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July 2021 | Georgie McGahey

Do you really need to move to London to find runner jobs?

When you start out in the film industry you may think all the film runner jobs are in London - and that's a big expensive move if you’re based halfway across the country. London is indeed the centre for post-production, advertising, corporate and development for the film and TV industry. Soho’s post-production community is vast with some of the best global VFX and post houses in the world located within streets of each other. If that’s your thing then Soho is indeed where you will find runner jobs in abundance - just remember that competition is still incredibly fierce for these positions. 

Outside of London, there are a host of other possibilities which may tie in more with your career aspirations and your finances. Remember, if you can build up your low-level experience as a runner while not shelling out extortionate rents, you will be taking the pressure off yourself and your bank balance.

The northwest has developed a thriving production base. Bolton has become the favourite location for many productions and Manchester is the home of the BBC and sister production companies from London. BBC Drama Village is based in Birmingham and in March 2021 the BBC announced they want to make it their centre of excellence. Alongside radio, the intention is to launch an Apprentice Training Academy. With the BBC committed to spending 60% of their TV budget on productions outside London, making the move to the capital might not be the only option if you want to break into drama. 

The film centres in the UK but outside London are in Manchester (BBC Television, 3SixtyMedia), Cardiff (BBC Drama, Dragon Studios), Birmingham (BBC Drama) and Bristol (BBC Wildlife, Aardvark, Bottle Yard) and Belfast (Titanic, Broadcasting House Belfast). There is a film studio for Scotland proposed to be based in Cumbernauld.

What if I want to work on feature films?

If you want to work on the bigger studios as a floor/office runner, then a move to London can still be avoided. Pinewood, Shepperton and Leavesden are both on the very outskirts of Greater London, so you could actually be based in the surrounding counties of Hertfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Berkshire or surrey. 

Bedfordshire has the impressive Cardington studios, home to many of Christopher Nolan's films such as Inception and the Batman Trilogy, plus Dumbo and Pan.  Surrey’s Longcross Studios has also been particularly busy in previous years, hosting various productions from Dr Strange to Artemis Fowl. 

In the North of the UK there is an equal amount of choice, not forgetting the architecture of the north is a huge draw for many period productions. Peaky Blinders has been shot at Tatton Studios in Cheshire, The Depot in Liverpool are the only studios to be based at the heart of a city - making travel nice and simple - and Space Studios in Manchester is part of the second-largest filming hub in the UK. 

If you are based in the west country, Bristol has become a hive of activity. The Bottle Yard just 5 miles outside Bristol is home to multiple high-end TV dramas such as Wolf Hall, Poldark and Sherlock. 

Why should I be thinking about location?

Your location is sometimes key for productions who want to hire their runners locally. If you are applying for a job in Huddersfield and live in Brighton, the chances are your CV will be overlooked. Productions like to keep costs down and overnight senior crew where they can. We recommend that if you have bases in multiple places, add that to your CV and if they have specified that location, make sure you head up your CV with “Runner, based in Birmingham” for example.

Also, consider your finances. If you can help it, don’t get yourself into debt before your career has begun. Cities are expensive places to live in but the south is always significantly pricier than the north - which is why the migration to the north of England has led much crew to follow on, resettle and call the place home and that goes for focus pullers and costume designers, not just junior crew. Be smart about your choices. It's never been a better time to explore other areas of the country for work because production runner work, internships and film apprenticeships are available if you look for them. 

In short, you don’t have to move to London to get into the film industry. When you are more advanced in your career it starts to matter less where you are based as the production will overnight you in whatever location they are filming in. Weigh up your options and if you are unsure what to do, get in touch with us through the Facebook page, group or drop us a line at [email protected]

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