There wasn’t a spare seat in the house for the RTS Wales’ How To Get Into TV event held at Cardiff’s Tramshed Tech cinema, the audience clearly undeterred by the torrential rain.
A panel of five former RTS Wales Student Award winners were each invited by Chair Megan Davies to describe how they had made their break into the industry and what tips they would offer to the audience of students and young people eager to emulate their success.
Josh Bennett, who founded the Cardiff based content production company Storm & Shelter, explained how the success of his student film Bedroom Live, which featured live music sessions filmed in a student’s room, led to a YouTube channel and eventually a series for Channel 4’s Project 4 TV. Getting the commission was a baptism of fire, he recalled: “We were pretty much filming at most of the major universities around the UK. It involved three of us sleeping in a van and going on a whirlwind tour. It definitely helped me get to where I am today. I learnt about the industry, about deadlines – I had A LOT of deadlines to hit.”
Having an award-winning student film as a calling card was also an advantage for Ethan Blake Brooks, one of the team behind Mathew vs Pritchard which won the Factual category in the Wales Student Awards this year and was also shortlisted in the UK RTS Student Awards. After having some success with the film at festivals and knowing he wanted to eventually become a director, Ethan threw himself into the task of applying for jobs in television. He was accepted on to the Channel 4 Production Traineeship scheme which gave him a placement as a Researcher with local independent production company Boomerang. He’s also had his first director credit, having successfully applied to the It’s My Shout scheme, through which he made the short form documentary One Last Gig, which was shown on BBC Wales earlier this year.
Catarina Rodrigues and Christopher Phillips then spoke about their path into animation, having won that category of the Wales Student awards in 2018 with their short film Peach. At the Awards ceremony, the students were presented with their trophy by the managing director of Cloth Cat Animation, Jon Rennie and, having had that introduction, took the opportunity to network and connect with Jon whenever possible. Eventually, both Catarina and Christopher got jobs at Cloth Cat working on the Channel 5 series Shane the Chef. Their success in the industry would now seem to be well established: Catarina is currently working at Bumpybox as a CG animator on the CBeebies series My Petsaurus 3 while Christopher is a CG modeller at Wild Creations.
Lastly, Tom Gatley talked about his experience of the industry after graduating from Newport Film School (now University of South Wales). The success of his film A Cardiff Love Story quickly got him work as a cameraman at BBC Wales and also an editor but Tom then decided he needed a break from the industry. Five years later, he returned with renewed passion and determined to direct his first feature film, which he has just completed. “I wanted to make something I believed in. I knew a lot of people who were still making films and just tried to prove myself again so that they wanted to work on something with me.” Called Expiry, the film tells the story of a couple whose marriage is close to collapse, who wake up one morning to find they can no longer touch. Written and directed by Tom, it will be released in December.
Asked to give their most important piece of advice, the panel were agreed that winning an RTS award had opened doors for them. “It shows you care about your craft and take things seriously” observed Josh. For Ethan the need to network stood out: “Love it or hate it, networking is essential to this industry… I now have an Excel document of all the people I contact, when I last contacted them, what I contacted them about. I treat that like it is my profession. It’s about perseverance and someone is eventually going to give you that chance.”
Catarina’s advice was to always be nice to people and to show your passion for what you do, while Christopher urged people to do their own research and use all the resources available on the internet to learn the things your university course doesn’t cover. Josh concluded the discussion with a valuable insight into the multiplicity of roles that entrants to the industry may be expected to take on these days: “Be open to the idea that you are not a one trick pony, but instead that you are for instance a “shreditor” – a shooter, director and editor. You have to do everything. The way that the industry is, it’s rare to stick to just one thing. Go out and try editing, try scoring etc. Don’t just pigeonhole yourself. Keep that persistence and don’t ever lose your motivational drive.”