Former Marine Dave Jones on ScreenSkills' Veterans in Focus programme

Find Your Future

Dave is one of the stars of our new Find Your Future adverts, find out more

Dave Jones spent nine years as a Royal Marine commando working in anti-tanks then a spate of jobs from car sales to tree surgeon before discovering that his organisational and logistics training from the military made him an ideal fit for screen.

The ScreenSkills’ Veterans in Focus programme provided an introduction to the various roles available and how to retrain in them. “For a couple of years I was toying with training for the stunt register and did a lot of supporting actor work. I knew I wanted to work in the industry just didn’t know whereabouts. But then through contacts I heard about the Veterans in Focus course. I found out about the locations department and realised that would suit me to a T, that I’d fit right in, so from that point it became my ambition to get into the department and find my feet. The course helped me massively in getting in. The course literally gave me an introduction to what locations do, from finding and setting up locations, to facilitating them. I also got an idea of how we help various other departments.

His first job was working on the Sky Atlantic/HBO series The Baby where he quickly progressed in the locations department from location assistant to assistant unit manager.  “That was my first job which ScreenSkills helped me into. It was really great, just body and I loved it. I had a great mentor, Emma Jane Richards, the supevising location manager and right from the word go, she stuck me in various avenues so I could learn as much as possible really. From quite early on I got to not only scout and contract and set up locations but ran locations from start to end. It was great, just busy.”

He went on to work on the Marvel’s Secret Invasion series where he worked as assistant unit manager.

Dave, who grew up and lives near Maidstone in Kent, says: “I love my new life.  I’ve done a bit of everything over the years - car sales, estate agent for a little bit, tree surgery, I’ve done a bit of everything and hated everything. This is the first thing I’ve done where not only am I good at it but I love it as well which I think goes massively hand in hand.  It suits me. I get bored quite easily. I don’t like being in the same place. I like being on the road and having a new challenge. This is quite literally a new challenge every day, finding parking places to fit 17 trucks in central London, and there’s great satisfaction when you see your plans come to life. Every day is problem-solving. I love it.”

He does appreciate what the Veterans in Focus course has helped him achieve. “Now being on the other side of it, I see how hard it is for people to get into the industry and find their feet. Sometimes I feel a little bit guilty that I have jumped right in the deep end. Ultimately I gained those skills on that course to be able to do that. It highlights more and more every day how many transferable skills there are - even simple things like having all my driving licences.” Having experience in towing meant “quite quickly I was given a pick-up truck,” he says. “I did the Veterans in Focus course and that got me into the industry. I didn’t know what locations was before I did that and here I am, a year later, thinking how have I not been doing this for years? I feel every day more and more confident in what I’m doing and other people have seen that as well. Most people joining the industry would expect to be marshalling for a couple of years but I’m now a unit manager.”

He thinks the Armed Forces experience is useful for this work in “the way you approach things, being methodical. Even decision-making is something the military are very good at – making a decision and sticking to it and if it doesn’t work changing the plan. I see that a lot there seem to be a lot of people who struggle to make decisions.”

He agreed to take part in the new Find Your Future campaign to alert others to the opportunities and also to help the industry he now calls home. “It’s a way of paying back. I do see how the industry is getting busier and there’s a constant call for crew and some people struggle for crew – you can particularly see it on smaller productions, how they are lacking in crew.”

The Veterans in Focus programme is supported by ScreenSkills as part of the BFI Future Film Skills programme using funds from the National Lottery.

Find out more about what a locations manager does and how to become one

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