A day in the life of a runner

As someone who came onto this MA having barely any experience in the film and television industry, when a friend offered the opportunity to be a runner for a music video with Gas and Electric it was impossible to turn down, but extremely nerve wracking at the same time. I couldn’t wait to experience a professional production.

LydiaBlogThe day before the shoot we were emailed a call sheet (a real, proper call sheet) where we could see the various locations we would be filming, the plan for the day and contacts for everyone involved. The overall day took 12 hours and was scheduled in so much detail. Myself and another FTV student, Talla, were awake and on location by 6.30am. We had the warmest welcome and were introduced to the team with as many bacon rolls and drinks of coffee as we liked. At 7am on the dot, the advanced schedule began, and we started by being in charge of the distribution and set up of the radio mics. These walkie talkies were essential during the shoot as they enabled the contact between many of the production team. Talla and I were numbers 4 and 5, also included were the 1st assistant director, the production assistant and the producer, who was sat at the unit base looking after the equipment throughout the day.

While everyone was setting up, me and Talla were introduced to the new talented artist – a young local performer from Birmingham. She chatted away to us while having her make up done by an artist, also a local student, so we all had a lot to talk about. Then Talla proceeded to the first location and I remained at the base. Talla was initially responsible for the playback of the music via a speaker she was holding so the artist could be filmed lip-syncing to it – I also took responsibility for this later on in the day. I was then asked to meet the team with a neon yellow jacket at the next location to help stop the disruption of filming as people and cars were often coming into the shot – I do have to say I enjoyed having this power! I then began to watch the effortless filming of the crew and saw how a music video could be filmed.

I was summoned after a while to have the responsible task of returning the SD card full of footage to the unit base, to transfer it onto a computer and bring it back empty to be used again – this is when the term ‘runner’ really came into account, as I could be seen running through the busy streets of Digbeth back and forth a few times. Talla carried on with the playback duty and some members of the public wanted to join the filming. The talent and director both agreed, and I was therefore sent to grab some release forms to obtain their consent for being filmed.

Lunch time came and by then we had already been on site for 7 hours, so the chilli and rice provided for us at the unit base pub was (as you can imagine) a great success. After filming in multiple locations, I watched the team be challenged by someone from the council asking for a permit. This was handled so calmly, and the production assistant sorted it out so it did not affect the team shooting all the action. After 12 long hours of filming, Talla and I put away all the radio equipment and loaded it into the van to be taken back to London. From our position as runners, we experienced up close what goes into the production of a small-team location music video. All of the scheduled organised chaos at the time did not stop the positive and kind nature of the production team, who continued to ask how we were and whether we were okay as first timers on the job. In conclusion, I would 100% be a runner again, even if that does mean running around Birmingham in -1 degrees!

Lydia James

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A Foot in the Door

Olivia Scott finished her MA in early September 2016. Since then she’s spent 4 weeks as a location runner in Ibiza (yes, really!) and is about to commence her second paid TV role as a casting runner in London. Here’s how FTV helped her to get that foot in the door…

oliviaIt seems like only yesterday that I got my acceptance onto the MA in Film and Television: Research and Production at the University of Birmingham. Doing my undergrad (History) at UoB, it felt only natural for me to stay an extra year, on this fantastic course, as I loved the uni, and the opportunities the course could provide me, so much. In all honesty, my main reason for undertaking the MA was the placement aspect of the course, as I, like many other rookies looking to get a career in television or film, didn’t know where to start. I thought that the course would provide me with the necessary skills and training which would stand me in good stead to get a job in the television industry. And I was right.

I enjoyed every aspect of the MA, from practical training with Oz, to documentary filmmaking with Richard. However, my favourite taught module was Research, Production and Commissioning with Kate Hollingsworth (who works in television). As a self-confessed TV obsessive, I loved learning about every aspect of the television industry, and Kate was an inspirational teacher. This module, as well as the placements I undertook, reinforced that I definitely wanted to pursue a career in television.

However, it was definitely the placement aspect of the course which I feel I thrived in. I was a casting runner at 7Wonder in Birmingham for two months, working on a cookery show for Channel 4. I really felt like a part of the team and I learned loads about the TV industry and casting itself. This experience led me to get the job that I am currently working in, as a casting runner for a company in London, called Nutopia. To get the chance to actually work for a television company was amazing, and I learned some invaluable skills, all thanks to the MA.

