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Should I Go To Film School?

This is part of an interview with Post Production Runner Ryan Patterson. Thank you very much to Ryan for chatting with me! In this post, we talk about his experience at university and discuss whether you should go to university or straight into the industry. Check out more interviews with Ryan about how to apply for a job as a Post Production Runner and his daily responsibilities.


Did you go to university?


Ryan: I went to Bournemouth University in 2015 and studied Media Production. I did A level Media Studies and I wasn’t sure what kind of job I wanted to do afterwards. I chose Media Production because it was quite a broad course, it covered all aspects of production and so I thought it would be good to go there and then I could realise what I wanted to do afterwards, or see throughout that experience. I always had something in me saying Ah, you like editing, why don’t you do editing? That was always in the back of my mind but I feel like going to Bournemouth and making short films pushed me towards editing because it is what I kept finding myself being drawn towards.


Were there any projects in particular which drew you towards editing?


In my final year, it was the three of my last projects that I worked on. My dissertation, my grad project and the other one was called Specialist Craft skills, I believe. With that one specifically, you got to choose out of a variety of job roles, which one you wanted to specialise and hone your skills in, and I chose editing with Premiere and After Effects. Then I regretted that decision because I felt like oh wait, what am I doing? I should be learning Avid because that’ll be what I’ll be using if I become an Editor. But it was good in a way, because it forced you to learn stuff that you wouldn’t necessarily learn from working on student projects. It taught you industry standard skills that you could take and go and work with instead of just learning it on YouTube. There was someone who was actually an Editor teaching you all the skills that you needed.


Another thing was my graduation project. I had to create a 15 minute documentary on anything I wanted. It was amazing, but it was a lot of hard work and a lot of late nights. Everyone on the course had to do one, but you had to have at least 3 people working on it with you. When you are known on the course as the guy that edits and everyone comes up to you and asks you to edit their project, it does take a toll on you and you’ll be thinking why have I agreed to do this because now this is a lot of work to do. But it was good fun. It was good to work on a variety of projects as well because everyone has their different ideas and styles. It was cool to see everyone’s projects come together and I was the guy doing that for people. So that was fun, and it gave you free will to do whatever you wanted. That was your time to shine in a way, to show all the skills that you had learnt.


I was not scared, but I was a bit concerned about the filming side of things because at that point I was certain that I wanted to be an Editor. I wasn’t focusing on filming, I wasn’t paying attention in the classes that we did for filming because I was like, ah I don’t need to know that. But, little did I know, it is good to learn every aspect of production, which helps you in the edit to understand okay, this is the screenwriter who wrote this, I can adapt it to look like this, or the director wanted it to end up looking like that. It’s good to understand all aspects of it.


Because it was such a large project, it made me work in the stages of Post. I did the transcoding, multiple rough cuts, the final cut and the offline and online stages in that way. It made me work towards a proper workflow instead of just being disorganised and doing it how I thought was best. I worked in a way that would make me more efficient, which really helped.


Eleanor: When I was cutting different short films I wanted to try and make sure that I was doing everything possible to make it feel like a professional workflow, instead of it being a little short or student film that I’d cut. I found that when it came to actually coming into the industry and learning the professional workflow as a whole, I was able to transfer over skills I had learnt. Saying okay this is the offline, then we’ve got the online and the grade.


Ryan: Exactly, it sets you up for it and then you’ll be going in for interviews afterwards and go yeah I know that process, I know how it works and it makes you more favourable to be employed. It’s a good way of working.


Do you feel that university prepared you for entering the industry?


My dissertation was based on whether people, who are looking to get into the TV industry, are deterred away from it due to the nature of freelance and precarious work. I did a lot of research into that, trying to figure out for myself is this the route that I want to take? I feel that that is something they didn't teach you enough at school or at university. I feel like a lot of people do leave thinking, oh okay yeah I’ve done this course I can go out and go and get a job or I’ve edited this amount of stuff. I can go out and be an Editor, they are going to hire me, but they are not.


People aren’t prepared enough to go out into a working life and succeed and that is what I found from my findings as well, that people weren’t necessarily happy with the way they would have to work for the rest of their career. But, it also allowed me to think about the path I would take to become an Offline Editor, it made me think, okay, what job roles will I have to do to get there? What will I have to learn? How long is that going to take? It really helped me realise, okay, I can do this, this is what I want to do.


University did help a lot in making my decision, but if someone is reading this who wanted to go into TV, and they weren’t sure if they would benefit from going to university or going straight out into the industry, I kept saying to myself and people that I know that if I could go back to when I left school, I would just go straight into working in the industry. Attention to detail is one thing that Uni does teach you a lot about, just making sure that your work is top notch, but it is a lot of money, and there’s not much that you get out of it. I would recommend people go straight into work.


