Monday, 19 October 2015

Henry Fenwick Running at Prime Focus

Prime Focus
Working as a runner doesn't sound that glamorous - but it is a tried and tested way to break into the animation and VFX industry.  Last year Escapee Henry Fenwick finished a three week work experience at Prime Focus Film in London's Soho.

We asked him to share his experience and also his advice, with a view to helping other animation students know what to expect when becoming a runner at a Soho studio.

In short - Is it Worth Taking a Job as a Runner?

Soho - home of London VFX
Escape: How did you find the job?

Henry: I got the job through my friend Rory Marchant who also studied at Escape Studios. Rory contacted me and said that Prime Focus were looking for runners urgently.

Escape:  What was it like?

Henry: At their main film building in Soho, Prime Focus have three runners working on a three month contract. When your three months are up the company decide whether you have impressed them enough and shown enough ambition in a certain area of the film-making process.

If you have done this, they then promote you to a full time role. You can also be promoted earlier if they are looking for people in your desired role.  Runners also receive training in the area they want to work in but, again, you get more training if they need the place to be filled quickly.

I found that you should try and train and prepare yourself in your own time.  In this particular job there was a lot of time sitting in the reception area doing nothing, so this was a great opportunity to have my laptop with me and get some work done while I was on the job - which they didn't mind at all.

Lots of coffee and tea

Escape:  What does being a runner involve?

Henry: The job of a runner is not very glamorous.  The building has three floors and the runners have to clean up the floors three times a day.  This involves cleaning up bowls and plates off desks, loading the dishwasher, cleaning surfaces, checking that the tea and coffee supplies are all well stocked, and that the bathrooms are clean and have enough loo paper etc.  Also, you have to distribute post on your floor and take outgoing post to the Post Office.

Also runners must take internal mail to other Prime Focus buildings in Soho. There are also other random jobs that include various individual requests from people; and also drinks orders and lunch orders.  All these things are pretty easy to pick up quickly and your fellow runners show you the ropes.  The pay was reasonable and the hours were fine too - there were three shifts: 8-6, 8:30-6 and 10 till 8.  The runner's shift changed every week.

Escape: What did you learn?

Henry: What I mainly learned is about the various stages of post production, and how much work goes into making VFX shots ready for release. I also learned a lot about how you should project yourself at work.  I found that in the first week you may feel nervous and find it all a bit daunting, such as how many people there are, and the fact that you don't know anyone, but after a week or two you start to settle in and feel that you can be yourself and be more confident.

Escape: What advice would you offer to runners?

Henry: My main advice is this: find a way of remembering people's names.  I am terrible at it, but it is especially important for distributing post.  Also it is important to be friendly to everyone and start conversations with people, talk about which department you want to be in and your background. Everyone there was really friendly and they really made time for me.

Escape: Did you have to interview? Any tips?

Henry: Yes, in your Interview I found that you need to show a real passion for what you want to do. You also need to show signs of a sense of humor - but don't come on too strong.  You should also have an answer for 'what is your dream' - which I need to work on.

Don't just tell the company that you can only do animation; it is much better to say that you are also open to working in other departments.  This is because the company may not be looking for animators at that time, although of course a job might open up while you are running.

To see the demo reel that helped Henry land a job, follow this link.

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