Advice from the film industry

 24 September 2012

How do you get into the film industry? First Light asked young filmmakers how they got started, and spoke to film producer Colin Burrows about what he looks for in his trainees.

"If you are giving your all, people will notice. Perhaps doing that little bit extra will get you your next job.”

Sue Lau, creative apprentice

Sue Lau was a trainee on First Light’s creative apprenticeship scheme in 2010. She has since worked on various shorts and has been accepted onto Creative Skillset’s Trainee Placement Scheme for a position as a Script Supervisor.

"Nothing is more valuable than on-set experience.”

“All industries have their own unique challenges... The first thing I learnt was that there is more than meets the eye to the film industry.

"I would have to say that being a runner is the best position there is in terms of observing the different roles and how it all operates. Nothing is more valuable than on-set experience.”

Charlie Coombes, First Light alumni

Charlie Coombes is living proof that you don’t need a degree to succeed in the industry.

She worked on a First Light film when she was at school, back in 2006, and has already built up an amazing CV working on The Boat That Rocked, Harry Potter and Never Let Me Go.

"Be prepared for long days, making lots of tea, no social life and lots of hard work."

“It is often said it is not what you know but who you know. Well, I didn’t know anyone when I started out, and I think experience really counts:

"The great thing about modern technology is that you can now make HD movies using phones! Make lots of films using whatever camera you can get hold of, even if it's stop-motion using Lego!

"Write to production companies and ask for work experience. Lots of indies are always offering work experience, you will learn so much and it will look brilliant on your CV.

"Whilst working in this industry has its moments, it is not at all glamorous! Be prepared for long days, making lots of tea, fighting epic wars with unruly photocopiers, no social life and lots of hard work.

"If you are giving your all, people will notice. Perhaps doing that little bit extra will get you your next job.”

Colin Burrows, film producer

Colin Burrows runs Special Treats Productions, which provides a range of TV, Film and Broadcast Production services. He spoke about what he looks for in new entrants:

"A degree is not important as far as we are concerned. Personal attitude is far more crucial. However, if a degree has been obtained, a hands-on degree in the practical aspects of media – camerawork or editing – is welcome.

Advice for seeking a career in film

"Smarten up, show willing. I look for positive attitude, attention to detail, willingness to lend a hand with every aspect, sense of humour and sense of responsibility, good time keeping and personal appearance.

"Many trainees stay on to work with us. Others are freelance producers and directors now."

"I was given tons of advice when I started out knocking on doors. 'Be persistent' was the best advice I received – getting a job now is as hard as it was then, in a previous recession.

"So will happen as much by luck as by anything you do. But give luck a hand by putting yourself in the way of potential employers by volunteering for unpaid work experience

Working with trainees

"Trainees should avoid the opposite of 'smarten up and show willing'. There’s nothing trainees here avoid – they wouldn’t last if they did.

"However, as an employer, I try to remember I have a responsibility not to exploit the trainee. So they tend to work shorter hours with us, and don’t do weekends unless they want to.

"Many trainees stay on to work with us. We have a long tradition of growing people from inside the company. Others are freelance producers and directors now."

During the past 20 years, Special Treats Productions has built a reputation for excellence, providing broadcast and production services to a wide range of clients including Universal, Paramount, Disney, BAFTA, Sony, Warners and 20th Century Fox. The company produces cinema trailers, Electronic Press Kits, corporate videos and provides event coverage for the biggest names in the entertainment industry. And they produce the sizzle for the First Light Awards, so they must be great!


First Light provides opportunities for young people interested in filmmaking and creative media production. For weekly tips, job opportunities and advice, sign up to our free members club The Light Lounge.

You can keep in touch with First Light on Twitter @firstlightfund and at Facebook /firstlightmovies.


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