Duncan Holland is a London-based film VFX production co-ordinator. Having worked on The King's Speech and Ironclad, he is about to jet off to Europe to work on forthcoming zombie thriller World War Z. He talks to IdeasTap about breaking into film, coping with being star-struck and making the impossible possible...
What does your job involve?
First and foremost I make sure that the lines of communication between directors and artists stay open, so everyone knows what’s going on with the film schedule. Have all the required shots been taken? Is everyone clued up on any changes taking place with the effects? That sort of thing.
Another big part of my job is data-wrangling, which sounds like a made up title, I know. This involves meticulously logging every detail of each shot – even down to a stray strand of hair. Without that information, creating effects in post-production is really difficult. Part of this involves high dynamic range imaging – taking photos, essentially – which is fun.
How did you get here?
After I graduated from university I did a lot of work for free – interning, working with schools, whatever could give me some experience. Then I landed my first job as a runner at a production studio in London, which I got through a contact from my unpaid gigs. This is absolutely the most important thing to bear in mind when trying to get into this industry: be nice to everyone, because you never know when you’ll need them!
After I’d been running for a couple of years – which involves doing anything and everything for long hours and pitiful pay – I asked one of my bosses if I could get more involved in an upcoming film. Because I’d made a good impression they said yes. Next thing I know I’m up to my knees in mud, filming Ironclad.
What’s the best part of your job?
Seeing the finished product. I worked on The King’s Speech, and when the credits rolled, and my name scrolled past, I actually had a bit of a cry!
Similarly, seeing the whole process behind making a film, from start to finish, is very enjoyable – it’s not something many people in the industry get to see. And of course, it’s cool hanging around with some of my cinematic heroes. I had to attend a screening and ended up sitting with Tim Burton, one of my favourite directors. I was a bit star struck in the beginning, but you quickly realise they’re people too.
What’s the biggest challenge of your job?
Realising someone else’s vision can be challenging, but only from a practical point of view. For example, on The King’s Speech we were filming in a stadium, trying to make 40 extras look like 500 soldiers and were quickly running out of light. We had the lighting guys building lighting rigs around us, everyone’s gear was freezing up, and then it started snowing. It seemed like the impossible shot, but we made it work. Eventually!
What advice do you have for people looking to get into the film industry?
Don’t be afraid of challenges. In my third year of university I was given the opportunity to shoot my final project on film, instead of digital. It was hugely stressful and difficult, but it really opened my eyes to some of the realities of working in film. Be flexible, be prepared to slog away for a couple of years and like I said before, be nice! Also, be realistic – you won’t be Kubrick in a day. Have a clear idea of where you want to go in the industry and be prepared to work for it.
If you would like £30,000 to fund your creative project and take your career to the next level, apply for the Sky Arts' Ignition: Future's Fund through our brief.