside my own so I was always busy and this opened more opportunities. A very large part of my uni course was theory and written work so there was very little time for practical training so these projects were invaluable training to build technical knowledge of camera and edit suites.
Work/Work/Work – Everywhere, not just finding work experiences – Use some time after Uni or in the holidays to better your own skills, time management and so on. Work on a project, maybe find other graduates who are in the similar position, maybe look to film a theatre or art project for free or film a charity project, practise putting it online and promoting it. Maybe you will become a self facilitating media bod who finds their own path and not that of a production companies.
Keeping yourself busy will give you an added boost when trawling the internet for production companies and these extra experiences will look great on your CV. Remember that a production runner will have to be a very versatile individual displaying resourcefulness in solving problems and people skills so get practising in every way possible
When looking for work
Build a good network – spend time building your CV, researching other success stories. If you can get to speak to a producer of a production company then do. Ask advice, thy will no doubt be busy and try and get rid of you but don’t be afraid to seek extra advice from any source. Generally the receptionist will tell you to email the main and generic info@ email address which invariably doesn’t get read due to the sheer volumes of work experience requests they receive. Try and seek the correct person to send it to. Either via their website or ask the receptionist nicely. Try your luck.
Emailing for a placement
When sending the email think of something witty and different to write. A simple ‘Work Experience’ title may not be enough. Ask a silly question or just write ‘Question’… this will play on their curious ness and your cheeky headline may get your cover email read. They may even respond. Be confident but keep it simple.
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