28 July 2014

Katie Bell, Production Coordinator

Katie Bell is a Production Coordinator for Double Negative. Before recently moving to a site-wide supervising role, Katie coordinated on projects such as Hunger Games, Les Miserables, Bourne and Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows Part 2.

Hi there! My job? Well, put simply, it’s to make sure that everyone else can do their work clearly and easily and to co-ordinate the processes! As a Production Coordinator you are involved in all levels of a project at the company. Running schedules, making sure artists have all that they need, running review sessions of all the wonderful work going on and helping the senior team to make sure work gets done and goes out efficiently and on time!

What’s the best and the worst thing about your job?

The best thing would have to be the privilege of working on incredibly exciting projects such as Harry Potter, in a close knit team that feels much like an extended family. The worst? Has to be the hours, you must be prepared to work, at times, very unsociable hours. But all towards the joy of making movies!

How did you get into the business?

I came to Dneg straight from studying Film and Literature at university. I knew that I wanted to work in film and learn from the best but didn’t know the best way to do that! So, I decided that whilst at Uni I would throw myself at every film related opportunity I could… Film Societies, independent projects, videos for sports societies and much more. Through this I gained a small understanding of the vast variety of roles involved in making movies, especially the less well-known roles that I had never considered! And thus my interest in Visual Effects began. I was very lucky to be hired by Dneg to begin working in their HR department as an administration assistant, the perfect base from which to build an understanding of the work that Dneg did and the company itself. From there I was able to move into Production.

What natural skills do you think lend themselves to being a Production Coordinator?

To be a production coordinator your greatest asset, in my opinion, is your personality. When you’re running schedules for several departments and being point of contact for crews of sometimes over 200 people it becomes incredibly important for you to be sociable and approachable.

Organisation is also key. Keeping on top of your own tasks is one thing, but being able to anticipate problems that may arise and formulating solutions to avoid them is something I have discovered to be invaluable.

Is there any particular training / courses you’d recommend?

For production, courses in excel and shotgun would certainly be beneficial but they’re not essential. There are many internal systems used at Dneg that if you are on the ball and willing to learn you will be able to master in no time!

Is there anything you wish you had done before you joined the industry which would have better prepared you for your career in VFX for Film?

I wish I had built up a bit more of a technical understanding before joining the VFX ranks. You can, of course, ‘learn on the job’ and everyone is more than happy to share their wealth of knowledge, however a large part of being a coordinator is anticipating the needs of your artists and a clearer understanding of the tasks at hand always leads to a smoother project!

Any advice you would give to someone coming into the business?

Explore all avenues! If you are anything like I was, you will be incredibly passionate about film and want to make the magic happen but are not sure how to get there. I was passionate about finding my way into production and thought that becoming the rubber stumps under the bottom rung of he ladder at a big studio was the only way to do that. How wrong I was, by broadening my understanding of all the elements and roles required to complete a project I was able to join an inclusive and supportive company, and had the privilege of learning from the best in their field. I spent time in HR before production and enjoyed every minute, the path to the success you are looking for isn’t always in a straight line!

What other potential Careers Advice would you give?

Be under no illusion, the role of Coordinator is not for the faint hearted! An incredibly rewarding and incredibly fun job, it is also extremely demanding. If you are passionate, with a genuine love for making motion pictures, you will thrive and become part of the most close knit teams around, enabling the creation of truly inspirational work and hopefully feel an overwhelming sense of pride. The pressure is often high, deadlines tight and hours long but it is a labour of love. Many of the skills you require can be taught, what you need to bring to the table is dedication and positivity, if you do, you will certainly do well!

YOUR QUESTIONS ANSWERED

Thanks to those of you on social media who wanted your questions put to Katie. We did just that. Here’s her answers!

From Victoria Webb: I am very interested in becoming a VFX Production Coordinator and would like to know how Katie got into it and what advice she would give to someone trying to break into the industry? Although I studied media production and have some practical experience, I am not an artist/designer, so would like to know if it is possible for someone with a more administrative/project management background to get into a role like this? – Thanks

Hi Victoria! Great question. I was worried myself about how to break in – I’d studied Film and Literature at University, not exactly your standard artist degree. I always had a view to enter production and was more than happy to start at Dneg in any role available and learn by being in the building. This is why I applied for a position in running. Applying for a position as a runner is the perfect way to start at the bottom and become involved with all areas of the facility. I was lucky enough, however, to gain a role in HR, this was the perfect opportunity to hone my organisation skills whilst learning more about the company.

From Hina Amani Shahzad: I have a similar sort of question as Victoria – please correct me if I am wrong but I have found that a lot of roles within the VFX industry require a show-reel of your VFX talent. But if, like Victoria, you have a degree in media and have some practical experience within television production, yet no VFX background or show-reel, how would you go about applying for an entry level role in the industry?

Hi Hina, I would offer similar advice here, applying for a position as a runner enables you to have access to all areas of the company and gives you the time and resources to train. If you are interested in a role in production this would function in much the same way! I didn’t have a showreel or VFX background myself. What I did have was a great admiration for the projects that Dneg had done, and a desire to learn from the best. What I was able to do was showcase my enthusiasm for the industry through extra curricular pursuits and also demonstrate a clear understanding of (and passion for) Dneg’s work at interview.

From Brian McGahuey: What I’m most curious about are some of the tools and workflow that you guys use for processing and keeping track of all the shots and revisions that you guys work with, as well as some of the techniques that your compositors use (I’m assuming most of the compositing is done using Nuke)

We use Shotgun primarily, coupled with an internal system, to track data and work flow. Yes, most of the compositors will use Nuke… but a real in-depth answer on that would be for them really I’m afraid! (Dneg: Brian, compositor Q&A coming soon!)

From Andy Lawrence: If you could give one piece of advice to graduates looking to pursue a career in VFX, what would it be?

I would give two in one….. Do your research but do research in as many areas as you can and tailor your application accordingly. Find out what the VFX house is all about, what its strengths are, what it’s working on and why you want to be there. If you don’t know why, then how can you convince a prospective employer that you’re the right person for the job?

From Phuong Ong: Is it true that people said taking a lowest level of job to study up to the level that you want in VFX is more valuable then going to a good university for a degree? then how does it still a lots of people choosing school as one of their path to reach the goal of being a good VFX artist? and would they catch up if experiences is all they do not have

I would NEVER say that going to University is a bad idea. I think a university degree is an invaluable asset to have and an investment in your future…. it may not be necessary to get an entry level position but you’ve got to think beyond that first job to your later career. Having said that experience is second to none. Entering at the bottom and working your way up is likely to be the route taken by most entering the industry. My personal advice would be that following one route does not exclude the other. An education can always be coupled with pursuing hands on experience.

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