Working as a trainee film director: Alfie's story

Meet Alfie. He's 16, from South Wales, and is working as a trainee film director on a voluntary project. Part of our Bitesize world of work series.

Alfie at work, writing or sketching.
"If you want something, then go for it – there’s nothing stopping you from following your dreams."

How did you become a trainee director?

I got involved with the Blaenau Gwent Film Academy as a volunteer. One of the team told me about a website called Dollar Babies where students can pay $1 to adapt a Stephen King novel. We did this and, for the past year, have been working on developing our screenplay adaptation of Stationary Bike.

What does your role involve?

At the beginning of the pre-production process, we read through the book to see how the story could play through. Each of us looked through key parts and we made a few minor alterations. Since then I've been developing ideas and putting together storyboards. As the trainee director, my role during the shoot will involve learning how to choose the shots.

What skills do you use in this role?

My time management skills have definitely got better throughout pre-production. I've had to work alongside the cast and production team a lot too, so my teamwork has improved as well.

How will working on this project help you in the future?

I now have a clearer idea of how I can develop future films and get creative ideas from other cast members. In the future, I'd like to use this film to help me apply for filmmaking degrees so I can build on my skills and meet more like-minded people in a creative environment.

Alfie directing at the film academy.
Alfie directing at the film academy.

Top tips

  • I love the horror genre and it was my ambition to work on a Stephen King adaptation. If you want something, then go for it

  • Being part of a film academy is great, especially if you really want to help others and be part of a big team

  • I'm not sure yet which aspect of filmmaking I want to get into, but getting experience is really useful.

What to expect if you want to be an assistant director

Alfie's current role is a voluntary role, which is helping him to gain experience. In the future, he could progress to paid work in a role such as assistant director. Assistant directors support directors by organising and planning everything on TV or film sets.

Assistant director salary: variable

Assistant director hours: 39 to 41 hours per week

Assistant director entry requirements: You can get into this job in various ways. You could go to university and do a foundation degree, higher national diploma or degree, in subjects such as Film Production or Creative Media Production. Courses that include practical skills and work placements are usually the most useful. You'll usually need one to three A-levels to access a degree course.

You could also get into this job by taking a college course and then getting experience with a production company. You could take a Level 3 Diploma, such as Media Technique or Creative Media Production. You'll usually need at least four or five GCSEs (or equivalent) at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C). You could also do a Level 4 Diploma in Media Production Filmmaking, for which you'll need one or two A-levels (or equivalent) or relevant experience. You could also take a short course run by a film school, regional screen agency or private training provider.

Experience is important in this industry. You might start as runner or production assistant on set, and work your way up. It can take several years to progress from being a runner through to an assistant director. You'll need relevant work experience to get a job as a runner. You can get this by volunteering for student or community film and TV projects. You can also search for film and TV companies to approach for experience through media business listing services like PACT, The Knowledge, or ScreenSkills – jobs and skills training in film, TV, VFX, animation and games.

This information is a guide (sources: LMI for All, National Careers Service)

For careers advice in all parts of the UK visit: England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales

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