Tom is a freelance video editor and post-production consultant. Along the way he has worked in the computer games and music industries.
What are you working on at the moment?
Currently working on location with an Everest summit expedition producing daily video dispatches detailing their experiences along the way.
So how did you get to this point in your career?
I never really knew what career I wanted once I left school, all I knew was that I didn’t want any more full-time education! Rather than going to university I took a year out to consider my options which worked well for me.
I ended up on a part-time music technology course which, through work experience, landed me a job with a computer games company. I spent the next 7 years creating music and sound effects for games and later on down the line delving into video production.
In 2001 I decided to go. It was time to become my own boss, so I left the games industry and set up a recording studio in Manchester in conjunction with a couple of business contacts I had made the previous year. Once the business was established I was able to develop my video production contacts which lead to me creating my first commercial DVD for Gary Numan in 2003. The DVD did very well, and just through that project alone a number of other job offers came through and I haven’t stopped working since.
Were there any particular choices you had to make along the way?
The biggest decision point for me was whether or not to go self employed. It can be a scary decision to make as you generally have no idea how work will pan out for you.
What are the highs and lows?
- The highs are the variety of work that can come your way and the control you have over your work life.
- The lows are the times when work isn’t coming in and you start to worry about your financial predicament!
So what’s it like being self employed – is money a problem?
- The money varies from job to job so it can be hit and miss.
- My experience has been that in the earlier years you have to survive on very little as it takes time to develop contacts and create a name for yourself within the industry. With perseverance this can happen though and eventually the hard work will pay off.
- There are some high paying jobs out there for freelancers but they are few and far between so you need to supplement with what ever you can get.
Best and worst things you have had to work on or do.
The jobs I enjoy are the ones like the one I am on at the moment. Getting paid not only to do what you’re good at and enjoy but also to experience the world and see other cultures. I’ve also had the fortune to work with individuals who inspired me when I was younger.
There aren’t any specific worst jobs, I guess the biggest problems can be difficult clients who expect a lot for very little and then those who don’t pay, you need to have systems in place to protect yourself from such indiviuals.
Is there any essential training or experience required to get in?
- Any experience you can get is relevant, even if it’s just helping out a mate with a film project or doing one on your own. The more you do, the more you learn and that in the end will greatly benefit you.
- I would say that the essentials needed are a good understanding of the major software suites such as Final Cut Studio, Adobe products and Avid Media Composer. Also becoming familiar with camcorder use will be helpful.
- I would recommend learning all aspects of filming and editing, knowledge in one field will greatly help and inform you in another.
Do you need a relevant degree or PG study? Or a degree at all?
You don’t need a specific degree or any relevant qualifications. The only possible exception is feature film editing where if thats all you want to do it can benefit you from doing a film studies course due to the contacts you can make through it
Do you need to do any specific skills courses or can you train yourself?
You can certainly train yourself, thats the path I took. It benefitted me greatly as it meant I learnt to think creatively and not just in a specific way that has been taught for years at a college. On the flip side however, a college course can get you access to equipment and contacts so you would need to decide what course of action would best suit you.
Do you need work experience – and how do you get it?
Work experience is vital, you need a proven track record and a good showreel to get jobs in this industry. Certainly college courses that offer work placement schemes can be a route in, as can getting a trainee position in a relevant company, even if it’s just being a dogs body, it gets your foot in the door.
What about attitude, personality or interests?
Attitude and personalty are everything, you need to be hard working and of an even temperament in order to sustain relationships with clients. I get a lot of work through recommendations and that only comes about by people not only liking your work but liking you as an individual.
How have you found opportunities in this field?
Work opportunities can come from all sorts of places. For me the most predominant opportunities come from client recommendations, if you do a good job, odds are that the client will come back again and again.
What advice would you give someone considering a similar career?
Be patient and be prepared for long days and working in decidedly unglamorous locations. Freelance work generally means saying yes to what ever work comes your way. There will almost undoubtably be difficult times but the rewards however can be amazing. Some of the work I’ve been able to do has been very fulfilling (such as the current Everest trip).
I also like the ability to structure my own work days and take time off when I want. Its a level of freedom that very few other jobs can offer.
…..Next: My Career in …. Painting