During my previous four years at University I was told consistently and repeatedly how important work placements were for boosting future employability, and, like most lazy, initiative- lacking students, I decided to ignore the advice. Consequently, I graduated with nothing to distinguish myself from my (thousands) of identically, or near-identically, graded co-graduates. New film course, new year and new perspective, I decided to finally embrace the world of work experience this summer. After hundreds of applicants and two interview rounds, I was one of the very lucky 22 students to be selected for the 2014 JUMPCUT Summer Production crew. I quickly realised that lecturers aren’t in fact lying when preaching and promoting their massive benefits, and it was one of the best personal and professional experiences I’ve ever had.
JUMPCUT is an initiative founded by SIGMA FILMS and Film City Glasgow to enable the development of young film-makers living and working in Scotland. With Channel 4 as a broadcast partner and funder, the mentored training programme takes place over twelve weeks for young people aged 16 – 25, enabling the production of a high quality 10 minute short film. The professional mentors include producer Paddy Higson (credits range from Gregory’s Girl to The Magdalene Sisters and numerous Television Drama productions); Production Designer Mark Leese (God Help the Girl, This is England, The Magdalene Sisters); Location Manager Lloret Dunn (World War Z, Never Let Me Go); Assistant Director Susan Clark (Coronation Street, Still Game, River City) and Production Manager Claire Campbell (Sunshine on Leith, Starred up) – all of whom worked closely with us during the production process.
Being a rather inexperienced first year film student, it was both heartening and interesting to learn that even the graduate film students, with four years of uni experience, were just as clueless as I was about what actually goes into a professional production. This industry, with its massive budgets and large-scale crews, is so vastly different from the small-scale student films we’re accustomed to making as students, and JUMPCUT provided an invaluable experiential bridge between these two worlds. The process was split into pre-production and production, and in the first week I bonded with my fellow crew of eager students/graduates, alongside meeting with, and hearing inspiring words from, some very wise and experienced people within the TV and Film Industry. One particular meeting with Production Executive Gillian Pauling (Fresh Meat, Peep Show, The Cube) was extremely valuable. She opened my eyes to professionalism and good practice not just being common sense, but something that so many people unfortunately fail on. Something as simple as sending a formal email seems to cause difficulty for many hopeful graduates.
The film itself is one of two initial script choices that had to be pitched by us to SIGMA FILMS. ‘Dropping Michael Off’ was the winning preference, and pre-production commenced by organising our office space into its various department teams of Production, Art department, Camera, Locations, Sound and Post-production. The script, written by prior 2013 JUMPCUT participant James Price, depicts 18 year old Michael’s final day of freedom before his court hearing. Trying to calm his apprehensive nerves, his Uncle Duncan takes him out for what he believes should be a ‘real man’s’ last day before jail. However, Duncan’s true intentions soon become apparent.
Directed by Bafta award winner Zam Salim, ‘Dropping Michael Off’ was an incredible production to be part of. Alongside my production assistant and locations assistant role, I was also able to shadow direct, where I observed Salim’s directorial techniques and his interactions with our actors Brian McCardie (Filth, Speed 2) and Michael McCardie. Their relationship as real life uncle and nephew really magnified the realism Salim was hoping to achieve.
Returning to normal life was a difficult transition after being so immersed in the professional world of the production. It seems crazy schedules aren’t a burden one bit if you genuinely love what you’re learning, doing, and the incredible people who surround and work with you. Director of Photography James Blann and his camera team render a gritty yet stunning look with the industry standard ARRI alexa camera, and I’ll be proud to see my name on the end credits next to many talented people. ‘Dropping Michael Off’ is currently in the post-production stages and will be shown around various festivals and air on Channel 4 in 2015.