LUCKY BREAK: Getting a Start in Film

Written by James MacGregor on . Posted in Guides

Shooting The Rosslyn Enigma Anyone trying to gain employment in the Britain's film industry knows how hard it can be getting a foot in the door. Three years at film school and all the enthusiasm and determination in the world still can't guarantee you a job in an industry that measures success in terms of who you have worked with and what films you have worked on. Here's a story that shows how one aspiring filmmaker got his first lucky break. Not only in the crew, but in front of the camera as well. Tim Maguire – Director of The Rosslyn Enigma explains…

We were all based at the Original Inn in Roslin for the duration of the shoot, and on the first evening, the waiter introduced himself to our producer, Sharon Ravenscroft. It turned out he was called Richard, had just graduated in film & TV at Napier and he offered to be a runner free of charge: smart move number one. Smart move number two was bringing his digital camera, and gaining a second credit as Unit Stills.

Then - while helping our spark Lenny O'Brien find a working power source in the Chapel - he let slip he knew lots of stories about the myths and legends which he'd heard while making his graduation film, Roslin by Rosslyn. So he was immediately cast to play the part of 'Waiter' opposite our lead, American actress Marisa Privitera and turned in a very credible performance as he retold stories about Italian TV crews trying to dig their way into the secret chamber, and maniacs trying to demolish the Apprentice Pillar in search of the Holy Grail.

 The crane shot : Shooting The Rosslyn Enigma

On day three, he'd graduated to Shot Logger, PA and Camera Assistant; by day four, he was second unit Camera Operator, and on our last and final day five, when the heavens opened, turning the location white and the schedule upside down, he added the role of Casting Director, finding us a characterful local expert as a last minute replacement for a snow-bound Academic. Needless to say by this point he was long since on the payroll, and he earned every penny.

Good natured, resourceful and quick thinking, he displayed all the qualities we like to say we look for in new entrants to the industry. So if you're shooting in the Edinburgh area and looking for a runner stroke all the above grades, give him a call. He created his own first break and deserves another.

Tim Maguire on how he gave Rich Harris  his first start. It is such a fabulous piece of luck, we contacted Rich to ask how it all went from his point of view. Here's what he had to say....

 It was a strange transformation during that week! I started cooking the crew breakfast at my "Normal" job at The Original Hotel Rosslyn on the Monday morning where I used the opportunity to introduce myself and explained my background and interest in what they were doing. That night the producer Sharon Ravenscroft from Tern TV offered me the opportunity to join them on the following days shoot. I arrived for work early the next morning and began helping doing what I could. I was then promoted to shot logging. At every opportunity the director Tim made himself available to chat about the industry and offer advice on planning an attack on creating a career. Tim mentioned that he was looking for a younger local character to appear as a waiter in the film and after talking to me for a couple of minutes he asked if I would be interested. Keen to help and make a good impression and ignoring the fact that I had never appeared before a camera, I jumped at the chance! On my first day I had also come equipped with my camera and used any down time to take some stills of the shoot.

Tern Television filming The Rosslyn Enigma

On the second day I was again promoted this time to Camera Assistant. I was introduced to Alan McSheey the DOP and Camera operator and he explained exactly what the role involved and what I was meant to be doing. Again I found Alan to be beyond helpful in offering advice and taking the time to show and explain the intricacies of his role. By the end of this day I was helping the Spark Lenny with power points and moving lights. Then it was my big debut and I was again promoted from camera assistant to “Talent” although I use that term very loosely!! I really enjoyed it and watching it in the final cut the scene really works!! A testament to Tim’s Direction! 

By the third day I became the second unit camera operator. After shooting at Edinburgh airport we had to shoot the actress on her journey to Rosslyn, as Alan had to drive his car back her gave me a lesson in Camera operating and left me to it. So I shot the actress in the taxi on our way to Rosslyn, and several of the shots have made the final cut! There was then a problem with our final actor on the last day of the shoot and he was unable to make it. After a brief discussion with Tim he told me what qualities he was looking for in this actor, I managed to find a local character to appear and he has ended up one of the strongest performances in the film!

I must thank all the members of the crew, Tim Maguire, Alan McSheey, Sharon Ravenscroft, Lenny and Marissa. They were all so helpful and I would go as far as to say that I learnt more in the week with them than months of University! I would like to finish by saying that I really enjoyed every aspect of the shoot and it has only fuelled my interest and love for the industry! I am now very excited about my next project!

Rich Harris

Did you ever get a lucky break that got you working in film industry?
Let us know and we'll add it to our Lucky Break file