It’s not too often that I encounter experiences that completely change my mind on topics I feel strongly opposed to, but my recent trip to London was without a doubt a life changing experience.
The aim of the trip was essentially to visit various production, editing and VFX facilities in order to witness the kinds of working environments I could end up in once I’ve graduated from university. I’m not entirely sure how much I can actually disclose about the names of places we visited, but oh boy were they special!
Since the group of us were on a fairly tight budget, we decided to take the coach down to London from Sheffield which was slow… so very slow in comparison to our smug friends who enjoyed the speedy train journey! But once we stepped off the coach (driven by the world’s most grumpy driver who didn’t seem to like letting people off the coach?) we braved the madness of the London underground: a ridiculously fast-paced environment of running everywhere and bizarre unwritten rules to outsiders such as myself.
We then arrived at our Hyde Park/Queensway hostel which was clean! (a major worry after a particularly horrific stay at a Liverpool hostel in my first year of my film course). The room was incredibly cramped for eight people due to the fact that the room was an ideal size for four people, yet they managed to squeeze two three tier bunk beds and one regular sized bunk into this small room. Lack of space aside, the actual location of the hostel was perfect! Close to the gorgeous Hyde Park and also the Queensway tube station (which was incredibly useful for the insane amount of commuting we would do).
The rest of the night was spent exploring a small area of London which involved a lovely evening walk through Hyde Park, followed by a magical trip to Covent Garden (which was beautiful!). Back in Sheffield, the only thing you would see still in operation past seven o’clock would typically be purely restaurants, bars and clubs, yet this absolutely wasn’t the case! We ate hotdogs in the small semi-outdoors shopping centre whilst a floor down, the delightful sounds of a small orchestral group could be heard playing a range of well known classical pieces. Once our evening of exploring was done, it was then time to attempt to catch an early night of sleep… which absolutely didn’t happen, because after all, we were eight excitable film students who were completely unable to contain our excitement of staying in London.
The day began at the horrifically early time of 7:30am… which was horrific purely because of how travelling had drained me as well as the fact that previous to the trip, I had fallen into a pattern of lay-ins for three weeks.
We then headed down to a *certain* archive of British Film which was an incredible experience considering how many famous film makers would have probably entered the building for screenings and events, as well as the information about how certain films are preserved in sub-zero conditions to prevent them from deteriorating.
After the first tour, we ate the cornerstone of all nutritious diets at McDonalds… then moved onto a very huge production company that you most definitely will have seen the logo for at the start of so many films but alas… I can name no names… (it was so freaking cool though!) we went down to the private screening cinema in the basement (after seeing this, every office should have its own private cinema!) and I managed to awkwardly answer a question from the CEO of this certain company!
We then went on a tour around the offices, lead by a very friendly runner who showed us the ins and outs of every room (including a very heavily award decorated board room… yes I felt like I was in Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory!).
And of course to end the day on a high note, we went to Piccadilly Circus to what is now going to be referred to as my own version of Disney Land: Bubba Gump Shrimp, a magical restaurant for fanatics of the Robert Zemeckis film Forrest Gump (such as myself!). We ate shrimp and drank beautiful cocktails whilst I gave my friend Michalina an audio commentary of the muted film behind the bar since she hadn’t seen it before and we were currently watching that emotional Bubba scene play out…
This was the earliest start so far and anyone who knows me knows how much I can’t stand early wake-up calls… yeah I know I totally chose the right industry to go into to avoid that didn’t I? Maybe I should have the job from the game Firewatch and roam a national park totally alone… and get chased by a psychopath through the… wilderness… I’m good! I can deal with the early mornings all of a sudden!
Anyway, two tubes, one bus and an hour of commuting later we arrived at another television company (which I have visited a few times before, which made coming back all the more exciting!). After a sort of breakfast snack in the board room, we were introduced to a sound designer, an editor (yaaaaaaasss!!) and a colourist which was exciting since I’ve never ventured into a colour suite before and it was everything I hoped it would be with its spaceship-like colour correction control desk. This was probably one of my favourite destinations of the entire trip because of how much we learnt whilst there and how insanely cool and futuristic the place is!
The final stop of the day was a huge VFX company that works on a variety of incredible films. This is definitely one of the locations visited that had a friendly working vibe to it (which is important for someone like me who gets stressed out when they think that people might want to snap at me). Again, we went into their private cinema and watched an animation reel which was somewhat breathtaking and inspiring to watch, to see how such iconic effects were created. I would however be lying if I didn’t mention that one of the highlights of this place was the free pen I got to take home with me, I mean branded freebies/souvenirs for such a cool place is easily the best way to impress me! I then got to ask a couple of questions to the composite artists (which was less daunting than I thought it would be!) and they were met with friendly, helpful replies!
After being practically dragged kicking and screaming from that dream factory (that I would really want to work at if I knew how to even begin the magical sorcery those guys create every day) we then went to another effects house. It was pretty cool buuuutt I’m not entirely sure I would fit in there considering it was entirely just for people who have compositing knowledge… but their bathroom was pretty cool! (As you can tell, I really took a lot away from that visit).
And the final stop of our exhausting, long day, was a pub in Soho to talk to a couple of graduates from my university course who have since succeeded in the world of television. One of the graduates was an editor too, so naturally I hogged him to ask him a multitude of questions that ranged from “how the heck did you make the move?!” to “where can I work with people who will be nice to me?” because lets face it, the thought of moving so far away from home and getting shouted at is very scary aaand I don’t fancy having beverages thrown at me… please no. However I got some very good answers from him and left feeling that the move to London had become more of a possibility and less of a looming fear.
I began the day by heading across the road from the hostel, to a beautiful cafe that serves up the most amazing breakfast ever. I had a continental breakfast and the freshest orange juice I’ve had in a long time whilst my friend Michalina, had a protein smoothie thing that tasted heavenly…
Buuuutt food aside (I’m very passionate about food, especially when it’s that good!) we took the tube to Shoreditch for a talk from another graduate from my course about editing! Thankfully this further informed me about the realities of leaving the safety of education and where I could perhaps start my career (which is something I’m still not entirely sure on, but who is I guess!).
We then rushed off to another VFX facility, where I was sat below an Oscar in the waiting room… as you do… *internal screaming intensifies*. And we were shown down to another pretty awesome private cinema where oddly out of the two courses that attended the trip (animation and good ol Film Production) ours seemed the most eager, sat at the front with wide eyed wonder as we were shown a couple of VFX reels from some very recent, very exciting films. This location wasn’t necessarily aimed at a budding editor such as myself but I still received some useful advice in regards to showreels and I still got to sit in the same building that made the effects for… Aaaaahhh I wanna say it… dammit I can’t! (Too much internal screaming over all the awesomeness).
And that, sadly marked the end to an incredible trip that I couldn’t have possibly enjoyed more because the places we visited were incredible. However since visiting London is quite a rarity for myself, my friends and I spent the last night wondering along the dreamy Southbank area, doing a little night photography and being wowed by how much there was to do in the city that seemingly never sleeps, so here’s some photos!