Tim Porter, creative producer intern

 20 April 2014

Tim had a wealth of experience as a director, writer and editor before he took on the role of creative producer intern at Project Phakama. He talks about getting trained up in backstage arts and offers advice for people who want to work their way into an arts career.

"The internship gives quite extensive training in backstage arts, so I learn about everything from lighting to sound engineering."

Hometown

I'm from Thamesmead in South East London. 

What job do you do?

I'm currently doing a creative producer internship at Project Phakama. This paid internship combines backstage training with professional placements. 

I'm one of 30 at interns at Project Phakama who have received funding via the Creative Employment Programme

How did you get started?

I've been directing, writing, editing and producing films for a while, but it can be hard to earn money from what I do. 

In my last few weeks of university, I was looking to get work in these areas, but it was difficult to get anywhere. I put in lots of effort, trying hard to find things to apply to and make contacts – all while still working on my own projects. 

I began to think I wouldn't be able to get into the creative industries at all.

I felt like a was in limbo. I was even helping to fund productions from my own pocket just to get stuff out there. When you direct and produce off your own back, you can lose lots of money. It caught up with me financially.

I was trying to supplement my creative interests with other work, but that was tough too. I began to think I wouldn't be able to get into the creative industries at all.

When I saw the creative producer internship advertised, I was won over by the practical experience and industry support that the scheme was offering. Not to mention the rare prospect of a steady income. 

What qualifications do you have?

I didn't do too well at secondary school. I was often in trouble and I was close to giving up education altogether.

Partly I think that was because of the lack of creative engagement, which I now know is so important to me.

It all changed for me when I went to college, studying at Shooters Hill Campus. I did BTEC level three and four in Media Production and got a triple distinction.

It's great that people come to this role from different arts backgrounds.

I also did AS Film Studies and got a B+. I should add that I couldn't have done this without the support of the Education Maintenance Allowance, which helped me both with basic costs and to do things like attending cultural events, which were key for my development. 

I went on to study Contemporary Media Practice at the University of Westminster. The degree allowed me to choose the kinds of media I studied and there was lots of freedom within the confines of the course structure. I had the luxury of going between photography, film and art installations. For my final year project I made a film called 'Juggling'.

On the flip side, although I learnt a lot at university, I often felt quite restricted and like my ideas were not fully embraced. This affected me and my progression as a practitioner. 

What do you do for your internship?

The internship gives quite extensive training in backstage arts, so I learn about everything from lighting and sound engineering to disability issues. 

Think carefully about who you allocate time with, what for and whether unpaid projects are worth your energy.

Some of the exercises we do are more commonly used in rehearsals for actors. The intention is to break down any discomfort, encouraging us to get rid of our shells, be freer and collaborate. 

We've also been set challenges to help us think outside the box, such as creating performances and events with no budget. All the interns are also involved in organising a festival.

We all have to do a placement with one of Project Phakama's partners in order to gain experience in different kinds of arts venues. Mine is with the Institute of International Visual Arts (Iniva).  

As I already have quite a bit of experience in film, I'm finding it valuable that the internship allows me to branch out into theatre too. I like the fact that I specialise as I go, and if I'm successful the scheme might even be extended. 

What's the best thing about your internship?

It's great that people come to this role from different arts backgrounds. It's nice to have a bunch of perspectives at the table.

I like that we cover lots of areas within the arts. Doing a placement at Iniva, for example, points me in a different disciplinary direction. This is also great for taking people out of their comfort zones, which I think is crucial.

It's valuable having support from Project Phakama. They've been so helpful, especially at confidence-building. I can then pass that confidence on to any actors I work with, so it has a kind of positive chain reaction. 

What's the worst thing about your work?

As we cover quite a lot of areas, I can find myself involved in a workshop which totally doesn't interest me, such as music engineering.

It isn't personally productive as I don't see myself sitting behind a music desk. It can feel a bit restrictive, but that's part of the process of giving us rounded training.

Tips for a career in the arts

1. Keep intellectually active 

Go to see as many films, art shows and theatre productions as you can for inspiration. Most art shows, at least openings, are free.

There are a lot of short film nights and scratch nights (poetry, theatre, music, film) around, especially in London.

Most of the time they are free or carry a small fee of about £3-5. They are good for getting you engaged with the industry and keeping your ideas brewing. These things are also good networking tools.

2. Be selfish about your career

One of the most common things which happens to graduates and creative people is struggling to keep afloat, financially and creatively.

I struggled for almost a year out of university, unsure of where I was going, doing voluntary and unpaid work and finding myself not really getting anywhere.

When you panic, the energy is felt within the team you're working with.

A lot of friends and past colleagues were making huge leaps forward with their careers respectively. This led to depression and a lack of confidence in who I was.

The most important thing to remember is that we are all on our own paths. Each road is different. We have to fail to succeed.

I have many regrets in my career to date. Many missed opportunities for example. The key is to stay in the present moment. Keep focused, determined and chasing whatever it is you want. 

3. Use time productively

Think carefully about who you allocate time with, what for and whether unpaid projects are worth your energy.

Try to be as productive as you can with the time you have. Also, don't take too much on. This can lead to problems in terms of managing your workflow, which is unhealthy.  

4. Don't panic: it's contagious

Look at how problems can be solved and try to avoid getting in a negative mood. It's key when under pressure to always keep a positive stance.

Don't panic. When panicking manifests, the energy is felt within the team you're working with. If you're a director like myself, this is dangerous.

It can impact on your crew and colleagues. I also recommend reading 'The Power of Now' or 'A New Earth' by Eckhart Tolle. They are good resources to keep you in the here and now. 
 


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