Q&A: Alice Markey
Local resident Alice Markey dreamed of working in film but didn’t know how to get into the industry. She talks to Islington Life about how she broke into the sector with help of Islington Council’s Film Office and FilmFixer.
How long have you been interested in working in films?
I was always interested in films and TV growing up but I didn’t know it was a possibility, and the industry can seem really opaque and based on connections and who you know. So I put it to one side and thought this is something I will never be able to do.
How did you find out about the Set Ready programme?
I found out about Set Ready from a programme I was on called Creative Sparkworks which was online in April/May time last year. Sue from FilmFixer came as a guest speaker and it was really refreshing to hear what she had to say.
What were you doing before the programme?
A lot of jobs in TV and job schemes are advertised on Facebook and I saw something advertised for a film and TV club. The one I did was for any age group and we had weekly sessions where we would discuss employability skills such as writing CVs, cover letters and having guest speakers from the industry tell us what it is really like. It was a 10 month online programme and they run them all year round.
What did you think of the programme and what did you learn?
I thought the programme was fantastic and I learnt a lot. I used lockdown and all my excess free time to get on track and try to get into TV and film. I also signed up to lots of online seminars and courses. Set Ready was different – it was general employability skills plus a network of people. It really put an emphasis on the practical aspects of working on a film set. On set things move at a very fast pace and you are thrown in the deep end and have to know how to interact with lots of different people and departments. The course covered practical aspects such as how to read call sheets and contracts. On the day everyone is working really hard so people might not have time to explain what is going on and what you have to do. When I got my first job I felt well equipped to go in and do the job with confidence. For example, one of the things we learnt was how to use the walkie talkies. There is a specific etiquette for how to use them but having practiced doing that it wasn’t so daunting and it’s something that new entrants can struggle with if they haven’t used them before.
Please tell us about your journey after the programme – how have you found it and what are working on now?
Since March 2021 after I completed the Set Ready scheme I’ve been working solidly on scripted TV in the Covid department – this is a new and dedicated department created to keep everyone safe whilst working in the pandemic. It’s been a really good entry point to the industry. My role is to check in people at the start of the day and throughout, making sure everyone has the right kit and PPE. I have got to know lots of people in all different departments and a key understanding of different roles and how it all comes together. I would encourage anyone who struggling for entry level jobs to look into entry Covid roles. I am working on a Sister Pictures and BBC drama which is being shot over 13 weeks. We are filming in and around London including Islington locations.
What are you career aspirations going forwards?
My ultimate goal is to work in development, so the first stages of scripted TV and film production. Reaching out to writers and curating a variety of scripts. I love working with writers, and have been freelancing as a script reader and preparing reports for executives to make decisions. One of the great things about the sector is you don’t have to box myself in and can do lots of different things. I hope to do more different roles before deciding what I would like to concentrate on. With script reading you have to start out doing small film festivals and short term things. I’ve also reached out to a few competitions which has allowed me to build enough experience and do things for smaller production companies. I hope to build my experience and skills to be able to get confident and know what a good script looks like. It’s a great education to know how screen stories are told.
Do you have any advice for young residents in the borough who are interested in working in the film industry?
The first thing I did was to make a note of the production company when I was watching films and then look them online and contact them to see if anyone would have a virtual coffee with me. You might not hear back so just keep sending emails and be really persistent, be polite and helpful, people are very busy especially heads of departments. Every job I have has come from a referee. People know how hard it is to get their first job so there are people who are willing to back you, put yourself forward and able to give you advice. Put yourself out there and eventually something will come back your way!
Did you know?
The council’s Film Office facilitates services such as parking and traffic management orders, issues filming licenses, and liaises with various council departments, community groups and statutory bodies where appropriate in order to help production companies film the key locations they need for their production.
Filming in the borough creates local employment opportunities and a great example of this is the Set Ready training and employment programme which Alice talks about. This vocational training programme has been working with local residents to give them opportunities in the screen industries – often seen as a hard to enter industry if you don’t have the contacts or relevant experience. The programme has had three iterations since January and trained nine residents, all of whom have subsequently got work placements and more substantive crew roles. What makes this programme unique is the continuing professional development and pastoral support FilmFixer wrap around each trainee, to ensure their individual and sustainable route into the sector.
To find out more about FilmFixer’s work and the Set Ready programme, visit the FilmFixer website.