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The MA also helped me get my first job in television: being a location runner on Ibiza Weekender (ITV2). To have the chance to go abroad for a month was amazing, let alone getting the chance to go to Ibiza for a month! I had to give my dissertation in 3 weeks early, and my placement essay 2 weeks early (a day before I flew out to Ibiza) but it was worth it, as working on Ibiza Weekender was an amazing experience, and I learned so much about working on location and the necessary tasks that are involved in being a location runner. It was relentless hard work, but again I feel that the experience I had on the MA really helped me to do my best at the job. It also helped that I had watched the show so knew the format!

I can’t thank Richard, Jemma and Oz enough. Doing the MA was the best decision and all aspects of it have allowed me to get my foot in the door of the television industry, an industry I hope to work in for a number of years!

Olivia Scott

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From FTV to 3rd AD – Matt’s Story

Before you read the below, I feel that I should put that I wasn’t one hundred per cent sure about writing a short bio as to what I’d done since graduating from the Film & TV MA.  I think it is helpful to see what alumni of the course have achieved and how they got there, but by looking at what others have achieved it can lead to quite negatively comparing where you are with them. Which is never helpful, and as I’ve learnt, in the media industry, there is no set path to success, sometimes it can take longer than others to get paid work, and sometimes it happens straight away.  I was the last of the five who graduated on the course my year to find solid paid work, but I got there eventually. Anyway, read on and apologies for some of the hyperbole. Matt Persona

Upon graduating from the MA course in September 2011, I was immediately struck with the knowledge that I had a very clear idea of the latter part of my career (make Horror into a respected genre, direct the 30th James Bond film, win several oscars, marry Jennifer Lawrence etc.) but little notion as how to begin.

I was still working as a trolley boy at the local Waitrose and though pushing 15 trolleys downhill pass Mercedes and BMWs has its charm, it wasn’t as compelling as you’d imagine. However, I managed to get some work writing for a local free newspaper called ‘Harborne News’, small articles on local political issues (only exaggerated for dramatic effect a little) and as it turned out the editor was looking to produce some video content for his website.  We made an incredibly unbiased short documentary about the local clock tower which the council was threatening to demolish, and several promotional videos for local businesses, including one for national charity ‘Headway’.  These can be viewed on the website www.harbornenews.com if you have a strong urge to ‘Save Our Clock Tower’.

Now, all of this was fantastic experience, but completely unpaid, off the radar and didn’t seem to be actually getting me anywhere.  I also did some work for a couple who were producing a series of webisodes about ‘Birmingham Bakers’, which was enjoyably tasty, though also unpaid. A short side note here to point out that whilst I’m not obsessed with money, it is sort of necessary to live.  So while I was working on these small projects I was still stuck at the supermarket, so I could afford to pay the bills. Which in turn means you have less free time (and inclination) to find other work, or do the unpaid projects. It’s really tough to find the balance between earning money and helping your career; a balance which is different owing to everyone’s circumstances.

It would turn out to be the much derided Gumtree which provided my next two pieces of work.  The first was Persona, which billed itself rather dramatically as the ‘World’s First Soap Opera Phone Ap’.  It is, as far as I’m aware, and there may well be a reason for that.  The company would provide the ‘Director/Writer’ with a budget of £150 and for that they would provide ten ‘appisodes’ of 90 seconds each. These would then be broadcast through the mobile phone app (which had over 100,000 subscribers we were confidently assured), they made their money back from adverts and everybody wins. Now whilst this didn’t bring us the overnight fame we had all dreamed of, it did do two very important things. Firstly, it gave us more experience in terms of putting together what was effectively a short film.  We filmed it all in one weekend, and the reason it worked was down to a great deal of forward planning and preparing for every contingency.  Secondly, and here I will address the ‘us’, it was a great way of building contacts. Luckily, someone I had worked with from the ‘Harborne News’ projects had camera equipment, my colleagues from the MA all pitched it to help, Oz lent some lights and between the rest of us we found make-up artists, actors and the necessary locations. Continue reading