Production Coordinator Christopher Osborne knew he wanted to get involved in the Film & TV industry from a young age.
Following his university course in music technology, Christopher went on to gain extensive experience within local production and arts companies, helping him find his niche within the industry along the way.
Here, Chrsitopher describes his career path so far – from landing a place on Channel 4’s Production Training Scheme to filming in his kitchen while working on Reggie Yates’ short film – and reveals why he thinks a positive attitude and sense of dedication will take you far in the TV & Film industry.
I’m Christopher Osborne and I currently work as a Production Coordinator at The Comedy Unit in Glasgow.
Part of my role involves turning the ideas of writers and various crew members from creation visions into reality. It’s a challenging job but it’s one that I relish.
Did you always want to get involved in the Film & TV industry?
When I was in school I think I always knew I wanted to work in the creative industries but I didn’t know exactly where. I studied Music Technology at the University of the West of Scotland in Paisley for 4 years. It was a really practical course that involved a lot of studio and sound work, with a view to working with live bands and musicians.
How did you figure out what specific area of the Film & TV industry you wanted to work in?
Throughout my last years at school and the entirety of my degree I volunteered at the Greenock Arts Guild to get a bit of extra experience, which had a rich history and would often showcase quite complicated shows.
However they often had limited budgets and as such, the Guild relied on the help of volunteers from within the community to help run the shows as successfully as possible. You were given quite a lot of responsibility in these roles, which was a brilliant way to learn new skills and gain experience.
After I finished university I started applying for TV sound roles. I worked in a few trainee sound position roles on Waterloo Road when it was based in Greenock and a few short films too.
Although I wanted to work in the creative industries, my organisational skills always tended to overrule my creative edge. As I got involved in more and more local projects, I would always end up organising props and locations for shoots. It turned out I was pretty good at that and once I realised this, I sort of fell into production.
Tell us about your experience with Rig Arts.
Eventually I ended up working as a sound recordist for the Greenock-based production company, Rig Arts.
They had just received £50,000 from the Big Lottery Fund and were working on a micro-budget feature called Dying Light, which was directed by David Newbigging and starred James Cosmo and Owen Whitelaw from BBC’s One of Us.
It was an unpaid position but it was great because you got to be involved in the whole creative process. Later I went on to work as a sound designer for the film, which was a paid role.
How did your experience at Rig Arts go on to influence your career in Film & TV?
I made a lot of contacts through Rig Arts and met people from throughout the Inverclyde community who, like me, were at a bit of a loose end. We decided to work together to try and create something, guided by the experience of Rig Arts, and set about securing funding.
Consequently, we set up Pan Breed Productions in 2014, having received £10,000 from the National Lottery Fund and two £1000 grants from Inverclyde Council. We used the money to buy essential equipment, got in touch with local writers and focused our efforts on creating short films.
We used our contacts from across our roles at The Arts Guild, Rig Arts and The Beacon Arts Centre to link up like-minded individuals and as a bank for creative talent and ideas.
This was a really successful venture and opened up further opportunities to work on shows at the Beacon and get involved with writers like Christopher Patrick and his Toasted Fiction project. This gave us the training we wanted and helped us continually build our creative network.
While all of this this was ongoing, I covered at The Comedy Unit in Glasgow as an office runner for six weeks, which mainly involved covering the reception. As clichéd as this sounds, everyone has to pass by you when you’re working in this role, so it gave me the chance to network with everyone that came in.
After I finished the job with Rig Arts I landed a role with Inverclyde Community Development Trust, who had been given £30,000 to create a short film that was to be filmed and produced by talent within the area.
When I went for the interview, I knew my work experience would put me in good stead because of the connections I had established within the local arts scene.
We worked on a short film called Starcaster in the summer of 2014, which was written by Danny McCahon – who has written for the likes of Casualty, River City, Doctors and Emmerdale – and directed by Chris Fallen.
The film was between 10-15 minutes long and it brought so many Inverclyde-based creatives together. We premiered it at the main hall of the Waterfront Cinema, which was completely filled with everyone who had worked on the project. It was a great experience and highlighted that Pan Breed could be successful.
Despite having gone off in our own directions, we’ve not ruled out doing future projects as part of Pan Breed. We’re still applying for future projects and keeping our option open.
In order to land that first break in the industry, you need to have had that work experience to show what you can do.
Tell us how you got involved with the Channel 4 Production Trainee Scheme and your big move to the Film & TV industry in London.
In October 2014 I got an interview for the Channel 4 Production Training Scheme ran by Think Bigger and 4Talent. Once Channel 4 informs you that you’re a potential applicant, they send your CV out to independent production companies.
By total coincidence, it turned out that Zodiak Media owned the Comedy Unit where I had previously worked. I think this increased my chances of landing the job at Bwark, which Leo Martin and Rhianna Andrews offered me.
After getting the good news I was preparing to move to London in October 2014. The first series we were working on was a BBC Three comedy called Fried. It was created by brothers, Harry and Jack Williams, who produced The Missing and Fleabag, the biggest hit on BBC Three’s new digital platform.
