2014 will really be the first year in my writing career when I think I can safely say that I’ll have given up my ‘day job’ for good. Changing to writing full – time is an amazing experience that brings with it a whole new set of challenges. Instead of trying to fit your writing around your ‘work’, you’ve got long swathes of time in which to just…WRITE! And somehow, that can almost be as daunting as trying to fit it in.
But that’s a whole other blog. For this blog I wanted to talk a little about the day job I had for the last twenty – one years, because it was a pretty cool job, if I do say so myself ;).
When I was eighteen years old I was due to go off to University in England, to study Social Anthropology. I had watched the film ‘Gorillas in the Mist’ and fancied myself as a crusading Dian Fossey and upon investigating how I could do this, I found out that Social Anthropolgy would lead me in the right direction. Zoology would have done too, but that was altogether far too scientific and hard.
But, as things worked out, it was decided by my mother and I that I really needed to make some money, so I deferred taking up my place for a year.
During that year I was mainly waitressing in a busy Dublin restaurant but thanks to a woman I knew who had worked in the film business in LA, I randomly ended up almost working on a short film. The job didn’t work out but my interest was piqued and I got into the Film and TV union and started applying for work as a Trainee Assistant Director (lowest rung of a film; runner; PA).
(Just to clarify here - I had had no previous interest in working on films at all, it had never even entered my head, even though I was a cinephile and devoured all movies.)
To my surprise over the next few months I got work on some short films – working for free. The people were lovely and the work was unlike anything I’d ever done before. But for some reason, it really suited me and I really suited it. My very first job was helping in the wardrobe department of a short film that was shot over a series of five nights in the Phoenix Park in Dublin. Night – shoots! I thought this was the most exciting thing in the world!
After that I started picking up more and more work, as the film business in Ireland was relatively small. It was easy to build up some contacts and go from job to job.
My first proper paid job was as Extras Co-ordinator on a film called ‘An Awfully Big Adventure’ starring Hugh Grant – just after he had done ‘Four Weddings and a Funeral.’ I hadn’t much a clue of what I was doing and I was terrified most of the time, but it was exhilarating.
I was also learning how to drive my first car, a mini cooper. Not something I would recommend – learning on the job!
By the time that year was up, and I was due to take up my deferred place in University, I was working on a pretty major film called…’Braveheart’. I angsted over what to do but in all honesty Social Anthropology was not even an option anymore. I was earning decent money and going to work with an international crew of about two hundred people every day and thousands of extras.
I guess what it did was show me that the path of studying in order to go and watch some Gorillas in the mist, wasn’t really what I wanted to do.
So within a year of gaining and deferrring a University place, my life had changed completely and I was working in a career that had never even entered my head as a possibility.
I subsequently spent the next two decades working on a variety of different films, TV shows and commercials. With a few pop videos thrown in. As well as working here in Ireland, I got to work in Slovakia (Behind Enemy Lines), Namibia (Flight of the Phoenix) and Malaysia (Anna and the King). Along the way I made a core group of best friends who are like my family.
I will miss my old job and the camaraderie of working in that intensely intimate environment with a hundred or so other people for weeks on end. We worked hard, but we played hard too, and had the best of times.
The last film I worked on was this time last year. The early morning starts, long hours, three layers of wet weather clothes and thermals has definitely lost the exciting mystique it once had. Especially now I know that I have an alternative; sitting at home in my PJ’s creating romantic fantasies!
I don’t regret not taking up that University place, and if anything, working freelance prepared me for the vagaries of trying and failing to get published before actually getting ‘The Call’.
My latest book is out now – When Falcone’s World Stops Turning. It’s the first part in a new trilogy that features three half – brothers. The third book in the trilogy ‘When Da Silva Breaks the Rules’ actually centers around a film being made on the hero’s estate, so I finally got a chance to write what I know!
Happy reading everyone J.