Behind The Scenes

Working in Digital

Find out about production as a career from Maria Kennedy, a film Producer in our Digital team

Tracey Emin installing My Bed at Tate Britain

Tracey Emin installing My Bed at Tate Britain

Photo © Ana Escobar

What does your job involve?

As a Producer in Tate’s film team I help produce the short films we publish on our website, in gallery and on YouTube.

We have a signature weekly film series called TateShots which goes out online every Thursday. These films are usually studio visits with artists, interviews with art fans or spotlights on artworks in Tate’s expansive collection.

The film team at Tate also produces other multimedia content – apps, interactive documentaries and various content that could be described as ‘digital’ in some capacity. So I have a helping hand in delivering these kinds of projects too.

What qualifications, knowledge, skills, experience or interests do you need for your career?

I had a conventional enough career path – secondary school, university and masters. However what I don’t actually have is any qualification in Art History – my background is film related. I studied English and Politics at university (in Ireland) and then went to film school where I got a masters in Screenwriting.

I worked in the role of production assistant and researcher in various independent production companies and then saw a temporary role being advertised in Tate’s film office and now here I am 3 years later!

What attracted you to this job at Tate?

Working in film and particularly documentary is what initially attracted me to the role.

And of course I was a fan and frequent visitor to the gallery.

I was worried that a lack of art expertise would be problem but I had enough experience in film production to be useful in the team. Plus once immersed in the art world it’s amazing how much you absorb and learn relatively quickly! From Hogarth to Hockney!

Briefly describe a typical working day

A typical working day includes liaising with artists who have agreed to appear in our films. Arranging times to come to their studio and briefing them on what to expect from filming.Then booking our freelance crew who direct, shoot and record sound on our shoots and edit our films.

We have a very busy production schedule – so I have to keep my eye on what’s in pre-production, shooting, in the edit, being delivered and then being published on any given day of the week. And this is constantly changing! The less glamorous daily tasks are tracking budgets and filing paperwork related to films.

I’m a point of contact in our team for any film queries across the gallery – from licensing footage to broadcasters, to sending films to the social media team.

Our team also makes films for various departments across the gallery so a typical day would usually include a meeting to discuss producing a film for say Marketing or Conservation or the Learning teams.

Once a week we have a team meeting where we pitch ideas for films, brainstorm around film ideas or angles for specific exhibitions and discuss any queries that have come into the team.

What are the most rewarding and most difficult things about your job?

Getting to meet and interview the most important and influential living artists and creatives is incredibly exciting.

Working on small budgets and the quick turnaround of many of our films can be quite stressful (sometimes we have to shoot and publish a film within a week!).

What advice would you give to someone interested in a career in film production?

As I said I didn’t have a background in art history – but still ended up working at Tate! Before my interview I watched as many of Tate’s films as possible and tried to really familiarise myself with the types of films they produced – so don’t underestimate how being a fan of the company you would like to work for, can help you along in your interview!

Unfortunately when working in film – a conventional career path is to intern, i.e. working for free. Not everyone can afford this – but if possible to do for a short time (even two weeks) – its worthwhile to try and find an internship and learn as much as possible in a quick-paced environment. Things move quickly in film and you have to be prepared to muck in! If you can ‘prove’ yourself (as such!) in an internship you are much more likely to get on the production assistant ladder.

For filming art in particular – knowing about copyright, especially contemporary works or living artists work is really really valuable.

I know everyone says this – but good communication skills are so important. When talking to colleagues (we ask for a lot of favours!) and when talking to artists – who can be, understandably, slightly reluctant or hesitant about being filmed or talking about their work – being able to reassure and convince people is important!

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