9 May 2017

Working As A Runner On A Film Set

runner feature film experience

Oopsie daisy, I haven't uploaded a blog post for over a month! This blogging break was completely unintentional, in fact I have a long list of ideas saved in my phone and about 3 half written posts in my drafts. I promise I haven't just been lazy, I do have a legitimate reason for disappearing!

So I spent pretty much the whole of April on the set of a feature film working as a runner. It was the hardest yet most brilliant 3 weeks of my life. I have never experienced a film set outside of film school before and it really opened my eyes to the reality of this industry, in a good way though!

I thought I'd tell you about everything that happened and I'll try to give you some advice too. Hopefully it will come in helpful if any of you are thinking of taking on your first runner job.


Monday 10th April, I arrived at the location a complete bag of nerves. I'd never done anything like this before and I had no idea what to expect. I knew my job role was at the bottom of the hierarchy (kind of equivalent to being the intern at the office) and I wasn't sure if anyone else would even talk to me, or if they would be horrible to me because I was at the bottom. Then I remembered they all had to be in this position once and I was probably just being silly. I was also worried because I'm really not a technical person and I knew this is where I'd probably have to help out most, my skills really lean more towards the pre production and development side of things. At least I had some film school friends on the set as well, this made me feel a bit more at ease.

We were filming at the executive producers house and omg it was massive. Their garden is the size of a field and the crew got to stay in caravans in the garden! The DOP (director of photography) stayed in a tent and I honestly don't know how he managed it because our caravans were absolutely freezing at night, so god knows how he coped! Our caravan didn't even have curtains which really wasn't great. As soon as I had dumped my stuff in the caravan it was time to get to work, not even a chance to say hello to everyone properly!

runner feature film location

runner feature film location uk
Where we called home for 2 weeks

My first task was to hold up a flag pole for one of the shots. Sounds easy but it was honestly the most stressful moment of the whole shoot. I think if it had been towards the end then I would have been fine but at this point I was still so nervous. It was here that I got to meet the DOP, Director and Camera Assistant for the first time.

The first day was really difficult. Everyone was stressed and had so much to do for the shoot and I was still so nervous about everything. If I could give you one piece of advice for your first runner job it would be to RELAX. You obviously have some sort of knowledge of film to be there in the first place and most people understand you are still learning and are willing to help you. The gaffer (head of lighting) on our shoot was one of the loveliest people ever and not long out of film school himself. On the first day he took the runners on a tour of his tool shed so we had a rough idea of where everything was and what things were called. Honestly it was a lot of information given to me very quickly and I thought my head was going to explode but I learnt as the shoot went on. In fact I would say one of the biggest achievements I've taken from the set is learning so much more about lighting equipment and what it does as this is something I usually shy away from at film school.

A few days in and a couple of the runners decided it wasn't for them and went home. There was a time where I felt the same and was tempted to leave, but luckily I had the lovely Ella with me who has been on lots of film sets before and talked some sense into me. So another piece of advice I would give is to stick it out, even if it seems rough at first. I'm so glad I did because as the shoot went on it got more and more enjoyable and I've come out with all this experience, knowledge, contacts and even some new friends!


By the end of the first week everyone was knackered and longing for a day off and that seemed to be exactly what we needed. The start of week 2 was great and we were joined by some new runners, Gina and Bud, who were amazing and really changed the atmosphere of the set.  The runners were also given more specific duties such as 2nd AC (helping the camera assistant) 3rd AD (helping the assistant director) or helping the art department, makeup and costume. I started the week off being the 2nd AC which was fun but I really found my element within the art department and makeup. This is something I've always been interested in but it's not really covered in my film school course so it was great to see how important these jobs really are to a film and to be able to help with them. The highlight of this entire experience was assisting the make up artist (the lovely Britney!) with the SFX makeup she had to do on one of the characters. Unfortunately I'm not allowed to say much about it or show any pictures as it's top secret stuff! This experience really opened my eyes to SFX makeup and just how much I enjoy it. I know that writing/directing is where I want to go but I really want to get more into SFX too.

runner feature film advice

The end of the second week was actually really hard for me. Our hours were really long and strange. Where as in the first week we were doing pretty much the same sort of time every day, this time it was different and my body was definitely feeling it. I was also upset by some of the sexism on set. It wasn't massive or really horrible, it was just little things I noticed, for instance whenever cups of tea were wanted or something needed to be cleared up, it was the female runners who would be called. If something needed moving then it was the male runners who would be called. It wasn't all the time but it was noticeable. There also wasn't one woman in the camera, lighting or sound department. It showed me that everything I've read and researched about women in the film industry really is happening. It's really worrying, especially as this is the industry I want to go into.

We finished the second week with two night shoots which were awesome. One took place in a tennis court filled slightly with water to become an eerie dream/memory sequence and the other was an american cop car chase. This was interesting to film on a British country lane! We tried to stop the traffic as obviously they had to drive on the opposite side of the road, but no one really listened to us!


The final week was being shot in Brighton which meant we could finally say goodbye to the caravans! I've never been so happy to use my own shower or sleep in my own warm bed! By now everyone was comfortable with each other and I was a million times more confident in myself. 

The week flew by and it was actually really sad to leave at the end. We just spent 3 weeks with each other, pretty much cut off from the rest of the world and soon we were going to go back to reality. Luckily for most people, working on films is their reality. I found it really inspiring to be around people who are actually doing what they want to do with their lives and it's what I want to do too. 

On the final day I also got to be an extra in one of the scenes so I'm probably going to be famous now, just saying. 

runner extra feature film
Recognise anyone in this picture?

Wow this post was pretty long! But I hope it gave you an insight into my crazy month and helped you if you're thinking of taking on a runner job. If you've got the opportunity then I definitely think you should do it! It really is amazing to be part of a film! 

See you soon,

Beth x


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