Being a runner is the basic go to entry level job for anyone who wishes to work in the film industry.
It’s the lowest junior job role that spreads out into all departments. Being a runner gives you the opportunity to see how a film set works from the inside. The job lets you take a look at all departments before you decide which direction to go within.
The jobs vary from set to set, budget to budget. On low budget jobs a runner position might feel more like an assistant producer role. You might have to read lines with actors, you might be asked to set up a light (on low budget films anything goes but either way experience is experience).
If your looking to get paid well for a runner position look towards the big production companies BBC, Working Title, Universal, UK BECTU rates suggest runners get paid at least £10 ($15) an hour. Recently a friend of a friend got a 6 month gig as a runner for a major studio . I looked him up and here is what he had to about the work
Quote from a runner working on a film set in London 2016
I’m working as a runner for a major studio, I got the work from a friend of a friend and moved to London from the northwest of England. As a runner I do a bit of everything from making teas to filing – any of the boring jobs no one else has been assigned to do.
The work is good I get to see all of the varied roles on a film set. I work 12 hours a day 5-6 days a week from 7am-7pm. I’m working in the accountancy department so I am on the film for 8 months from pre-production-post. The pay works out as National Minimum wage (about £6.70 per hour). The production pays for my meals so I need only pay for accommodation whilst I am here. The plan is to keep friendly with everyone and move on to more crew based work after this production ends.
Runner Job Description
You don’t need any previous experience to be a runner. Some jobs will ask for people with film set experience but it need not be a deal breaker. You are told everything that you need to do on the job. Making tea and coffee will probably be your main task.
You will have someone above you at all times who will tell you exactly what your job is. In production this is the 1st AD. In the production office this may be the 2nd AC or another runner who has been there longer than yourself. Either way when you get your first job in the film industry don’t worry about it someone will be there to tell you what to do, we all have to start off somewhere. Example runner job description for the various stages of production.
- Driving crew and production staff around
- Answering the office telephone
- Photocopying and administrative work
- Making tea and coffee for cast and crew
- Picking up cast for make up calls
- Stopping traffic from coming down a street during filming
- Looking after visiting clients
- Delivering hard drives, tapes, media
- Keeping the editing suits clean
A good site for finding job descriptions for film crew roles is creative skillset
Why to find work as a runner
A runner is the basic entry level job into film. If you don’t have any experience in film, or any idea of what job/department you wish to work within finding experience as a runner will give you the opportunity to see it all. You won’t be a runner forever – the work is uncreative, unskilled and often takes you away from the action of on set work. Take a runner job as it is – a beginning.
How to find work as a runner
You need to start making contacts to find work. Online is a good place to start. Try looking up what production companies are in your local area. Make a neat and tidy CV include skills that apply to a runner job role such as having a driving license, good telephone manner, confident on the computer etc. Keep cover letters short and professional. Apply to any jobs that you can find in commuting distance at first. Make contacts whilst working, learn what you can, rinse and repeat until you are sure of what your next job role in film will be.
What to expect
Being a runner is an uncreative job role. one problem with this job is that it takes you so far away from what you expect film work to be. People are put off by this first hurdle. Runners are often given tedious jobs such as cleaning, collecting snacks for the crew. Often than not runners are not paid well or not paid all. This low level job can cause issues – enthusiastic people starting off in film are easily exploited(overworked, underpaid and bullying can happen). Try to find experience working for good professional companies that teach you good practice from the start, learn what you can from being a runner and move on to better job roles in film.
I have compiled a list of places to find work in the film industry online. If you don’t have contacts already this might be a good start for finding your first film job.