To make it in the world of film production everyone must start at the bottom before they get to the top. In order to open the doors, you need to be a runner. We asked our Production Manager, Lindsay Cowan about her experience as a runner and what she looks for when hiring new runners.
My first day as a runner back in 2000 was a terrifying one! I had started on a TV drama (my first) and I had barely slept! I awoke fully at 5am not due to start until 8am and I made my way to the production office for 7am. Ensuring I had recce'd the distance from the car park to the production office with ample time to spare.
I'd checked out where the nearest coffee shop was (yellow pages anyone!) and proceeded to ask the barista for 5 lattes extra hot, which included a spare one should I get blindsided. I stood eager eyed outside the door and upon arrival of the coordinator and presented her with the 5 coffee's and various sugars and sweeteners and continued to do so for anyone that walked into the office. I was devastated to find the production accountant only drank tea (epic fail!) So desperate was I to create a good impression I decided to get ahead of the game that the tea debacle meant I paid her extra attention throughout production.
By the end of the first day I had memorised how people drank their drinks and arrived early the next day having procured myself a key so that their drinks were presented to them on arrival with a verbal list of what it contained; I was always met with a grateful smile. I feel sure I can credit my employment on the next 3 dramas with this success story so when asked what makes a good runner I relay this story each and every time.
To be a good runner, it is not just about doing what is asked of you but providing what your crew needs without having to be asked, that's the secret!
Sure, you make brews and remember what people drink, you do what's asked the moment it's asked of you, you keep an immaculately clean set, but really a good runner doesn't have a job list, they have an attitude that you cannot teach! It's a willingness to shine above the rest and stand out. To see a gap for what people need and provide that gap.
I made it my mission on set that if someone asked me to do something once, they never had to ask me to do it again. If they wanted the heaters turning on in the morning then I ensured that by the time the crew arrived the studio was nice and toasty with a hot drink waiting for them. I would do the second brew run before people had finished their first to ensure that I had gotten everyone.
I created for myself a bum bag, containing sharpies, tape, lists of radios and who I had allocated them to and anything else I deemed useful. I read the call sheet and the schedule and familiarised myself with what we were shooting so that if anyone asked me what shot we were on my response would be immediate. I looked up local coffee shops and supermarkets for my errands and checked stock the night before ready for the next day so that nothing would be last minute. I became the go to person for help and before anyone could ask, it was there waiting for them!
A runner today does not have to cart around with them a map of every major city up North or indeed a yellow pages to find things. ALAS! Google will have the answer and a step by step verbal instruction of how to get there so you can imagine as a PM why my heart sinks when upon asking my runner for a coffee run that they proceed to ask me where the nearest coffee shop is. A big no no!
Fail to prepare, prepare to fail! All you need to remember is that you are here to make you crew's life easier and not the other way around. Remember this golden rule and you can use that sharpie I mentioned to tattoo that onto the palm of your hand at the start of each day ;) If you don't need managing you are the easiest choice for the next shoot!
Think ahead, have initiative, strive to fill the gaps. Do I have any other tips? Of course! Don't forget to continue to make drinks even if you are asked to do something else. After all, why would I give you anything better to do if you can't keep up with multi tasking! We've all been there and done it and all your crew know what a good runner is so strive to be that person for each and every one of them, after all you never know where or should I say who your next job is coming from. The 'shit' jobs you are given can make or break you and I will never ask you to do something I haven't done myself! It is, after all, a right of passage!
So make the brews, clean like mad, don't become complacent, learn as much as you can without getting in the way and make every departments life easier and I guarantee you won't be a runner for long and after all....isn't that the ultimate goal!