I know people who’ve swept floors, blown up balloons and bought everyone’s lunch at some studios, for no pay and little respect. Honestly, some internships are nothing short of slave labour and unpaid internships should be made illegal.
I’m a self shooting freelance director, who’s worked for Awake ltd, Leicester City Council, Youths Sport Trust, Loughborough University and a few others. I was also recently employed a director for two studios and I’m about to start some new projects there.
My journey so far.
I left Lincoln a few months after my final hand-in and made sure to make the most of the University’s equipment that was still available to me. I managed to shoot a short film titled ‘Frank & Lucille’, a 3 minute doc about a small bakery, as well as a larger 30 minute doc about a WW2 bomber before my house lease finally ran out.
Soon after returning home I began professional work, initially starting off unpaid, but soon got up to £15 an hour. I worked from home for many clients and managed to get my fee up to £100 a day. With this money I bought my own equipment and started up my own business (with a website) called Paradime, to which I could now charge £200 a day.
From here I drummed up a lot of attention online as I would always shoot and edit short films on my own, with my new camera (a Sony EX1) and upload them to the internet. I got incredible exposure one day when I was ‘featured’ by Vimeo, and received 10’s of thousands of hits in a matter of days. From this I received 2 job offers as a director, one I accepted immediately, the other I never noticed as it went straight into my junk email and I was on holiday at the time – the offer had expired when I returned home and finally found it!
Finally I pursued and secured a final signing at The Phoenix Partners, a local marketing company who outsource all their video work to young directors like me. I used a brand new Showreel consisting of all my post graduation work and managed to really impress their MD with my productivity and independence.
I’m currently in the running for a large £9,000 pitch to direct a new BT Global Services ident, making it possible for me to charge upwards of £300 a day.
1. Buy business cards. It’s unbelievable how many I give out when people enquire about what I do. People I meet on the train, business associates, friends of the family, friends of friends and many others now have mine, and I always get contacted as a result of it. There’s nothing less professional than writing your number on a scrap of paper, folding it up and passing it to a disappointed looking contact.
2. Create, maintain and add to an online portfolio on a regular basis. I owe just about everything to Vimeo, which has broadcast all of my work for 3 years now. Without it nobody would even know who I was and I would certainly not be in the position I am now. Put everything online! I don’t care if you think your brilliant new film is too good for the New Media, just put it on Vimeo and listen to what people have to say about it – whether they are good or bad comments. Don’t get upset if people don’t like it (as a director I will never work with someone who cannot accept criticism. )
3. Don’t expect to make much money in the first few months after graduating, and don’t be deterred if you don’t make any at all. You have to persevere, work for basic pay or for nothing at all and soon you’ll be able to use your body of work as leverage to secure ‘real money.’
4. Likewise, don’t move to London because you want to appear ‘a success’. Many of my friends did this as a totally uninformed act, as they felt it was the only place to go. Don’t get me wrong, London is the only place for film in the UK, just work you way down there when you’re ready to – be it in 12 months or 36.
5. Nobody really cares about your degree (unless you want to carry on within education and do an MA.) But that’s not to say studying media at University is a waste of time, I certainly don’t regret it at all. University gives you access to brilliant equipment and provides you with the time to construct an in depth portfolio for yourself – which is infinitely more important than your degree. University also gives you a chance to network with others in your position, so be polite, do favours for others and offer help and advice whenever you can – those people can really “sort you out” after graduation.
I never tell employers or clients what grade I got at University as I know their response will always be “I don’t care.” In fact saying you’re a graduate at all can be damaging, your portfolio should say EVERYTHING about you, so it’s important to make the film you feel is best for you, regardless of University criteria.
6. Oh and check your junk mail.
My time at LSM
I’ve always believed that ‘creativity’ cannot be taught, it can only be learnt. By this, I mean you have to discover it for yourself and you can only do it through repeated exploration; you need freedom, time and space to discover what you can and cannot do well – no lecturer, teacher or University can do it for you.
That said, thankfully Lincoln has a syllabus leaning heavily in favour of practical work, which gives you the time, facilities, encouragement and space you need to grow – and if they ever change that, it’d be the end of the University’s reputation as a top class media facility.
However, at Lincoln I didn’t learn a thing about budgets, talking with and finding clients, handling yourself professionally, seeking out funding, professional rates or launching your own business – which left me embarrassingly under educated when in certain situation.
This happened repeatedly to the point where I’d be talking to a client, they’d ask “how much do you charge per day?” and I’d have no idea – although if they were to ask me about feminism, semiotics, mise-en-scene or post modern horror I could spew an almost endless amount of useless information, none of which they’d care about.
Lincoln needs to sort out its priorities. Media is not and never will be an academic subject so stop treating it like one. It’s an art and a highly profitable one, if only you would tell us a little bit about real life professional practice.
If I were to take over Lincoln University’s Media facility, I’d ban staff ties and suit jackets. I’d tell everybody to log onto Vimeo, subscribe to some recommended channels and watch 1 or 2 short films a night. I’d create a non-profit DVD swapping subscription service where films of lesser known brilliance were traded between students, and also encourage a relationship between Media students and others from Graphic Design, Advertising and Contemporary Lens Media – all across Lincoln University.
Finally I’d get rid of The Shed (do you know how many students don’t turn up to lectures because they’re waiting for food there?) I’d empty it out and turn it into a studio workspace for media students giving them both creative space and an opportunity to talk, compare work, share films and bounce ideas off each other. Every other creative course at Lincoln has this facility and because of it they are far stronger, I was actually so sick of not having this room that in my third year I worked at Thomas Parker House and studied with their graphic design students – a course which has been ranked as one of the best in the World.
It’s worth noting that neither the Library nor the Atrium can provide this space.
What I’m most proud of.
Walking home through Soho after a 13 hour shift. I had just finished working with one of the top animation directors in England and produced a great 5 minute video pitch for her next project – I wasn’t paid and I didn’t care.
What I feel strongly about
Internships - they are basically a form of exploitation. It’s disgusting, you don’t get paid, you do brainless and meaningless jobs and people really do take the piss. I know people who’ve swept floors, blown up balloons and bought everyone’s lunch at some studios, for no pay and little respect. Honestly, some internships are nothing short of slave labour and unpaid internships should be made illegal.
Director at Irresistible Films