18th August 2020
From running her parents’ car MOT testing company to becoming an assistant accountant on the Netflix hit The Crown, Sharon Soor is a prime example of how ScreenSkills’ Skills to Screen initiative is helping people transfer into film and television
Sharon’s move was a win-win for both sides as she wanted to achieve her dream of working in film and TV and the industry is facing a shortage of accountants.
“I knew I loved the film industry, I just didn’t know what my role was going to be in it,” the 39-year-old from Buckinghamshire said. She tried to break into it when she was younger, training as a make-up artist, becoming a runner in Soho and also a production assistant. But back in the Noughties there was not the production boom of recent years and she said: “I couldn’t make ends meet.”
She took some time off travelling and re-evaluated her career whilst helping her parents set up their car testing company. She found them some accountant software, realised she was good at it and, in 2007 decided to go into accounting.
“It sounds boring! I think that’s why I rebelled against it,” she said. Unable to see a route into combining accountancy with film she instead went for her second love, which was music, and secured a job at Brixton Academy. Having worked her way up, she then went on to manage a group of music companies for a high net worth individual she is not allowed to name.
However, in 2013 both her parents fell ill. “I took care of them and the family business so gave up my dream job in music to run an MOT centre.”. However, she learned new skills such as HR and work flow management before eventually selling it in 2018. After a chance meeting with a stranger in a pub she then decided to rekindle her creative side by becoming an extra, working on films such as Rocketman and Blithe Spirit.
Then one of the extras agencies she worked for retweeted a ScreenSkills post about plans to address the industry's shortage of accountants with a new initiative. Skills to Screen, then called Skills to Film, was developed by ScreenSkills supported by the BFI, awarding National Lottery funds as part of the Future Film Skills strategy.
“That gave me the navigation I needed. There’s no recruitment agency for this world that I knew of and I didn’t know you’d have to contact a line producer or anything like that,” Sharon said.
She went to Pinewood Studios for a Skills to Film weekend of workshops where she was given help with her CV and software. The next day she was encouraged by ScreenSkills to start applying for jobs, sent out seven CVs and got interviews from all of them, one of which was on The Crown.
She realised she would have to start at the bottom which “is a bit of a bitter pill to swallow but if you want to make it work you can”. Her work on the fourth series of The Crown involved dealing with a lot of invoices on credit cards - some of the most interesting involved the series corgis - and she was taken under the wing of the programme’s production accountant who taught her lots and explained some of the terminology, such as what a honey-wagon is.
“It did take a bit of adjusting but I did my research,” Sharon said. “It’d been established by the financial controller since series one so wasn’t chaotic and everyone knew how things worked. I think I’d like my next production to be a bit more chaos, perhaps a start-up. I’d also like to work as a first assistant accountant which is more like a supervisor, that’s what I’m looking for next. I’ve done a bit of networking during lockdown and got to meet two production accountants.”
So passionate has she become about Skills to Film that Sharon encouraged a friend to make the same move and wants to highlight how the industry can provide a good career to those in accountancy.
“It annoys me that there’s a perception the film industry is a vocation, you won’t get enough money for your rent. Being Indian you’re expected to be a doctor or accountant; you go to the big institutions and I think people don’t see music or film as viable careers [but] it very much is.”
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