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January 2017 | Amy Clarke

Is London really the only location to find work on a film set? Amy Clarke looks at the other possibilities.

Everyone knows that all of the film work in the UK is based in London right?

I have met many people who have moved to London, usually straight after university chasing the Dick Whittington dream. Often it doesn't end well, and they move back home within a year. London is a very expensive city to live in, full time pay can sometimes only cover your rent alone.

Over half of the UK’s film production companies are based in London. The work is there but getting it can be very difficult as the industry is so competitive. I’ve lived in Liverpool my whole my life. When working in film I worked all over the UK  and still managed to live outside of the capital city. So do you need to move to London to get film work?

Liverpool is the second most filmed city in England. It is also a much more affordable place to live.  What you can pay for a room in London, you can get a three bedroom house for in Liverpool.  Although from experience I can say that most of the hired film crew in senior roles are not from Liverpool since film productions don’t always hire local crew, they prefer to go with the people they know and pay for the accommodation. If a production was hiring in a location far from me I was usually economical with the truth and would independently find a place to stay.

When I was working in London I slept on a friends couch, just to get the work and the experience. I knew if I needed to I could get a train from Liverpool to London in 2 hours. I even had interviews through Skype. We are lucky in the UK, as a small country we’re never too far away from any city.

Entry level film jobs are advertised online through sites such as My First Job in Film. However, higher positions (and well paid work) are usually hired on a recommended basis, not from where you are locally based. If you have worked with the line producer or director before, and they liked working with you, chances are you will be hired again regardless of where you live.

This is why after a few low paid jobs (both in London and in the north of England) I did not need to live in London to work full time in film, I would get called up with job offers from contacts I had made.  So, when you are starting out keep this in mind - working in the UK film industry does not necessarily mean you need to relocate your entire life to London, once you have made those initial contacts (and quite possibly exhausted your options of sofa surfing) work should start finding you.

As I moved up the career ladder, I applied for jobs as a Script Supervisor. I found the production office was always willing to find accommodation for me, even if it is was sleeping on a couch.  This might not always be the case for more junior entry level roles such as a runner, but keep in mind we only do these jobs for a short while, just so we can have a look around all departments and see what job is right for us. If someone likes you – if they want to work with you – they will find a place for you to stay.

Yes, most of the film work is in London but this is not your only option.  Keep in mind there are other places in the UK to look for film work, where the price of living is cheaper and the  competition is lower. So here are some cities to keep in mind when searching for film jobs  in the UK -

Manchester – Manchester has a thriving, growing scene for film, TV and digital agencies. Many production companies choose to start off in Manchester with it being a much more affordable option compared to London. The BBC moved there back in 2009 and it’s always been the home of Granada television.  It is worth taking seriously as an affordable option for media, film and TV work in England.

Cardiff – With much lower location rates and a wider range of scenery many TV productions are now choosing Cardiff over London. It is now home to a host of BBC TV shows – Dr Who, Casualty and Welsh language television channel Cymraeg (S4C ), BBC Wales, and ITV Wales. It is the UK’s largest media centre outside of London with over 600 independent Film, TV and commercial production firms based in Cardiff.

Edinburgh –  With its medieval to contemporary architecture, Edinburgh has attracted a wide range of feature film production over recent years – The Da Vinci Code, Sunshine on Leith, Under the Skin. The Edinburgh Film Office look after local crew and make an effort to place them on productions that take place within the city, you may also like to look at Scotland’s film and television directory, where you can list your services.

Bristol –  Bristol is a much smaller city but home to Aardman animations, BBC four, BBC natural history unit. There is also a Bristol Film Office and Bath Film Office where you can register your services as members of crew. In recent years productions for TV drama has been growing in Bristol.  The city sells itself as being London for half the cost to international productions wanting to shoot in England. In time Bristol might grow to be the major creative city it wants to be.  

If you are good at your job and have contacts you don’t need to be based in London, you will get called up and brought onto set wherever the production is taking place. Consider what type of work you are looking for first. Each region in the the UK will have a public body with advice and resources for local film crew where you can list your services.

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