Location, location, location. Funnily enough, just as I started writing this I got a message from my friend telling me he is going to France and then Italy for his year abroad. Sometimes I wonder whether I made the right choice in not going to university… Anyway, back to the point.
When I first started working in film, I lived in Hereford. In a way, it was the worst of both worlds. It was a three-and-a-half hour train journey to London, and even though it was very close to the border of Wales, I was never accepted for any film jobs with welsh film companies. There was a job site, but I couldn’t register because I wasn’t a welsh resident. Ah but what about Birmingham, I hear you ask. Nope, nothing. I have yet to find a single job in Birmingham.
On the other hand, I got to do the BFI Academy in Hereford. I didn’t have to find digs in London and fork out for an expensive course. It also meant that when I started getting jobs producing shorts, I could work from home and just travel up, yes, to London, for the shoot. And that worked for a while. I liked not having to go for endless meetings and just being able to have phone calls instead. I liked that I got to stay at home and not have to pay rent. When I got a job on a feature in North London, it meant I could stay with my aunty and it would only take me half an hour to get to location each day. But it didn’t take long before I had a near-constant urge to be in the city.
If you ask me how I got most of my jobs, I would say luck. It’s great sending letters and getting your name out there, but the work I’ve gotten has come from emails or phone calls out of the blue. I got a random email one innocuous day, asking me if I remembered applying for the job of creative production assistant about this time last year. I said yes, but of course I didn’t. Generally, your brain doesn’t like to hold onto the rejection letters. But the position had become available again, and was I still interested? Absolutely! So, long story short, I didn’t get that exact job, I got a slightly different one with the same company and in two months time I moved to London permanently.
Being in London definitely helped me. After I got the job I was earning a lot more money (benefit #1), although a decent chunk of that went on rent. However, having a solid monthly income meant I could spend my evenings and weekends working on indie film projects. I got to meet a lot of filmmakers, learn a lot more about producing and go to near-insufferable networking events. All of which meant I got more jobs, and had more filmmakers I knew well and could rely on.
Filming in London can sometimes be expensive, if you want to shoot on the tube or on a bus, for example. But generally, it is a smooth process because the city is so used to filming. Filming in Hereford meant people staring, trying to ruin a shot or being uncooperative. Filming in London makes no difference to anyone.
That said, January – March are the dead months, and if you don’t have a regular income, but still have rent to pay, you will probably struggle.
Overall, London is better for me. But that doesn’t mean that you have to be in London to work in film. If you’ve lived in the same place your whole life, then filming in that area might be a real asset – you know the place, you know the people, and that is invaluable. So long as you can find a good bunch of filmmakers wherever you are, there’s no reason why you can’t make films there. It doesn’t all revolve around the city. There are film festivals all over the country, so it’s not like you have to travel up to London just for those either. There’s definitely a real concentration of jobs in London, but you can make films anywhere.