Locations trainee Ziggy Gray

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It was a chance encounter when she was working abroad that led Ziggy Gray to her dream job in locations in the film industry.

Ziggy, who is from Bridport, Dorset couldn’t work out what she wanted to do after studying creative and performing arts at Portsmouth University. She worked as a duty manager of a theatre, a stage manager, a film festival coordinator, a film extra and an events runner and then left the country to work in hospitality.

“I’ve always loved to travel and was fascinated by The Lord of the Rings, so I moved to New Zealand and ran a motel near Queenstown,” she says. “A guest there was a locations manager scouting for Alien. I asked her if there was any way I could help out on set. She hired me for three weeks. I fell in love with it. I thought to myself, ‘Now I know what I want to do.’”

Ziggy came back to the UK and found the ScreenSkills Trainee Finder programme through searching online. She applied for the scheme, was successful and enjoyed placements including on the film How to Build a Girl.

As a locations trainee, Ziggy has a range of task from working with the security to sorting parking and keeping locations tidy.

“I’m always the first on set and the last one to leave. The job requires coordination, management and being a people person; with the crew and the public. I have to be polite, stopping people in the street and asking them if they mind waiting while we shoot etc. I’d say there is a lot of public relations, whether it’s with the public or property-owners. Everyone needs to know who you are and get on with you.

“People say the locations department is the backbone of the film industry. But most people don’t know locations exists. I didn’t know it existed until I found myself in it on my first job and realised it was everything I had wanted. I’m so happy I found my department.”

As she gains seniority, locations will include sorting out contracts and negotiating with the local authorities.

Ziggy, 29, was surprised to be successful in her Trainee Finder application as she thought she might be too old. But the scheme is open to people of any age. “I met the other ScreenSkills’ trainees at the induction day. It was really great to learn that not everyone had been to film school. Some had just graduated, and others had graduated then become teachers or something and then decided to get back to film. Trainee Finder’s a great opening door to the industry. If you haven’t got any contacts or can’t see any way of getting in, they’ll help you.”

Ziggy’s most recent work was on home turf in Dorset with the new movie Ammonite, starring Kate Winslet as the Lyme Regis-born fossils collector Mary Anning.

She adds: “I love my role as I’ve always enjoyed travelling and being outside. But without ScreenSkills, I don’t think I would have had the courage to get the contacts I needed or find a way in.

“I wanted to take part in this campaign because I believe there are chances for anyone with these skills to work in the industry. I think generally people presume the industry is out of reach to them, that it’s impossible to get into. But if you work hard enough and you have the skills, you can do it. I wanted to give back and encourage others to take the scary step.”

Ziggy’s tips to anyone wanting to work in locations are:

  • Be ready for long hours, physical work in every kind of environment you could think of.
  • If you don’t understand/ know something, don’t be afraid to ask.
  • Try to smile, be happy and enthusiastic even if you are really struggling, it makes tough days go faster and people will remember you for your good attitude
  • Have a good pair of shoes.
  • Be prepared for all eventualities and weathers, invest in good wet weather gear. No one wants to stand in hail for 14 hours.
  • Don’t forget to appreciate the beautiful places in which you might find yourself.

Since the Find Your Future in Film and TV campaign Ziggy has worked on Ammonite and the Netflix period drama Bridgerton.

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