The Creative Industries: Getting into Film and Production
By UCL Careers, on 31 January 2018
Executive Producer Helen Collerton from Parable (http://parableworks.com) shares her top tips for working in the production industry. Helen is a UCL alumni and studied BA English Literature.
- It’s all about having the right attitude.
Last year I took a poll from around 30 freelancers I work with regularly. I asked them what they had studied at university, and the answers that came back ranged from History to Anthropology, Psychology to Media, English Literature to French, Politics to Economics to Geography and on and on. Rather than devaluing your choice of study, instead this shows what I believe to be the most important truth to success in production: it’s all about your attitude, enthusiasm, and dedication. What these 30 people have in common, is that they are each a joy to work with, both in terms of skill and personality. Production is an intense job at times, and people will value passion, and a fresh and positive frame of mind.
- Pigeon hole yourself.
Within the film/production industry, there are many specialisms, each requiring a unique set of skills and experience. While it is of course vital to ‘shop around’ to work out what you like making, one of the best pieces of advice I was ever given, was to be aware that you only need two or three of a certain type of ‘thing’ on your CV, before you will only be getting calls to do exactly that. There is some sense to thhis – the industry changes so rapidly, that you do need to be regularly making food programmes/natural history documentaries/sports broadcasting/commercials etc. to ensure you are moving at pace with your specialism in terms of technical kit, processes, and talent.
- Know what everybody else does.
You are going to become better at what you do, and easy to work with, if you put some effort and research into understanding the roles of the people working around you. Whether you are working as a runner, a researcher, or an executive producer, if you understand the details of each part of the puzzle, and the various pressures, stresses, and focus points of your colleagues, you will become a more valuable member of the team. You will also find that you learn more, and that you learn faster.
- The word ‘hierarchy’ should not apply.
This is a big one. There are hundreds of different roles in film and production, and while some are more complex, or require more experience than others, the words ‘hierarchy’ or ‘senior/junior’ should not apply. This is for two reasons: firstly, everybody started as a runner, a driver, a tea-maker, a dogs body or an assistant. Everybody has been where you are, and the only thing separating you from the people with more responsibility than you, is years of experience. A well-run and welcoming production team should make you feel that this is true, because it is. Secondly, a brilliant ‘anything’ is invaluable. No cog on the wheel or link in the chain is less important than any other – every project relies on people at every stage of the process doing a brilliant job. You’re just as important as everybody else.
- Be kind to yourself.
Sometimes I think that when people talk about the film/production industry, they make it sound like a very hard place. The reality is that if you surround yourself with lovely people, it is a genuinely amazing place to be. In order to keep yourself sane and safe, remember that you are only as good as you are strong, healthy, and happy. Part of the job is looking after yourself – I’m a firm believer in not working with people who don’t treat you well, and in relaxing and having fun whenever possible.
Helen also is a writer and has a piece on her blog called ‘Making Space for Writing’. You can read it here: https://readmesoftly.com/2017/12/17/making-space-for-writing/