A Day In The Life Of A Runner

My experiences in the industry…

By Anna McDermott
Wed 04 September, 2019

As I sit on my couch and watch tonight’s Hollyoaks, I find it hard to believe that during the filming of this episode I was stood with the director, watching the scene unfold on the TV monitor. I was witnessing the ‘organised chaos’ that is what really happens on set and I knew that many people would love to be in my shoes during that moment. I also knew, however, that without my experience with Clapperboard UK or the British Film Industry Academy, I would not be a production runner at Hollyoaks, nor would I have met such inspiring people.

I took part in a BFI course in 2018, run by Clapperboard UK, a charity for young people in Merseyside wanting to get into the industry, and took place every weekend in Liverpool. The sessions led me to meet many other movie/TV fanatics and future film makers, as well as broadening my contacts with industry professionals – Ricky Tomlinson, cast and crew of Hollyoaks, to name but two. Our brilliant tutors gave us an insight of the many career paths in the industry, and I was so thrilled to be put forward for work experience at Lime Pictures by my tutors.

Hopping off the 75 bus and heading towards the gated studios one summery Monday morning – I was exhilarated. For a working-class Liverpudlian teen, opportunities like this are extraordinary. On arrival, I was greeted by a very friendly security guard who guided me to the reception. This friendly member of staff was the first of many I would encounter in the following weeks to come. I was already feeling at ease. Soon I was finally on my way to experiencing the everyday working life of a runner. Each day I was helping on-set in any way I could – from making coffees, chasing up actors and extras, to making phone calls and crowd-controlling. Even whilst being up in the production office, I was always busy distributing call-sheets and helping organise the following month’s busy schedule. Being a production assistant was exactly how I imagined; completely captivating and totally rewarding. There was even one instance where I was hidden in an empty set-room, with Peppa Pig and Baby Shark on blast, praying I could convince an infant actor of 18-months-old to calm down before her big scene. The days would differ a lot and, whilst I often found this challenging, it was without a doubt, always entertaining.

From sound mixers to actors, every day I would meet lovely cast and crew members, who would wish me luck in my future. The working environment was so positive, even during stressful days. There was a moment where, whilst running an errand for the director, I ran into a set and caught sight of a sign that read ‘Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life’. I was left strangely touched by the sign, and I realised why the studios was such a happy and upbeat place – everyone wanted to be there.

It was no surprise to me that I found myself applying to another BFI Academy course. The residential course was in Edinburgh and me and my friends spent the weeks before the course excitedly discussing our expectations. The course led us to meet young people from around the UK, all with similar dreams and aspirations. During the course, we all mixed our wonderful ideas and creativity, producing a brilliant film. I learnt even more useful filmmaking skills and met interesting professionals, expanding my experience and knowledge of making projects.

After a phone call from the production office of Lime Pictures, I hung up my phone and excitedly squealed “They’ve asked me to work!” to my dad. I knew this was the beginning of a varied career within the industry for me, and despite my background which is typically branded ‘less-privileged’, I would have many more opportunities to come.

Anna McDermott