"Do three things: network, network and network!"
In January, the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan visited Nexus Studios in Shoreditch to launch the new Academies Programme, aiming to support Londoners into jobs in sectors key to London’s post pandemic recovery, including the creative industries.
Darryl Coulson, a final year BA Film Production student at Middlesex University, attended the launch, sharing his experience of learning with the Mayor and other attendees. We recently caught up with Darryl to delve deeper into how hands-on experience has helped shaped his creative path.
Hi Darryl! What made you want to be involved in the creative industry? Do you have a specific moment that ignited your interest?
When I was a kid, I would go to the movies - movies are where we can dream. We go to the movies to laugh, cry, and experience every human emotion, including that unexplained feeling when the lights darken. Beautiful music and dazzling pictures on the cinema screen, we go somewhere we've never been before.
When I was 9, I had the opportunity to be a part of a music video for a film called Street Dance 3D. This allowed me to see what a production looked like and inspired me to get into film. I then studied Media in secondary school as a GCSE and Creative Media in college. I'm now currently in my final year studying BA Film at Middlesex University.
Who inspires you?
As a young black male born and raised in East London, I've always looked up to actors like John Boyega, Jeffrey Wright, Naomie Harris and many more. When it comes to directors, Sir Steve McQueen has shed a light on black history in ways not many have in films like 12 Years a Slave and Mangrove. Christopher Nolan is an inspiration for his incredible work on Interstellar, Inception and TENET. He's the first director to make me understand post Modernism in films. Also Patty Jenkins for being one of the first directors to represent a female super hero(Wonder Woman) in such quality and power.
When being on set, allow your work ethic to speak for itself. Show you're a hard worker.
Why London? What is it about the city and its creative hub?
London is where I was raised, it's where I study and it's where I have the most incredible friends. For me, London offers something which not many cities offer and that’s diversity. The multicultural backgrounds make London what it is so when I wish to explore or try new things, London can offer this. In London, you get to express yourself in your own artistic way with the many creative hubs. I know of one creative space called MAKE IT London where you can set up your business hobby or rent out the studio space to create sets, host interviews, podcasts, show-reels and more. You also have so many creative film productions like Nexus Studios, creating award-winning work across animation, advertising , interactive and music video - it was a real privilege to visit the studio.
How has your education/training helped develop your career.
All the experience I’ve gained wouldn’t be possible if it wasn't for my tutors at Middlesex University. So far, I’ve had the opportunity to be a runner on set for NFTS (National Film and Television School), giving me first hand experience of being part of a large film crew, maintaining a flow throughout the set and making sure everyone was comfortable. I also helped the Location Manager set up department stationaries like hair and makeup, costumes and catering. This really helped me understand how communication on set is key and understanding one another is vital. I've also helped at a production company called FX Goby as a runner for a fashion video. Here I learnt adapt depending on my surrounding and task at hand.
My education has also helped me discover what I'm good at and what I enjoy to do. I've found myself taking on the role of producer but I also I also enjoy location management, scouting and securing locations for projects. I had the opportunity to host a zoom meeting with Location Manager Jonah Coombs who's been in the industry for 20 years with the most inspiring portfolio. He's done work on over 35 movies from Paddington and Johnny English to The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo . I really admire his method of working and how he goes about scouting a location. My education has offered me so many inspiring moments like this, enforcing why I love film and the industry.
How important would you say practical, hands on experience is? Give us an example of when you’ve kicked into action!
I think it's crucial to gain experience as a runner on set as it helps you understand the industry you are trying to get into. It is also a great place for you to network amongst crew.
When on set at FX Goby, I made the crew were comfortable and had everything they needed. To make myself more helpful, I would ask the producer if there was anything additional they needed. Because of this, the producer would ask me to do bigger jobs such as making sure all the vehicles had permits. When I was at NFTS I did something similar, asking if anyone needed help. This then turned into me making sure that all the batteries for the camera LED lights and monitors were fully charged so that nothing died or was on low battery to keep the production running smoothly for schedule.
The industry can be predominantly one demographic which I find hard to navigate through as I may not get the same opportunity as others.
Is there any specific training you have benefitted from?
Whilst at Middlesex University I've participated in a few additional courses, one being first aid training. Important for most creative industries, having a first aider on sets is crucial in case of any injuries from stunts or from someone not following the Risk Assessment. First aid training lasts for 3 years before it expires and it’s really handy to have. I also did a 4 week film distribution course which teaches you about connecting film with audiences.
What challenges have you faced? Do you think this challenge is common for the industry in general?
What I've found difficult within the industry is the diversity. The industry can be predominantly one demographic which I find hard to navigate through as I may not get the same opportunity as others. I also find it difficult to see a lack of female leadership roles - I find this something many industries struggle with. The industry is always evolving and changing though, so I really hope that we see more diversity and more women directors.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years’ time? What’s the dream?
I really hope that one day I get the same title as Jonah Coombs as a Location Manager. Location plays a huge part in film, and across departments - pre-production , production, and postproduction. The role consists of travelling the world which I also find is a life opportunity to travel and see a different sides of life.
Finally, what piece of advice have you received that has proven invaluable?
The advice I was given by my module leader was to do three things: network network and network! The power of networking is so important in film. I find when being on set, allow your work ethic to speak for its-self. Show, you're a hard worker and network.
Thanks so much Darryl, and good luck with the productions!
Film London is delighted to partner on a new Skills Academy with Capital City College Group, supported by Middlesex University and London Higher as part of the Mayor’s Academies Programme.