HOW TO FIND WORK AS A POST-PRODUCTION RUNNER.
February 2018 | Georgie McGahey
For some, post-production is where all the magic happens. Hours of footage come together to form a story that can make us laugh, cry or jump out of our seats. Sound designers, dialogue editors, foley artists and composers bring clarity, suspense or pathos to the audio. Colourists enhance raw footage creating texturally rich images, and the VFX studios bring their special blend of alchemy; from smoothing out skin tone or prosthetics to creating unimaginable worlds or monsters. Behind all of this is the post-production producing team, who keep the schedule on track and work with the line producer to deliver the completed article, on time - and hopefully - on budget.
No matter what your career aspirations, if you want to work in post you will mostly likely - but not always - start out life as a runner. Other routes in can be on reception or a move into post-production from another area of industry. Regardless of this, the role of the post-production runner is the gateway into editing, sound, grading and VFX for the majority of people. You can work as a runner for three weeks, or three years, before an opportunity to move up the ladder arrives. It all depends on the size of the company and how much they wish to keep staff in-house.
If you think you’ll be dubbing, editing or grading from the get go, think again. Runners are tasked with keeping the ship afloat and clients caffeinated; washing up, taking lunch orders or giving an empty edit suit a deep clean. If you're unfamiliar with marigold gloves, you won't be when you finish your stint as a post-production runner.
It should be noted; there is a more personal side to running. Meeting, greeting and catering to the clients, require runners with bright, bubbly personalities and can-do attitudes. If a client has requested a flat white, which can only be found a twenty-minute walk away, you better hope you wore comfy shoes; because you will be trundling off to fulfil that wish. It’s not just being able to say “yes, no problem” as a runner, it's about providing exceptional customer service, being proactive and going the extra mile.
To be blunt, it’s your weekend bar work, waiting tables, barista experience they’re looking at. Any experience which demonstrates you can cope well under pressure, you’re used to dealing with customers who can be demanding, you’re quick on your feet and unafraid of - what can be - quite repetitive work. It isn’t unusual to make 30 to 40 hot drinks a day! Running in post-production includes many jobs found in a domestic setting, so it can often feel like having a quick whip round your house with the duster and entertaining guests 24/7.
If you're currently studying, it's an ideal time to begin building that low-level experience which can make all the difference when looking for work. It can also afford you the opportunity to see if you enjoy it - post production isn't for everyone. So if you have taken any work experience within post-production companies, then make explicit reference to this on your CV.
As a runner, you can be pushed to your limits. When the post house is busy, and all the edits are booked out, you can be running in and out of suits for 8 to 12 hours. Days can be long in post, and runners can’t leave until the clients have vacated the building. If they are running behind, you are staying behind. Tempers fray but you must keep yours, demands are made, and you must try your hardest to fulfil them, great runners a calm, professional and unflappable.
These three personality traits are found in senior members of staff, editors, dubbing mixers, graders; many of whom will have started their careers as runners. So, your time as a runner gives you the opportunity to build up some professional etiquette and before you know it, it’s second nature. Personality is everything in the film industry, especially in post-production where you can be trapped in a room with various characters for days on end, but you still need to come up with the goods, keep calm and keep the client happy.
To the outside observer, there isn't a lot of difference between the two. The tasks are very similar. However, the majority of VFX studios invest in their running team by offering training while they are working as runners. So when a position becomes available, junior members of staff can be ready to make that first step up the ladder.
Unlike many post companies, VFX recruiters watch showreels or go through a portfolio of work to make an assessment on whether to invest in the individual. So make sure to add your showreel, and for more information on gaining entry to the VFX industry, visit the VFX career guide.
Some post-production companies have an excellent track record of pulling people through. You’ll know these companies if you go for a trail day. Ask around, see who started their career there. If you're a hard worker you will get noticed, so even if you don't manage to move up the ladder with that company, they may know of other opportunities for you.
So you have finally got your job as a runner, and if you’ve expressed interest in editing, your next step would be that of an edit assistant. Assistants can be found in the MCR which stands for Master Control Room. Edit assistants working in-house can be tasked with all manner of jobs. From ingesting the rushes to sorting out problems in the edit suite, working with editors to achieve a particular workflow and being on hand 24/7. It’s a mixed bag, but one thing is for certain, you will become a whizz at data management and have a thorough understanding of editing systems, software and hardware.
Depending on the size of the company you can also find sound assistants. If they have multiple dubbing suites, the extra pair of hands can be vital in the smooth running of the operation. If you’re running at a smaller company, the chances are this role might not exist, but you might also become an integral member of the team, in which case your assent to working as a sound designer might be swifter.
With post sound, many companies will outsource some of the initial workflows to freelancers. Tidying up elements of the audio or performing smaller jobs that don’t require the full power of the dubbing suite. If you have used your time as a runner well by making use of the equipment, you might find yourself taking home some freelance work. The paths are multiple; it's always going to be up to you to seize those opportunities.
The first thing you should consider is your CV. Whether creating a CV for the first time or thinking about changing career, check out our CV Clinic which breaks down the anatomy of a CV.
Use the examples section to find example CVs so you can assess the layout. If you would like a more detailed layout of what the next few years can look like, have a look at the post-production 3 stage plan. As you know, we at MFJTV break down this initial part of your journey into three stage. Stage one where you have a sparse CV and no industry experience. Stage two, a CV with a little relevant experience that you can utilise to apply for jobs and stage 3, a CV with relevant experience for roles and industry references. For a stage 1 CV you want to create a one page CV that is heavily skills based.
The career guide. Many of the questions you have starting out on your journey in post production can be answered in the career guide. However, if you still have questions or would like to see a topic covered in more detail, then get in touch and let us know via our Facebook Group or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Would you like to share your set stories, write reviews or blog about your journey into the industry? MFJTV would love to hear from you!