Breaking into the industry: Om-Kalthoom Bashmailah

Latest 9 Mar 2022

News Story

"I chose film and TV because it’s an exciting industry that would ultimately fuel me as an individual."

Om-Kalthoom Bashmailah

Om-Kalthoom Bashmailah

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.

The second interview in our series, we caught up with Cast Assistant and Director's Assistant Om-Kalthoom Bashmailah, to discuss her journey into the industry from studying Computer Science, to working on some of the UK's most well-known productions.

Hi Om-Kalthoom! You were recently at the Mayor of London’s Skills Academy launch, representing the creative sector and your experience of learning and/or training. Tell us a bit about the day and your involvement.

I was invited to partake in a stop frame animation workshop alongside the Mayor of London. We looked at the miniature props and well-designed puppets from the newly released The House (2022) animation, which can be seen on Netflix. In the studio, we also briefly discussed the wide shots and lighting setup for the house set piece and production time.

I was later directed to speak with Sadiq Khan about my journey into film and TV and my experience with Film London’s Equal Access Network programme. We discussed Skills Academy launch and its potential positive impact on many individuals trying to break into the creative field.

What made you want to be involved in the creative industry?

I studied BSc (Hons) Computer Science at City, University of London. During my placement year, I had to accept that I did not enjoy the day-to-day office-based lifestyle and questioned everything during my final year. I was forced to look at the creative sector and find opportunities that allowed me to break-in. One of the many reasons I chose film and TV was because it’s an exciting industry that would ultimately fuel me as an individual.

Why London? What is it about the city and its creative hub?

Fortunately, I was born and raised in London UK. The city has government and self-funded programmes and events that cater towards helping individuals with their personal and career developments. London is a rich multicultural society. The creative hub continues to launch initiative programmes, so the many communities can be mirrored on and behind the screens. In the last three years, I have seen a lot of studios opening across the metropolitan area looking for crew. Some studios aim to keep up with the British audience demands and willing to rapidly produce scripted and non-scripted content for the masses.

Tell us a bit about your journey into the industry, and how Film London’s Equal Access Network (EAN) helped develop your career.

During my final year at university, I attended networking events and secured a one-week work experience at The Farm Group as a Runner, Librarian, Editor Assistant and Audio Assistant. However, that was never enough. It was hard to find hiring professionals who worked from shoot to shoot.

I graduated in the summer and signed up to Film London’s Equal Access Network. It was easy and straightforward. The next few weeks, I was hired to work on Chernobyl (2019) for HBO & Sky Atlantic as a Production Runner. Since I joined the Network, I continued to work on other major TV shows and feature films for the same or other positions. I also attended their monthly masterclass sessions, job insight courses and development workshops. Overall, I am extremely grateful to EAN and their wonderful staff who work tirelessly to help diverse, disadvantage backgrounds and returners breakthrough.

Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, Film London CEO Adrian Wootton OBE and Om-Kalthoom at Academies Programme Launch

Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, Film London CEO Adrian Wootton OBE and Om-Kalthoom at Academies Programme Launch

A personal joy is hearing people’s personal stories about unable to break-in the film and TV industry. And later updating me they have secured an entry-role job through EAN.

What is your current role? Give us a brief overview of ‘a day in the life’ of Om-Kalthoom.

I currently work as a Cast Assistant and Director’s Assistant. Starting out, I accepted different department roles on small and large scaled projects to decide on a career niche. Simultaneously I wanted to learn the jargon and have a sympathetic understanding on production roles and their daily challenges from a general Film Director’s point of view. I was able to work as a Production Coordinator, Producer’s Assistant, Camera Assistant, Script Supervisor, Writer, Director, and Editor to name a few.

A day in my life: arrive 5:30-6AM on set as a Cast Assistant to A-List actors or actresses. The job usually consumes my week and sometimes weekend (Saturdays). Join commissioned Zoom calls and help develop ideas or bring new perspectives. Write and direct my own content and publish them across my social media @obdirect platforms, which has been difficult to do.

What challenges have you faced within the creative industry? Do you think this challenge is common for the industry in general?

Two common challenges: being comfortable with uncertainties and do not overstay in your comfort zone. The two tasks require self-belief, external encouragement or self-reliance on knowledge and skills built, resulting a positive personal and career growth. These challenges are frequent as it’s a freelance industry and the creative sector sometimes expects you to do never done before tasks respectively. Alternatively, you can avoid them by applying for a full-time production office job and/or select projects that adhere to your standard skillsets.

Any achievements or stand out highlights?

I was named Film London Lodestar 2020 and featured in Standard Evening as the Capital’s Brightest Rising Stars. I was listed in BFI NETWORK x BAFTA Crew 2020-2021.

Last year I wrote two commissioned episodes for a mini-series on TikTok and directed a promo advert for a local store. I also directed, filmed, edited, and graded a commissioned short film behind the scenes. My other highlights include working on several high-end productions like Fantastic Beasts 3 (Warner Bros), Martin’s Close (BBC Four), Chernobyl (HBO & Sky Atlantic), Dad’s Army: The Lost Episodes (Gold, UKTV), and Trust Morecambe and Wise (Gold, UKTV) to name a few. As well as working on high-end commercials, low budget short films and campaigns.

A personal joy is hearing people’s personal stories about unable to break-in the film and TV industry. And later updating me they have secured an entry-role job through EAN.

Om-Kalthoom at Nexus Studios, Shoreditch

Om-Kalthoom at Nexus Studios, Shoreditch

I would love to see a massive influx of scripted stories from all background types

How important would you say practical, hands on experience is within the creative industry? Give us an example of when you’ve kicked into action!

It is essential to have practical experience within the creative area. I never went to film school and managed to work in the film and TV business. Everything I learnt was mostly hands-on or through general job observation. As a Production Coordinator I attended an EAN course that explained in detail the job specification and tasks. The knowledge I had gained was used practically, reaffirming the importance of certain documents and creating a seamless production process.

Is there any specific training you wish you had access to earlier on, or training you would be interested in doing?

I was in a unique position because of the pandemic. At 24 I heard of two organisations that ran 16-25 film directing workshops. Covid-19 took over the world for nearly two years, which meant I received many hard no emails when restrictions semi-lifted at the end of 2021. I understand the legal reasons, but I was deeply gutted and had to accept my career journey would be a lot harder and that is okay. I plan to continue figuring things out, self-fund my own shorts and publish the films on my social media platforms, since that is the only accessible hands-on media right now. I am still hopeful and will always be on a lookout for other great film directing workshops to develop my skills.

What are your current thoughts about the industry? How do you see it in 10 years’ time? How would you like to see it?

I think it is an exciting time to join the industry. There are gradual changes occurring behind the scenes for an all-inclusive medium. In 10 years, the creative sector should have more production companies practicing green sustainability. An influx of diverse talents joining the organisation behind and on-screens. Policies curated around mental wellbeing on set and offices and introducing more Wellness Facilitator jobs within the field. I would love to see a massive influx of scripted stories from all background types, but I will wait and see.

Thanks so much Om-Kalthoom, 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.

Find out more about the projects Om-Kalthoom is currently working on by following social media account @obdirect.