While working at Bwark I helped on a couple of short films, including FON3Z, with writer Will Burgass and producer Tobias Rothwell – who I met through the Channel 4 Scheme. Again, this allowed me to meet new people, which can be difficult in London.
What did you go on to do once your traineeship with Bwark was over?
I finished up at Bwark in October 2015 and started at Tiger Aspect, which predominantly produces scripted comedy.
Every year they produce a series for Sky called Little Crackers, where they give new comedians the opportunity to create 3 minute shorts, which occasionally go on to become a full-blown series – Chris O’Dowd’s Moone Boy being a prime example. I was involved in this role throughout November 2015 and worked on Sam Simmons’ show.
During my traineeship with Bwark, I would go to Channel 4 HQ once a month for training days with industry professionals. This is where I met Maddy Allen, the Head of Production at KEO Films, who produce a lot of documentaries and factual programmes. It was an opportunity I never followed up at the time because it wasn’t the route I was looking for.
However, in the January 2016, KEO Films began working with Reggie Yates, known for his successful documentary series for BBC 3. Reggie had written a few scripts that he wanted to get off the ground and KEO said they would help him with production and offer the film a platform through Channel 4’s Random Acts – a brilliant for budding filmmakers.
How was your experience of working on Reggie Yates’ short film, Roadkill?
It was really low budget and because Reggie had worked on bigger projects before, we were all keen to ensure that what we created lived up to his expectations.
One of the scenes takes place in a prison cell, and a lot of our budget went on securing that. One of the major challenges for me was managing everyone’s schedules and finding the best locations possible. We ended up filming a scene in my kitchen just because money was too tight for the location fee.
It was nice working on Reggie’s project because the material was so different and a bit grittier than what I had worked on previously. It put the skills I had acquired at Pan Breed Productions to good use, although the stakes involved were much higher.
Considering it was only a 5 minute short, I ended up working on Roadkill for two and a half months. It was an amazing experience though and you can see the results of our hard work here.
It’ll be a brilliant opportunity for Reggie to showcase it across the film festival circuit.
How did you get involved in Channel 4 campaign for the Rio Paralympics 2016?
I got involved with this project in April 2016, which was directed by Dougal Wilson – who recently worked on the latest John Lewis Christmas ad and many, many more.
It was pretty full-on but it was a great experience to work with a team who were so passionate. A large majority of individuals had worked on the previous Paralympics 2012 campaign and comprised of individuals from all around the globe.
I spent a lot of time trying to get work visas, which isn’t as easy as you think. Thankfully, it means that if I ever decide work on more UK-American co-productions, at least I have a bit of experience negotiating with the American Home Office – which isn’t the easiest of tasks.
I loved being part of the Channel 4 Paralympics campaign. You were a smaller cog in a massive machine but everybody worked their arses off. To see the fruition of the campaign, the hugely positive message it promoted, and how much it exploded across social media made all the hard work worth it.
Now that you’re back in Scotland working at the Comedy Unit, can you tell us what you’ve been working on?
Once the project finished in June, I returned home to Scotland to work for The Comedy Unit as a Production Coordinator. Everything had come full circle. So far I’ve worked on the third series of Scot Squad, Burnistoun and I’m currently helping out on the Only an Excuse? Hogmanay special.
The Comedy Unit are a great company and I’ll always help them out whenever I can because they took a chance on me. I’ll always be grateful to them.
Whenever I go for job interviews now, I’m usually listed as a production coordinator for comedy. That’s just sheer chance. It was never my intention to set out and work for comedy companies but when you work at one, you get introduced to another and the domino effect takes full play.
Where can you go for support for breaking into the Film & TV industry?
Try and link up with as many creative organisations as you can. I worked on short films with Film City Futures (known as Jumpcut when I was involved). Of the 12-strong crew who worked together on that project at least 7 or 8 of us are now full time in the industry.
Giving up your time to get involved in creative ventures really pays of too. It might be difficult to juggle everything but the experience you gain and the contacts you make will be invaluable.
Make sure to keep your eyes peeled for each broadcaster’s production schemes. If you get on to one of those programmes, I think you’re laughing because these companies invest in you to succeed.
What advice would you give to those looking to kick-start a career in the film and TV industry?
Do a bit of everything and talk to everyone like they could give you your next job. There are people who I’ve been courteous to who have remembered meeting me and went on to offer me my next role.
You should keep this attitude when speaking to people working across all levels and ages within the industry, as it only takes a runner to come up with an idea that gets picked up and then suddenly they’re executive producers at 24 – exactly what happened with Keith Akushie, who wrote BBC’s Siblings.
Try every opportunity that comes your way. You might end up in the occasional job you hate but I love being freelance because you work with so many different people. If you can try and get involved in as many different projects as you can, that’ll help you to continually hone your skills and grow your network.
Always be nice to everyone you meet because you don’t want a bad reputation to follow you around. Scotland’s industry is quite small and it’s a much larger ballgame in London but word of mouth is equally powerful.
Get yourself known, be confident in your abilities but don’t oversell yourself – that always rubs people the wrong way.
The TV & Film industry involves hard work and long hours but it’s such a fast-paced, thrilling industry filled with an eclectic and talented mix of people.
Now go out there and start making something!
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