Costume trainee Aileen Kelly on her job in children's TV

Aileen Kelly took a theatre degree, learning both costume and set design and making skills, before winning a place on Trainee Finder in early 2019.

“I didn't study theatre design solely because of wanting to work in a theatre. I studied it to learn a wide range of practical skills related to my passion in design and making. Many of these skills were then transferable to TV and filming,” she said. “My very first job was in my second year of university. I worked with my lecturer, costume designer Mary Lamb, in dressing and assisting for CBeebies Midsummer Night's Dream live. I loved learning about working for the screen. The designs were so vibrant and magical and the entire team was lovely, this sparked my interest in working for children's TV.”

She moved back to the North East after graduating where her first jobs were in costume including working with costume designer Eve Salter on a low budget feature film The Runaways. Eve helped with her Trainee Finder application and, having been successful, they ended up working together in a small costume team of three on the show, Andy and the Band, made by Three Arrows Media in the North West. “It felt like it was meant to be,” she said.

“The small team meant that I actually had a very hands-on experience where I was able to learn a lot about being on set as well as being at base. The first week or so I was at base actually making some of the costume-prop items such as alien tentacles. It was very much straight in at 100%, but luckily for me I knew Eve already, so had that advantage of knowing the sort of working environment and pace of work.

Her work included prepping for the next day’s shoot and ensuring there were enough spares and doubles as well as shadowing on continuity, costume checks and etiquette of being on set and what to have in her costume kit bag. “This part of the job was very useful - seeing how the film is shot and learning all the jargon.”

She also shadowed Eve in sourcing fabrics, sourcing costumes, taking measurements and fittings and contacting performers and towards the second half of filming Aileen was given more responsibility in decorating some of the craft elements of costumes such as dragon wings and other sewing and costume maintenance.

She also had various sewing tasks such as taking in shirts, sewing scrubs and general repairs and costume maintenance. “I had a very large range of experiences and opportunities to learn about different parts of the costume department, which was fantastic. I loved working within this entire team. I really enjoyed the creative and practical tasks such as decorating dragon wings, making alien tentacles and chicken onesies. I think jobs like this are rather unique to children's drama where you are encouraged to be super-creative, colourful and a bit silly. This was just so much fun for me, I felt like it was right up my street.”

Trainee Finder was helpful not only on getting work in children’s TV but in practical support such as health and safety training and finance, she found. “Having support from the team has given me confidence and reassurance. When struggling with CVs, or even deciding which job to take when they collide, Trainee Finder have been just one phone call away. I don't have family or close friends who work in TV so I felt I didn't have many people to ask for advice, but Trainee Finder have filled that gap and helped me to learn the ropes. They also helped me financially by having a budget to cover some costs when working away from home and it allowed me to attend the Costume Symposium, where I met many more costume professionals, attended talks from experienced designers, and developed skills in pattern making.”

Her Trainee Finder costume colleagues also keep in touch with each other with a WhatsApp group where they help answer questions.  “None of this would have happened without the help and guidance from Trainee Finder.”


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