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A Story On Breaking Into Post Production

This is a transcript of an interview I did in March 2021. Edited for content and clarity.


When did you start thinking about post-production, and initially, how did you foresee entering it?


When I was 14, I attended a filmmaking camp where we had to create a horror film. We were each given a scene to cut. Yes, the film was extremely cheesy, but I absolutely loved cutting my scene together on iMovie in the edit. I very cheekily also took our film back home and recut it all afterwards because I wanted to carry on! During the remainder of my time at school, I became more interested in film and started attending the BFI’s Future Film Labs (now the BFI Film Academy Labs), which are monthly filmmaking workshops for 16-25-year-olds. I started going to the cinema more often, edited more home holiday videos, and taught myself how to use Final Cut Pro X.


In Sixth Form, we had to choose whether we wanted to submit applications to universities and it was then that I decided to brave going straight into the industry. But, I had absolutely no clue how to break into post production and didn't have any contacts in the industry. Although I was stuck, I was determined to make my 'plan A' work and so I started extensively googling ''How do I become an Editor?''


During my googling, I stumbled upon Eddie Hamilton’s (Editor of Mission: Impossible and Kingsman: The Secret Service) website and found his brilliant advice page. It was the first resource I found that was extremely clear about the steps you can take to become a Post Production Runner and I thought, okay if this is what Eddie Hamilton is telling me to do, this is what I am going to do and I followed it like a Bible.


Unlike a lot of young people interested in film, you made the decision not to go to university. What motivated this choice, and what did it mean for your career?


One of the tips Eddie Hamilton gave in his article, was that if you know which side of the industry you want to go into e.g. film editing... go straight into the industry. Whereas if you would like to learn more about many different aspects of filmmaking to decide which one to specialise in later on, then university or film school is a brilliant place to do that.


Personally, I believe that there is no right or wrong way of doing things, and it should be up to you which path you wish to follow. Go with whatever is best for you. There are so many stories out there of people breaking into Film & TV in completely different ways. I was very excited (whilst being extremely intimidated) about going straight into the industry. I enjoy learning on the job so that is the route I chose. I spent a great deal of time asking myself questions to figure out if post production was actually what I wanted to do. I started with wider questions and then slowly drilled down to find out exactly what I wanted to pursue.


I asked myself... what part of filmmaking would you like to do?


My answer was... well...I like being creative... I enjoy storytelling… I like working in teams and creating the final rewrite of the film to go on screen. Being on set sounds too busy for me. I love wondering why cuts are the way they are. I studied Computer Science at GCSE so I like the technical side too... so I landed on film editing!

Then I asked myself... what side of the industry would you like to work in? Feature films, TV, documentaries? I think a great question to ask yourself to help you discover this is, what do you actually watch more of? For me it’s TV Drama, the quality is so cinematic and beautiful and I prefer the episodic format to features films.


So then I was left with TV drama editing.


In terms of the effect not going to university has had on my career, I think I’m probably further ahead in my career than I would have been if I had gone to university. However, there are topics you learn about at universities such as film theory and film history that I haven't had the opportunity to learn yet. So, I am also catching up at the same time. There are also parts of the university experience that I would have loved, such as meeting lots of people who also love film. Coming straight in from sixth form, I didn't immediately have a large peer group of people who were also interested in Film. So, attending networking events and meeting new people became very important. I think this has also helped me overcome the fear that comes with attending networking events for the first time because I had to go. I’ve met some very kind and generous human beings who have helped me along my way. Thank you so much if you are reading this!


What was your first trainee job and how did you get it?


My first job as an Edit Trainee was on Roadkill, a 4-part high-end TV drama (HETV) series for BBC1 starring Hugh Laurie. I absolutely loved working on Roadkill and I’m very grateful to have been given the opportunity through Screen Skills Trainee Finder. Screen Skills offers career development and opportunities to help people get into the industry. Trainee Finder is one of its schemes that supports trainees across many different departments in securing jobs on high-end TV drama shows and feature films. I am one of the HETV Edit Trainees for 2020-2021. Through the scheme, we receive emails stating that X production is looking for an Edit Trainee from X date to X date and then we have to follow the normal application process to secure the job.


After being accepted into Screen Skills, the U.K. plunged into a pandemic. How did this impact the programme, and how did you feel the effects?


