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Future talent: getting your foot in the door

COW Blogs : Quantel blog : Future talent: getting your foot in the door
Continuing our Future Talent theme we've brought together three experienced post-production professionals to tell us what they look for in prospective employees and to give some advice for people at the start of their careers. Our discussion included Dan Marbrook, Head of 3D post-production at The Look; Lee Clappison, colorist at LipSync Post; and Olivier Lauchenauer, MD of Pogo Films.

What are the skills you need to get your foot in the door of a post-production house?

Dan Marbrook: "Firstly, it's good to know all of the products that are available, whether or not it’s the visual effects, grading, cutting... Post-production products in general, right through to audio. It's good to get some experience with these, even if you're just working off iMovie or something, just to get general experience of cutting and to understand how post production-houses run and who their clients are."

Olivier Lauchenauer: "Do your homework on who you should talk to, their role in the company and if they are the decision maker. Also be very clear on what your skills are and have to the work to back it up. Be prepared to be persistent to get to them, as they tend to be busy."

Lee Clappison: "Essentially you need good technical knowledge, good people skills and you have to be able to listen to instructions!"

How should people present their applications?

Lee: "Keep it short and to the point. If it's too long people may think "I don't have time to watch 20 minutes of material", so keep it nice and snappy."

Olivier: "Via email is best - make it clear what you can offer. I rarely reply to snail mail as I just don't have the time. I also rarely watch show reels on DVD and web links are far easier and take less of my time (and I can also get my creative team to watch them)."

Lee: "In terms of show reels - I wouldn't necessarily go down the route of sending out CDs or DVDs - I'd maybe send out a link to a website just because it's easier for someone to click on it in their lunch hour or whenever. So a nicely-designed website might be better then than sending out traditional DVDs through the post."

Dan: "First things first: get an email address for the relevant person, send the application, wait to hear for about a week and then chase. Only chase one or two times. It’s nice to have a show real but it's not essential."

Lee: "We do take work experience people at LipSync. It's very useful for them as they can see first hand the areas that interest them and how things happen in a work environment. It also gives people the chance to ask questions and have a less formal chat about things. We can show them what we do and there's a bit more of a two-way dialogue."

Is it still worth people cold calling and asking for work speculatively?

Dan: "It’s worth cold calling up to a point – but don’t bug people. There’s nothing worse than people who keep phoning back! We’ll get back to them if we want to."

Olivier: "Yes, but call the right person! Homework is essential and back it up with an email."   

Lee: "Probably not to be honest - you probably just get passed from one section to another... but it's obviously very tricky to get to speak to someone! Work experience is always a good way of getting to meet people, though obviously it can be quite hard to get in."

Dan: "We’ve had people at The Look come through the door who have simply turned up with a CV. One person ended up doing work experience for about a month from that, and she went on to get a job at The Mews and she’s doing really well for herself."

Do you have any tips for people trying to get experience?

Olivier: Well work experience or internships are essential: you get to meet people and learn how to work with other people - these are skills which not all schools are good at teaching. Also this where you are going to make your contacts and if you're clever you can keep in touch with people as they climb the career ladder."

Lee: "Do as much as you can. There are a lot of good post programmes out there that you can use on your home computer - editing and even grading packages that you can actually use at home. Shoot your own material - just do as much as you can. Learn about all the aspects of not just post, but the industry, and what things are."

Dan: "Beyond the things I mentioned earlier and trying and get work experience... you can go to conferences, you can try and get experience on Final Cut Pro, you can use software from Quantel or Avid - there are all sorts of free downloads now from both of them. Basically just try to find as many different places where you can learn about the kit and understand a little bit about media management."

What are your views on training and courses? Are they essential and would you recommend them?

Lee: "A lot of the universities and colleges do have kit you can have a play on and use to experiment with your own material, so my advice would be to make the best of that if you're there. I know when I was at film school I tried to use the equipment as much as possible and went in at whatever hour was available when it wasn't in use just to have a play with it and really to get to know what it did."

Dan: "I agree - just make sure you try and find a college where you can get some form of experience on editing kit, whether it's on Adobe After Effects or whatever. You’ll find that there’s a lot training which is worthwhile, but I don’t value some of the more mediocre degrees... I think general media courses are essentially worthless. They tend to be taught by people who have not done well in the job, and that is why they are at a poor university giving training."

Olivier: "Only a few of them are really worth it... Ravensbourne is definitely one of them for the post industry. I would also try Escape Studios who have a good reputation for VFX (and there are grants out there). General media degrees are too broad and don't give you specific skills that slot into jobs. The more skills you can acquire on platforms like After Effects, Cinema 4D and FCP the more chances you are giving yourself to get professional experience."

Dan: "The best ones to look at are Bournemouth and Ravensbourne... and there's another one I can't remember. However the other courses that are worthwhile are the arts colleges that offer good design courses on Adobe products. Visual effects people are often slightly geeky people that have done a degree in those types of fields, you know, design and after effects etc..."

Lee: "Courses are good - but there's nothing like practical hands-on experience, though it's always hard to get that, so it's a bit of a catch-22..."

Have you got any good and bad examples of applications you've seen?

Lee: "Well presented applications and well presented show reels always look better. It's obviously quite hard when people start out because they don't necessarily have the skills to do them. Definitely listen to what people say when you're chatting to them - accept any feedback they give you and don't assume you know best."

Olivier: "The best applications from our point of view are short and to the point."

Dan: "That's right - when you put your application together don’t put your ASDA till experience on there - we only want to read things that are relevant. University experience is not important in terms of "I worked in a bar", the only things we want to know are that you can turn up on time, that you’ve got some experience, you understand the industry and you’re to the point. We only want one page; because if you’ve only just come out of university, why would you have two?"

Lee: "There was one I saw years ago - it was someone's short film, and it was quite good but it had really bad language throughout the entire film. This was probably fine for a short film but probably presenting that to a future employer was maybe not the best idea!"

Dan: "A really bad example is someone who’s got something 3-4 pages long, think they know the world already and they don’t know anything."

Olivier: "Or one that doesn't relate to your business and has loads of spelling typos including the name of the person that it's intended for!"

Is there any advice you wish you had been given when you started?

Lee: "Stick with it. In the early stages it's very easy to get quite a lot of knock backs and give up. If you stick with it something will happen and you'll work your way through. It took me about nine months to get my first job in the industry after film school and I was very close to giving up."

Olivier: "Be prepared to try out as many jobs as you can. The key to success is being passionate about your job and having a positive attitude. Early on it's hard to to see your career path, as generally there really isn't one as the industry is constantly changing. So enjoy the journey!"

Dan: "Before you get into production or post production, think about trying out different areas. Make sure you know and understand what you're getting into because if you end up in something you’re not really that passionate about, it’s very easy for other people to see it. So make sure you do work experience before picking your chosen field. I started out in pre-production, so I was a producer for a long time at ITV, and then a freelance producer. I was actually more suited to post-production: once I started editing, I preferred the people and I preferred the fact there was no bullshit. You can’t walk into an edit suite and not push the buttons. If you don’t know how to operate it, you wont get the job done and you won’t get paid!"

Article first appeared at

Posted by: Roger Thornton on Jun 6, 2011 at 3:02:21 am post-production, Training

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