After four successful years freelancing, Film & TV Production graduate Harrison Boileau has rejoined Bucks New University as a member of staff. Read his insights into the industry, making the successful transition from student to professional, and how it feels to see the university from a completely different perspective.
What have been your main career achievements since graduating?
After graduating I moved to London and worked for a number of different production companies. It was whilst working at one called The Picture Production company, that I met Samuel L. Jackson. He came in a few times to do a voiceover, and on the last day, I nervously asked for a photograph with him – I’m still waiting for his agent to get in touch…
Also, whilst working here at Bucks, I made a film for an exhibition on research laboratories in Tanzania, which was covered in an issue of National Geographic. I was very grateful to Dr. Greer Crawley on the Spatial Design course for getting me involved in that project.
You have been at Bucks as a student and now a member of staff (with those four years freelancing in-between). How does it feel to be back and to see the uni from a different perspective?
Coming back to Bucks after nearly four years away was quite strange at first; moving back to a town where I don’t know anyone but in a previous life had friends and course mates around me.
I have settled back in quickly though, and the beauty of being so close to London is that I can still see friends on evenings and weekends, plus I quite like living in the shire now, a sign of getting older maybe… don’t know how we did night after night in the SU.
It’s good to see old faces (and some new ones), and to be working with the lecturers and creating videos for the university.
What is it like working with students?
The students that I have worked with have been great. On all courses that I have worked with, they have been very willing to help; providing interviews and demonstrating work to camera. They come across very professionally, and I think this is why we have great partnerships across all courses. Since I have been here I have been involved with students at Royal Albert Hall, BBC Introducing, D&AD, The Nunnery Gallery, Gibson Guitar rooms, Watford FC and MOVEIT Dance Competition to name a few…
What is involved in your day-to-day work whilst you are back at Bucks New University?
My job is to film course content within the faculty of Design, Media and Management, as in the example above. These videos include promotional films of the courses, course trips to industry partners, capture the activity at event, or interviews with course alumni. I am a ‘one-man band’, so I organise the producing, filming and editing myself. Thankfully, everyone that I have worked so far has been very willing to assist in the process.
Upon reflection, what skills did your qualification give you that help in your job?
The Film and Television degree course was (and still is) a great course. The facilities that we have at Bucks are great, with lots of studio space. As the process of making Films and video content involves many technical aspects, the skills I learnt on this course gave me the basis for every job I’ve had since graduating, and I have had jobs in camerawork, editing, directing, preparing kit, production assistance and studio assistance. You develop your skills constantly throughout your professional career, but the grounding all started at Bucks.
What advice would you give to a student who is about to graduate into your role or industry?
Everyone knows it’s a tough industry, especially when starting out. I started like many do, as a runner but I tried to keep a smile on face every day (which is hard after getting the tube into work). Learn from whatever you do, be enthusiastic; many times I had to make coffees and change toilet roll, but I never complained… until I got home to my housemates.
What advise can you give to students who are thinking of working freelance?
I thought finding even a full time runner job in the industry was tough, but freelancing is harder. My advice would be to talk to everyone and promote yourself, there is so many people out there that want stuff filmed, but the problem is there is so many people ready to film it, so try to stand out with people that you work with.
I got my freelance work through friends and people who were leaving the company to go freelance themselves, and remembered me. I still keep in touch, and still use evenings and weekends to complete freelance work. Also, if people can get on with you after work over a pint, then that’s where they are likely to remember you, because they can get on with you on a social, personal level.
What advice would you pass on to your first year self?
Use lighting in my films, it adds so much. In the first year, we didn’t bother; just hired a camera and went off to film stuff, but the use of lighting in whatever you’re filming can change something amateurish to something professional looking that you can be proud of.
I’d offer similar advice to anyone on a creative course. Don’t cut corners in your first year thinking it does not matter so much. Push yourself from the first day and you’ll soon become more confident and professional and that will pay off in your second and third years, and ultimately when you graduate.
Thank you for the Q&A Harrison, it is always a pleasure to hear how our graduates have developed their careers, and even better to see them back on campus. This also demonstrates why keeping in touch with the university and alumni network can be so important, especially as a freelancer.