Degree subject BA, Philosophy (1990)
Job title Film Producer
Employer Zanzibar Films
How did you get your job?
I had worked in the music business in America. When I came back to Ireland, a friend who was a producer said I would be good at producing, although I had no idea what a producer did. This friend provided a contact, which led to my first job as a trainee production assistant. I would say I got the job because I was older coming into the industry, I had more life experience and I also had the necessary equipment: a car, phone and computer.
I worked as a casting assistant/locations assistant. Following from my work there, I was recommended to Hubbard who were doing a big job for Bord Failte. This was a huge advertising project and I kept getting work following that.
Another contact led to my first short film. Meanwhile, on the sidelines, I continued to make applications to film boards for feature films, shorts, etc. Then, a contact who had some start-up money asked me to produce the film Zanzibar, the first Irish film on 35 mm. It was a good film and we went to the Irish Film Board for completion money and got €24,000. In order to access the money, I had to set up a production company, so I started Zanzibar Films.
I kept putting in applications for awards (and we kept winning!) and was head-hunted to produce several commercials. When I got development money for my first feature, I quit my job (Monday to Friday was made up of some freelance, some retainers for commercials – weekends and holidays I worked on films) and really went into producing and started bringing in money for features.
What does the job involve?
The work centres on finding products – scripts – and raising the money to produce them, then finding the right distributor to market them. My work involves a lot of travelling to film fairs to market productions – Cannes, Rotterdam, Galway! Essentially, I am running a company: it is a business. The company includes a head of development, another producer and an assistant. Applications for development funding have to be submitted constantly and contracts and book-keeping must be processed, so I also have to be an accountant and lawyer to some degree.
How did your degree help prepare you for work?
My degree was in philosophy and involved a lot of writing – this really helps with proposals. Studying also trained me to meet deadlines, which is essential in my work.
What training have you received?
I have done a lot of European training courses, with Media Business School, Ronda, Spain; EAVE. These training courses helped me become the producer I am. The European courses really honed my abilities and taught me the business. I try to do a course every year to keep up to date with developments, and all the staff in the company are sent on courses.
Advice for graduates
- There is definitely a ladder system. Be willing to start at the bottom and work hard.
- It is really necessary to have a car and other tools, not just computers, but good communication skills are also important.
- Be polite and courteous, and be fair to team workers. Your reputation is very valuable.
- Always aim for the best standards in order to make a name for yourself. Zanzibar Films was the first Irish company to use 35 mm and laser, and we always aimed to produce the highest quality product.
- Have a mission statement – that's what you stand for as a company, or even as an individual.
- Film festivals in Cork, Galway, Kerry, Omagh and Belfast provide great networking opportunities.
- For interviews, personal presentation is important. Film may have a name as a laid-back industry, but you need to look smart.
- In interviews, final choices are personality-driven: people will hire someone they think will fit into the team.
- Be positive!