Similarly to the wider Film & TV Industry, the number of work opportunities coming through Trainee Finder was understandably also affected by productions being put on pause. Fewer placements were coming through and I am very lucky and grateful that I have been fortunate enough to continue working.


I began my first Edit Trainee job on Roadkill one week before the first lockdown was announced and I quickly realised that I needed to learn some new skills very quickly to be able to work remotely. For example, how to manage Avid Media and how to troubleshoot offline files, because I would be looking after my own drive from home. These skills have now come in handy on my current show, as we have to prepare drives for Editors to use when they work from home.


Whilst working remotely, I found that it was also important to learn how to communicate effectively and clearly over the phone and in emails because you can’t just knock and deliver a message or ask someone a question by popping your head into their room. When you are working remotely, naturally there may also be fewer opportunities to train and more obstacles to overcome. I am very grateful to the 1st Assistant Editor for taking the time to train me on Roadkill whilst we worked remotely. She kindly recorded her screen for me to watch on Evercast and I also remoted into her computer via TeamViewer and we talked through processes over the phone.


What was it like looking for work during this time? Did you reach out to contacts, or perhaps look at jobs boards? Did you worry about your career and how this disruption might impact it?


The impact of COVID on the Film & TV Industry has been dramatic and like everyone, I was concerned when fewer opportunities were coming through after I finished Roadkill. Honestly, my career was a bit of an afterthought at this time because I was more concerned about the health of my family and friends during the spikes of COVID. I was then very lucky that Temple was looking for an Edit Trainee through Screen Skills Trainee Finder and that I got the job. I have a feeling that there might be a bit of a jobs boom (hopefully) because all of the Productions that have been put on pause still need to go into Post Production. They will need 1st Assistant Editors and 2nd Assistant Editors and then fingers crossed Trainees! Recently it has been great to see more job opportunities being posted on Facebook Groups.


You have now acquired a few more credits, so clearly you’re doing something right! What would you say has led you to scoring these opportunities?


I think doing my best whilst working on each job has helped. I've found that when they are hiring Trainees, Post Production Supervisors, 1st Assistant Editors and Editors often talk to each other and put people forward for jobs. "I'm looking for a Trainee, do you know anyone available at the moment?" So, it's always best to make sure that you do your absolute best on the job to hopefully be recommended for another job, or thought of when someone needs a Trainee. That is the aim! Fingers crossed! Haha.


For both Roadkill and Temple, the application process involved sending in my CV, receiving a phone call a couple of days later to come in for an interview, and then attending the interview. This process happened very quickly. Before applying for both Roadkill and Temple, I researched the shows online to find out more about them. What Production Company are they for? What is the show about? Have they started shooting? Who is in the Cast? Who is the Director? Etc. If Screen Skills has told us who is on the Post Production team, I will research the people in the team. Or I will try to find out who is on the team through sneaky googling. If there's time, I'll watch a show that they have previously worked on.


Temple is in its second series, and so in preparation for my interview, I purchased the first series and watched it all in the two days between the phone call and the interview. It's great when you get to watch TV to apply for a role in TV! I took notes to understand the plot and from an Edit Trainee perspective to write down anything that an Edit Trainee on the second series may need to know. What kind of SFX might be needed? Who are the characters? What happens in series one? I also brainstormed some questions to ask at the end of the interview, when employers usually ask you the dreaded question of "do you have any questions for them?" Asking questions about the show and the process shows that you are interested in the show, not just securing a job.


What other initiatives are you working on related to post, and where can people find out more?


Thank you! I write a blog for Post Production Runners & Students about Breaking Into Post Production

where I share some resources and advice I have found helpful. For example, "Where Can I Learn Assistant Editing For Beginners?" and "Where Are Post Production Runner Jobs Listed?" One of my favourite posts is a huge list of Post Production Companies in the UK, with their websites and a map! Honestly, I probably geek out over the map too much. You can add it to your Google Maps and it will show you where all the Post Production Houses are. Which I think is very cool because I always used to wonder where the Post Production Houses actually were.


On my website, I've also added some resource libraries of videos, podcasts, books, and articles that I have personally found helpful. I'm hoping to grow it into a giant bank of resources to help break down the giant 8ft high wall between Students and the Film & TV Industry.

 

My one-to-one mentoring sessions are now open for booking! Are you a Student, Runner, Edit Assistant, Trainee or 2nd Assistant Editor who would like to learn the scripted workflow or refresh your skills? You can book your next session here.

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