Life behind the lens part two: five more key non-acting roles in film

In the second of our series of blogs about film roles that operate ’behind the scenes’, we look at five more jobs that allow regular access to film sets and movie projects and offer exciting opportunities to get your hands dirty making a real movie. We have already looked at some of the main jobs around directing, producing and editing a film, as well as the importance of meticulous research in the name of authenticity on screen.

This time, our five chosen roles cover some of the more technical aspects of movie making, such as lighting and sound, as well as paying attention to the smaller, yet equally important details that add a professional sheen to the final production.

Lighting technician

Light can be crucial to a film’s aesthetic, as well as making sure the action can be seen on camera. Lighting can also set the right mood and create the perfect atmosphere. Make it too dark or too harsh and you can’t see the action happening. Lighting technicians usually work within a team, headed by the Gaffer (or Chief Lighting Technician) and supported by Grip operatives. A lighting technician must have excellent knowledge of lighting equipment and effects, as well as being physically fit to lug heavy lights and equipment around on set, often working at height. They must be technical enough to be able to fix problems and diagnose issues with the lighting, so as not to cause disruptions or delays to production.

Sound technician

Sound production within a film shoot is is overseen by a sound specialist, either a sound designer, or sound technician and their team. This role looks after all audio aspects of the film, from recording the speech and incidental noises to the post-production tasks of combining sound with visuals and introducing any additional audio effects required to create a seamless end product. As a sound technician, you’ll need to be familiar with a wide range of technical equipment, including a variety of microphones and recording devices, as well as have fantastic attention to detail. You might work both on set during filming and in the studio in post-production, where audio is mixed and edited, in the same way the visuals are.

Costume designer

Costume designers and specialists work, not surprisingly, on the costumes and outfits the actors and supporting artists will wear during filming. This includes lots of research before the filming starts to design and source or make the right clothes to create the costume, as well as sewing and clothes altering skills to make them fit the actor playing the role. This work involves attention to detail and a lot of design knowledge, including historical fashions and materials. Many costume designers train specifically in design for film media over many years.

Hair and make-up artist

Hair and make-up artists work closely with the actors to help them become their characters visually. They must ensure that actors appear correctly under film lighting conditions and that the characters’ appearances are true to the time period and location their story is set in. They can often be called upon to alter an actor’s age and appearance through make-up, prosthetics, wigs and hair styling. It is essential to understand the history of hair and make-up and know lots of techniques to bring the director’s vision for his or her characters to life. Good knowledge of the time period, as well as knowledge of a variety of styling and media makeup techniques is important in this line of work. Makeup for film/TV is often far more complex than other forms of hair or makeup artistry.

Runner

For anyone wanting to get a foot in the door of a film or TV set, becoming a runner is often a good way to start. A runner is usually the most junior position on the film crew and the work can involve pretty much anything and everything. You will carry out basic admin tasks, help set up shoot locations, liaise with actors and directors to make sure they have everything they need and basically be in the right place at the right time for anyone who needs you to carry out an errand for them. Good tea and coffee making skills are a must! A good runner is versatile, enthusiastic and organised, making themselves indispensable on set and ready for anything that comes their way.

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Rachel Woolcott

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Great camp to develop creativity and for children to learn about film making. In this short period of time the teachers were engaging; the group developed a story for a short film, acted, set the scenes and were behind the camera, my son loved the activities.

Seb.

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I've learned so much here I don't know where to start.
I’ve learned how to shoot a film properly, how to compose a shot. I’ve learned how to edit, how to take an idea and turn it into something you can see on the screen. It’s been amazing.

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My 7 year old had the best time at Sparks summer camp, it really helped him grow his confidence too! He was initially reluctant to be in front of the camera, we were reassured by Sparks that he wouldn't need to but once he was there, he actually really enjoyed having a few lines in the final movie :) He still speaks highly of his time at Sparks several weeks later!

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