5 min reading

Film’s behind-the-scenes roles

Creative Industries

Into Film Festival – the annual, nationwide celebration of film is back. On 7th-24th November, 5-19-year-olds will have access to a huge range of free screenings, special events and previews, and – our personal favourite – interactive Q&A sessions with industry professionals.

When it comes to film’s ‘industry professionals’, most people are familiar with director, cinematographer and costume designer, but what about the hundreds of other vital roles in production? Allow us to shine a spotlight on just some of the paths open to cinephiles who are more comfortable behind-the-scenes. Annnnd… Action! 

Producer

Firstly, clear your mind of all preconceptions of men in big suits barking orders. Producers oversee the creative process of a film, from conception to completion, so they have to work collaboratively with directors and cinematographers to make decisions about shooting, budgets and post-production. A good producer has a head for figures, excellent leadership skills and an ability to make hard calls under pressure to ensure the smooth running of production. 

Path to success: Producer is a very senior position, so you may have to start in a junior role, such as a runner or programme researcher, and work your way up. It's also possible to get into film production via an apprenticeship in creative and digital media. Degrees in film, media and communication can help.

Location Scout

The sweeping landscapes of New Zealand in Lord of the Rings and German Art Deco towns in The Grand Budapest Hotel can be attributed to the work of a location scout. A role that involves A LOT of travel, location scouts are responsible for not only finding the perfect filming setting but also working out the logistics to secure the area for production.

Path to success: No formal education or training is required to become a location scout. However, many location scouts start as entry-level crew members, such as production assistant, so attending film school can help you build a professional network and, in turn, get a foot in the door.

Gaffer

A gaffer is the person in charge of the electrical equipment on set. As the film’s chief lighting technician, they come up with a plan to creatively light each scene for a desired look, with consideration of the fastest way to change the setup between shots. They then have to execute the plan by working with the best boy – the gaffa’s right-hand man to acquire the necessary crew and equipment.

Path to success: Gaffers are fully qualified electricians, so your first step should be a BTEC or City & Guilds Advanced Technical Diploma. You’ll then need to develop contacts in the industry to get experience working on set.

Sound Mixer

Unlike a sound editor who works on post-production, sound mixers record all audio on set, including dialogue. Most film sets are challenging environments for mixers as costumes rustle, electrical equipment hums and cameras point in places where a microphone needs to be. Therefore, sound mixers have to be able to solve problems and usually under pressure.

Path to success: A well-trodden route to becoming a sound mixer is to start as a trainee or apprentice and work your way up the ladder. Alternatively, you can study a sound-related course at university – just make sure it’s ScreenSkills Select-endorsed.

Art Director

Thought Baz Luhrmann was behind Moulin Rouge and The Great Gatsby’s iconic aesthetic? Think again! Art directors like Catherine Martin bring fictional worlds to life by overseeing all members of the art department, including prop masters and set designers, who are responsible for the overall look and feel of a film.

Path to success: Production companies favour candidates with a background or education in drawing, painting, sculpture, graphic design and art history, but you’ll still have to work your way up to art director from concept artist, model builder or similar.

Programme Researcher

A programme researcher on a film provides support to the producers, director and writers by carrying out factual and picture research to ensure what's being portrayed is accurate. On documentary and period drama productions, a historical consultant may also be required to advise on costumes, scenery, props, dialect and content from a particular era.

Path to success: The role is open to all graduates, but having a degree in a relevant subject, such as media, journalism or history, will be an advantage. You may also be required to have specialist knowledge depending on the genre of the film.

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