Runners in Film

Interested in a career in the film industry but not sure where to start? Here, Creative Skillset, the Sector Skills Council for the Creative Industries, provides advice on becoming a Runner.

The term ‘Runner’ was coined in the film industry and it is recognised as a key entry level role. Runners help everything to run smoothly and provide a range of support in every area of film production. On big budget features there may be several Runners: Production Office RunnersFloor Runners, and usually one Runner assigned to each of the main departments – sound, camera, art department and editing.

The way in
Most Runners start in the Production Office. If they prove their worth they will either become more senior there, laying the foundations for Production Co-ordinator/Production Manager careers, or become a Floor Runner (studio and location). Work as a Floor Runner can open the door to the 3rd, 2nd & 1st Assistant Director route or establish connections to other departments.

Smaller companies
Medium and low-budget films employ smaller crews, so there are fewer openings for Runners. Funding for some films can lead to ‘deferred payment’ arrangements; so check contracts very carefully to make sure that you know under what circumstances and accounting calculations you will be paid. It’s worth taking some advice – for instance,BECTU offers its members contractual advice.

Shorter films, greater opportunities
In the world of short films, Runners get the opportunity to work at every stage of production, from initial office planning, through principal photography, to clearing up or assisting with post production. Here again, you need to be very careful about contracts and payment since short film budgets are almost always ‘stretched’. Your local Regional Screen Agency may know about upcoming productions or suggest which producers to contact.

Other sources of information
There is a wealth of information about the film industry and the production companies working in it (some of which never get beyond the development stage). Check industry directories:The KnowledgePACT etc. – for contact details and credits of companies and individuals before making any applications. The Production Guild (for Producers, Production Managers/Co-ordinators) is also a good source of contacts and information.

Read the trade press – e.g. Screen International – to find out about forthcoming productions and check with your Screen Agency or film commission.

The British Film Institute website has many useful links and the annual BFI Film and Television Handbook publishes valuable production statistics.

Runners say

“There is a steep learning curve. Freelancers – plan for down times.”

“I always thought I wanted to be a Director, but now I realise I’m better suited to the Production Co-ordinator/Manager roles. You have to remain open-minded.”

“It is really hard work, long hours – a big shock after college.”

“My skin has got thicker – especially when we’re pressured. You mustn’t take it too personally.”

“There’s loads of paper – call sheets, schedules, storyboards. I had a fantastic Line Producer who said ‘if you don’t understand, ask.’ She was very happy to share years of experience.”

“When we started to work at a new location, the Production Manager said ‘take the bike, suss out the local facilities.’ It’s been really useful.”

“Find out everyone’s tea/coffee preferences and stick a list above the kettle. Invaluable.”

Employers say

“I’d always go for someone with real world experience – someone who’s taken some responsibility.”

“15 copies on yellow paper means exactly that. If there’s no yellow paper, go and get some.”

“Fitting in is very important. We’re all freelance. If we don’t get on, we don’t work.”

“Don’t argue – learn to walk away and calm down.”

“Health and safety is generally common sense, but it is very important. We can’t continue to employ someone who doesn’t follow guidelines.”

“Make friends with other Runners. There’s a good network at the big studios.”

“You won’t get work by staying at home making phone calls. Go out and meet people. Drop in to the big studios.”

“There’s no excuse for not knowing what people have done or the news in the film world. You are expected to keep up with the trade press. Look up all the people you’re working with.”

“Film is a manufacturing industry. It’s not about theory and most of us are not academics.”


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