Share your story - Stephen Baldwin, director, locations manager and set designer

This content was submitted by Stephen Baldwin

My name is Stephen Baldwin. I found ScreenSkills a couple of years ago after embarking on my own filming career in 2018. After last years' Covid shut down, I went back to uni as a mature student and am studying set design right now. This year, I am taking a year out on a DPS and will be looking for work in the industry with other companies.

I am in the final throes of shooting a six-part period drama based on a true unsolved Victorian murder. That's around three days off completion re-shooting. I am also working on a short - an educational-based period short film inspired by a photograph of a young 10-year-old child who is being hired at the Carlisle hiring fair in the mid-1890's. I'll be finishing that this month. Next is Anne, a film about one of the most famous faces in history, the most kissed face in modern history by all accounts.

Have you benefited from any ScreenSkills support so far?

I have to admit that ScreenSkills has been an absolute asset to my fledgling career to date. I spent most of the summer attending one seminar course after another to better educate myself about the industry and to fill in those missing gaps which were lingering from my time spent on major HETV sets - as an irritating and inquisitive supporting actor who wanted to know everything that was going on around them. Those places are a university where you get fed and paid to attend.

ScreenSkills and their informative live sessions helped me to formulate and orchestrate a very large shoot when the first lockdown of 2020 ended late July. Despite MUA's not being allowed on set until early August, I still planned and worked out dates and subsequent back up dates in June of 2020 with accommodation and locations to enable us to fly straight back into production the moment the restrictions were lifted.

Armed with the knowledge garnered from these sessions, we ran what was probably one of the first large sets back on location in Cumbria, featuring a bubbled and trimmed back crew, a dozen main star actors and over 100 supporting actors whom we got to take the Coronavirus basic awareness on production training beforehand in order for us all to be reading from the same page. It worked perfectly, the cast and crew felt safe, the SA's were compliant to an amazing degree. They worked with us as a team and after a week of working with a trimmed back amount of various members of the crowd, we managed to get 30 scenes under our belt.

The whole shoot went without any casualties and by staying in touch for the following two weeks with all those who participated, not one single incidence of Covid was reported. I have since applied this same mode of working to six other shoots which were performed in Cornwall, Devon, London and various other locations up until 21 December last year and every one of them went swimmingly without any sign of concern, be that before, during or two weeks after the shoots we performed.

I know full well that I wouldn't have had the know how to pull this off had it not been for ScreenSkills and their diligence over the spring / summer months of 2020, where learning became free for all of us to absorb and use to our advantage.

My next shoots are again to be held in northern Cumbria at the end of this month (March 2021) and that will also no doubt go fully according to plan, courtesy of the updated Covid-related courses which I have been privy to attend this past month, which ScreenSkills have graciously provided to us mere indie scene workers to help us move our own productions to the end of their journeys.

What effect has this support had on your career so far?

I have certainly moved up the ladder and scale of this industry very quickly through the support of ScreenSkills through the past years' lockdown. What has been a crazy year for most, became one of the most creative for me, all pushed along by the positiveness of ScreenSkills and those who took part in their daily programmes.

What is the most interesting/remarkable/proud moment or achievement of your career so far?

That has to be pulling off a six-hour, six-part period drama series for the cost of around £40,000 - it's lavish, it's taken 2.5 years to complete and it has brought together communities and forged what I would happily state is a core of people who now know each others needs and who will jump at the chance to work with each other again. Finding your film family is definitely an achievement, pulling together a period drama with those people and with over 600 people involved has helped bond everyone over this time. It's my first dabbling in film as a director, 1st AD, locations manager and Covid safety manager, but I have learned so much

If you could give advice to someone interested in pursuing your job role or a career in the screen industries more generally, what would you say?

I would say, if this is what you want to do, then do not let anything stand in your way. Put the time in, learn what you can and then learn from the experts whom you work with, listen to them intently and always be gracious for any advise anyone offers you. Just remember that for as much as we think we know, others will know better, so be that old dog that learns new tricks. And appreciate everything. For each hour spent doing what you feel is your dream is the best hour of your life.