Ant and I have been asked to speak at several events over the last few weeks and a question that often comes up is, ‘How did you get started in the film industry?’
I actually started as a child actress in Los Angeles — working mainly in commercials. I have a lot of fond memories of those days, and a few instances of very tough work. I remember eating loads and loads of crisps on one shoot — the director told me to spit them out between each take but I was being a pro, so I ate the lot. I remember feeling very sick by the end of it!
I got to meet Colonel Sanders (on a KFC ad) and spent the day on a merry-go-round with him. The crew members tickled us kids under the table – a technique we used in filming Dimensions (sorry, George!).
Here is one of the commercials I was in ‘Creepy Crawlers’…
As I grew up, I realised that I wanted to be on the other side of the camera, so after getting a degree in History of Art from UC Berkeley, I started hitting the pavement to try and find a job in an art department. I spent the next several years of working everything from reception at Jim Henson Productions to being a runner on various projects. Of course during those years I worked on loads of student films and made as many contacts as I could.
I moved over to the U.K. to work as a runner in the model shop of the Muppet Treasure Island film and got my first experience of working at Shepperton Studios. I’ve been fortunate enough to work at most of the major studios in L.A. and the U.K.
I suppose my first ‘real’ art department job was on Terry Jones’ ‘The Wind in the Willows’. It was a brilliant experience and I met some wonderful people. Over the next few years, I worked my way up on both L.A. and U.K. projects — learning everything I could from the huge pool of talent in both countries. I think one of the best things about the film industry is that people are willing to teach and tutor newcomers — if you are willing to work hard and learn.
I have been fortunate enough to work with some fantastic people — I shall not name names, for fear of leaving someone out, but if you check my imdb you will get an idea. I will be forever grateful to all of those friends and mentors I have had over the years — thank you all!
So for those of you wanting to break into the industry, my advice would be…
Meet as many industry people as you can (short films, work experience, runner jobs, talks, cold calling — remember, thick skin and manners are imperative!). Take any opportunity that comes your way. Listen and learn from your colleagues. Work hard and always have a positive attitude. Leave your ego at home and remember, when you are in the middle of your career — pay it back and help the next generation!