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Assistant Director Department Case Study

Robert Havill, Floor Runner / Set PA | September 2016


Robert has been working in the film industry for almost two years as a floor runner on a variety of productions.

What inspired you to enter the film industry?

I have been enthusiastic about film since a young age. When I watched Behind The Scenes extras on DVDs and saw the workings of a film set, I’ve had an ambition to work in the film industry. I studied Film Studies and Film Production at University and since leaving have pursued to break into the industry.

What was the best piece of advice you were given by your tutors/teachers to prepare you for the working world?

I had several teachers advise me not to pursue a career in film because they thought you needed family connections, which I don’t have. However, they did tell me if you’re a hardworking and respectful person, in general, you should be okay in the working world.

Did you take on any unpaid positions to gain experience?

I worked on a short film for three days that was unpaid but covered expenses. It certainly advanced my skills as a runner, as I was able to take on tasks that I might not have had to do previously and put into practice stuff I had learnt. Also, it was really good meeting another crew and being part of another project.

I also worked on three corporate videos for a Crowdfunding company around Winchester and Southampton while I was studying at University. It was only a few days at a time but I would say it definitely looked good on my CV as it showed I was keen and had some experience.

How long did it take you to get your first permanent paying job, and how long did it take you to consistently find paying work?

I left University in May 2014 and I got my first job on a film in April 2015. I have been working as a Runner for a year and there are still weeks with no work.

What was your first impression of a film set?

I was very intimidated, but it was very exciting. If you’re passionate about film every little detail of how a film set is run will interest you. Everything I had read online about being a Runner was really helpful because all of it was true on my first day. I was given several things to do at once and I quickly had to rank them in order of importance, and do them well. I would suggest read up about all crew members jobs on a set because then it will be easier to identify whom everyone is and what role they play. This was definitely helpful when I was handing out specific radios to people.

When working as a runner what are your responsibilities, and what have you found hardest to master?

The responsibilities that have been the same on every film I’ve worked on is getting teas and coffees for crew and cast, and locking off the set to keep it quiet when filming. The hardest I would say is judging what to prioritise when given several tasks at once.

What set etiquette have you learnt that you think all new entrants should know.

There’s a lot of etiquette that I learnt as I went along, the majority of it is common sense. I would say be as quiet as possible and always keep yourself busy. Tidying up around the set is good as there is always some type of rubbish (mainly coffee cups). Also, handing out water to the crew is easy to do and there is always someone who wants water. it will makes you look respectful and keen.

What has been the highlight of your career so far?

I was very fortunate to work on a Brad Pitt film called War Machine that was directed by David Michod.  

As war machine was a big budget film did you notice any difference in the way the production was run and what was expected of you?

In terms of how a film set is run and operated between the ADs, it was exactly the same. The same etiquette and the same tasks were expected of me. I would say it’s great to gain experience on an independent or low budget movie as in general, there is a lot more for a Runner to do.

Being a trainee with some experience under your belt, what advice would you give to those just starting out?

I feel I haven't had enough experience just yet to hand out advice. But, I will say in general people do really want to help you. They most likely have been in your position and understand your job. Judge when it is an appropriate time to ask questions to your superior, it will show you are keen and enthusiastic about your job and willing to learn more.

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