Eleanor: I think a lot more people are now going to recommend that people go straight into the industry. There are so many benefits that come with having gone to uni, I think it is very dependent on the person. I didn’t go to university and one thing that I struggle with is I have a tendency to try and learn everything all at once, instead of actually pacing myself. At university you have modules, lecturers and professors to teach you but I had to find people who would be kind enough and willing to teach me different things. That has actually helped me meet people, because if I don’t network or meet anyone then I am completely stuck.


I think the industry should build in more training programs like ScreenSkills to help people learn all the skills they need to be more employable. There are so many things that film school, uni doesn’t teach you that you have to be prepared for, like freelancing, learning how to budget if you’re a freelancer, how to write a CV.


Ryan: A lot of people on my course do give feedback to the tutors about that. Things that they thought they were going to get out of the course but they didn’t. When you’re paying £27,000 for the course, you have that right to do that and say okay, well, I didn’t get this and for future people that will be enrolled on this course, maybe it would be good for you to cover this topic or that topic because you want to get as much out of it as you possibly can. A big thing with uni as well is that people can’t really coast through it, because if you coast through uni, you’ll get a qualification at the end of the day, but you won’t get much more out of that. You need to be active, going out and meeting people and doing your own projects on the side and doing extra curricular things, it makes everything more rewarding. Be on the ball all the time and try to think okay, how can I better myself today and learn something new? Instead of going okay I have to do this assignment, okay I’ve done that, sweet, move on and not storing that information.


Was there anything that surprised you when you started working in the industry?


I was shocked by how many people you see running at Post Production houses who don’t actually want to get into post. I was like, am I doing it wrong? Should I be running in production and then get into post afterwards? I thought everyone here was my competition, so when a job comes up for an Edit Assistant all of you are going to compete with me. But there was a job that came up quite early on when I started and I think there were four people that applied for it, and I was like, what? I just went around and asked everyone what do you want to get into? Everyone was production apart from two or three people who said that they maybe wanted to get into Post but they weren’t sure. I went into that job being 100% sure I wanted to get into Post.


But then again, being a Post Production Runner doesn't mean that you have to get into post because you meet so many producers on a day to day basis and of course you meet Editors. You also go to and from different companies all the time. We probably go to the BBC like 15 times a day just to drop off stuff and bring stuff back. There's so many companies in our area, we're always out and about whether it's driving or walking, we meet so many different people. I think there is definitely a massive benefit for people who want to get into TV to go through the Post Production running route.


I was also shocked that there were so many jobs that I didn't know of before I started running there. I didn’t know about MCR, I didn’t know about conform. I didn't know that these jobs existed and I'm like, Oh, that's really interesting, maybe I could do that, maybe I want to be a workflow supervisor. It's so cool to go in there and meet these people that are doing these jobs and hear about how they got their jobs as well. It's funny to hear everyone say, Oh yeah, when I used to run here... Oh, okay. So you guys can do it, so I can actually do it too. I went to an Editor's networking event last October. Most of the people that I meant there were Editors, and I shouldn't have been there, but one of the Editor’s invited me, I was quite sneaky. Everyone that I was speaking to would say oh yeah, I used to run at Films@59 20 years ago. It does fill you with a lot of confidence, because if you started off where I am at right now, then I could be where you are now.


Eleanor: When I started my first job as a Runner, I didn't know MCR existed. I didn't know that there are producers in a Post Production house. I didn't know that a library did not have books in it. I was so surprised by all of that. Running is an amazing opportunity to learn so much about the overall post-process. Even if people want to go into production, having an idea of what happens when you know, everything's shot and where your film or show goes, is a brilliant experience.


Ryan: The amount of people involved in the post process as well. That was another shocker for me. Because I thought, okay you’ve got a dubbing mixer, you've got an Editor, you might have a grader or the Editor could do the grading, maybe four or five people? No! Literally a whole massive team of people working their asses off to try and get the show out. It's a massive eye opener.


Eleanor: It definitely is because we'll be working on our student films or short films and we'll probably be a one stop shop where you'll be editing and then you'll be grading and then doing the sound design and suddenly you get thrown into the actual industry and that's not how it works.

 

There definitely seems to be a shift in more people deciding to go straight into the industry. Each pathway has its advantages and disadvantages and ultimately it is whatever you feel is best for you. There's no wrong way of doing things. I also enjoyed chatting with Ryan about his application process for applying to his first job as a Post Production Runner and what his daily responsibilities are. Click the links to check them out!


If you want guaranteed time with an industry professional to receive feedback, training and industry insight tailored to you, I'm now offering one-to-one online tutoring sessions! From career pathways to assistant editing, I'd be happy to be your guide. Find out more info here... don't struggle on your own!


Have you checked out the NEW, YES NEW… AH EXCITING ‘The Industry’ or the ‘Resources' pages yet?! There you’ll find collections of essential industry resources you can use to start your career. Head to the bottom of this page to find more blog posts about Assistant Editing, Post Production Running, Interviews and Film Editing.

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