Amanda McArthur on what it is required from art department trainees

Amanda McArthur on what it is required from art department trainees

With almost 30 years’ experience in the business, leading production designer Amanda has seen how the demands it makes of students have evolved.

Having worked on films including St Trinian’s, Penelope, Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey and The Festival as well as TV dramas such as Neverland, she has seen the screen industry “change, expand and develop” but has always loved working with creative crew and seeing new talent flourish.

So much so she has always taken on trainees on the films she has worked on, but “with varying degrees of success depending on their skill base”.

She believes that ensuring higher and further education industry courses provide the right skills is key, particularly now.

“The industry is going through a period of renaissance with a huge increase in large-scale television production being made here in Britain. Studios are full and film crews in the industry are really busy.  It’s becoming increasingly hard to get good crew. We need more crew in all areas of film production to meet the demand.  But we want these people to have the right skill base and to be trained properly so they can be effective team members.”

Hence why Amanda agreed to evaluate the National Film & Television School’s MA production design course for ScreenSkills Select despite her demanding schedule. (She has just finished working on the Caitlin Moran film How to Build a Girl, which she says was “the most enjoyable all-round experience I have had on a production”.)

“Art departments are normally high-pressured environments and we work long hours. They require self-motivated and hard-working individuals and I believe that the NFTS is one of the best training grounds we have in Britain.

“I wanted to see what they were covering on their design course, what their plans for the future were and their priorities for their students graduating. I started out on an NFTS film years ago, so I have always liked the school.”

Being evaluated by ScreenSkills Select’s assessors is valuable, “for both the students and the industry,” Amanda says. “It is important to make sure that the students that are coming out are up-to-date with practices in art departments across the industry on small productions and large ones. [Also so they] keep up with modern technology, computer software and art department processes as they are constantly evolving.” 

But the assessments have been useful for Amanda, too. “I found it thought-provoking and it’s led me to think more about what we really require from our art department trainees and how we can best teach them these skills. It’s an on-going process that will go through their whole careers as every job is different.”

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