Molly works in Film and TV, currently as an art department assistant for Coronation Street on ITV. She graduated from Birmingham City University in Design for Theatre, Performance and Events. Since then, Molly has undertaken work in both feature length and short films, as well as TV and visual merchandising.
You currently work for ITV as an Art Department Assistant for Coronation Street, could you give us an insight to what a day on set would look like?
For this role I do a range of: prop making, set dressing, graphic design, CAD & general admin. My usual day varies a lotttt, some days are more office based & others I’ll spend all over site, including in the prop store & paint workshop, occasionally I get to go to locations too! We get jobs from art directors & standby art directors for each block of filming and largely work from this. In terms of prop making, this includes creating art work/drawings that a character has supposed to have done (including children’s art work), making decorations for themed sets (eg Valentine’s Day events), and creating posters (to name a few!) We also design/make the seasonal window displays for the street’s flower shop.
Graduating with a First Class BA (Hons) in Design for Performance, what did uni do for you in regards to finding who you were as a designer?
Uni really helped me narrow down which part of the creative industry I wanted to enter. When I started the course I was very confused about what I wanted to do (in first year it changed week by week), but through trying different practices in modules I found that I had a specific interest for design for tv & film. In third year I focused on this and because of this I did a lot of research around the tv & film industry and common practices in it. Uni also helped me to experiment a lot, but I’m definitely still trying to work out (hands on) how I work best as a designer and what my style is.
Have you taken part in any internships/work experience? If so, where and what did you get out of it?
I have worked on several unpaid film shoots which I guess count as work experience. This topic is rather controversial regarding the low/no pay of assistants/students/newbies, and I was very privileged to be in a place where I could just about afford to work for just expenses, but this is not true for everyone trying to break into the industry which makes it difficult. But yes, I worked on four films unpaid as an art department assistant, I then (on the NFTS volunteer database) volunteered for a day shoot as an art director.
“I’m glad I had the opportunity to learn from being hands-on, watching others, and most importantly, by making mistakes.”
I also acted as production designer (it’s easier to get higher ranking roles if they’re not paying, again sadly) for a few days for part of a feature length film. This last one got me a contact for three paid feature length films, which was fantastic. The main thing I got from this was on-set, real life experience (bit cheesy I know), but for me, uni doesn’t come close to being on set and learning by doing; I’m glad I had the opportunity to learn from being hands-on, watching others, and most importantly, by making mistakes.
In regards to networking and putting in work to get to where you are, can you give us an insight to some of the challenges you’ve faced behind the scenes?
One of the biggest challenges for me has been self confidence, trying to convince myself that I was good enough for opportunities has been hard. Also dealing with rejection, I had a three month period where I just wasn’t getting anything back from applications/emails etc. and it definitely takes a toll on you mentally. Also getting to a level where I’m paid (properly) has taken longer than I wanted it to, but I’m very grateful for the experiences I’ve had.
Have you got any suggestions on where to look for jobs within the TV/Film industry for someone graduating?
There are so many Facebook groups that constantly have job adds on, a few I’m on are: – art department film & tv industry- art department- northern freelance tv production staff- crew me now- art department uk- female film crews – London Screenskills has an annual “trainee finder” which opens for applications November/December, you can put in an application for the role you want (select from a list) and if you get through, it’s a year long paid internship within high-end film/tv.Also find designers/companies you want to work for and EMAIL them! Don’t be disheartened if they don’t reply, but it’s definitely worth doing as they may get you in for experience/hire you/consider you for future jobs. Also use all the connections you can, if your mum’s friend’s husband’s brother works at a company (etc.) you want to work at, talk to them!
“Always act as though someone’s watching, because they probably are, and you want to be recommended…”
Do you find actively networking helps you find new opportunities?
Personally, networking on sites like LinkedIn has done nothing for me. The best networking I’ve done is by making friends/being friendly with people on jobs & getting recommended for future jobs/being known for being reliable/hard working etc. So basically always act as though someone’s watching, because they probably are, and you want to be recommended, not talked negatively about.
Have you always wanted to be involved in TV/Film, or have you thought your passion for design would take you down another route in the creative industry?
I originally thought I wanted to go into theatre design! I’m still not against taking on creative work that’s not film/tv based, but that is my preference (and I absolutely love it).
What would be your dream TV/Film to assist with in regards to set dressing/design?
Absolute dream shows to work on would be: Brooklyn Nine Nine, Sex Education, Stranger Things and just any big budget film, like it would be a literal dream to be able to go to the cinema and see my name somewhere in the credits!