We’re delighted to share this ScreenSkills case study about James Potts from Bristol, who took part in ScreenSkills’ Skills to Screen event in 2020, designed to help people identify what skills they possess that can be transferred into the screen industries. Originally scheduled to take place at The Bottle Yard Studios, the event moved online due to the pandemic. James’s career is now well underway; he recently worked as runner on Sanditon (ITV/BritBox/Masterpiece).
James Potts was working in the hotel industry as the pandemic hit. When the hotel closed it offered him a chance to focus on following his dream of getting into the screen industry.
He had helped some friends with some of their short film projects but was unable to secure work experience at some of the studios in his hometown of Bristol. That’s when he turned to ScreenSkills and the Skills to Screen programme which is designed to help people identify what skills they possess that could be transferred into the screen industries.
He explained: “I’d attended an event in Bristol and spoken with someone from Bafta who suggested I try ScreenSkills’ Skills to Screen training. I applied when the course was going to run face-to-face but didn’t get a place. The response said they’d had a high volume of applicants and not everyone could be accepted. But then I got an e-mail saying that the course would run via Zoom and I could take part.”
The programme highlighted how his existing talents could be applied to a screen environment. He said: “The biggest benefit was understanding where my skills would be best used. I’d thought it would be in production. I didn’t realise what the locations department was – I thought it was just scouting locations. I met a production manager, one of the people leading the course, who talked through my background and suggested locations as a route for me. She felt I’d be better suited to that than production as I’m a practical outdoors type of person. When she explained it to me, I realised that I’d been looking for the wrong roles and my CV wasn’t helping me. Once I had a clearer idea the course tutors gave me extra support on re-jigging my CV to reflect what I wanted to do. It all fell into place.”
There were other areas of the initiative which James said directly helped him secure work. “The production manager gave me contacts, which I followed up. I got daily work as a location marshal on a shoot in Bath so I added that to my CV, along with the experience from helping friends with short films, and I really saw a difference in how people responded to me. It led to another location marshal job, then a location assisting job on Heritage House Rescue for Discovery. I then got a Covid-related role on a feature film shooting in the Cotswolds.”
On how Screen to Skills has helped his career journey, he said: “It helped me immensely. It showed me the reality of the industry, how hiring works and how departments work. My only possible criticism is that it didn’t seem to have a very high profile outside ScreenSkills channels. If I hadn’t been told about it during the Digital Cities event I’d probably never have heard of it! Before the course I definitely wasn’t going in the right direction. Through Skills to Screen I got one job, and that gave me both experience and contacts. It then led to more and more opportunities straight away. Without the support I’d probably just have kept knocking on doors – but I don’t know how well that would have worked as, looking back, I wasn’t putting my best foot forward.”
The work has continued for James, who has now established a career within the industry and spent several months working as a floor runner on ITV’s period drama Sanditon, in and around Bristol. “It came from connections formed after the skills to screen session.”
The success has enabled James to be upbeat about the future and the possible roles available. “People know me now in Bristol – they know how I work, so they consider me.”