Job title: Rigger
Steven 'Ginger' McCarthy is a rigger who has worked on set construction for the James Bond and Harry Potter film series, among others. Other credits include Good Omens, Dracula Untold and Commuter.
Describe your job in your own words
Riggers are like scaffolders to the film industry - although the work is much more advanced. We don't just create a safe accessible working platform, we provide the main backbone for a set build. There are many different types of rigging - construction, electrical, SFX, underwater and flying - all requiring different levels of training.
The work is wide and varied. For instance, I've been asked to 'black out' an entire church to allow a crew to shoot day for night and to build a rostrum strong enough to take a herd of cows.
I first get called in when a set designer produces designs for a set. I'll sit down with the construction manager and we will work out the weight the rig has to withstand, the spacing and the materials we need. Everything will then be run past a structural engineer to make sure it is safe.
One of the highlights of my career a few years ago was Die Another Day, where we built one of the most elaborate Bond sets to date - the Ice Palace. It took 22 riggers, along with a vast amount of other craftsman, six months to build.
Built on the 007 stage at Pinewood, it took 88 kilometres (55 miles) of scaffolding to construct the main spine beams holding the plaster and timber clad ceilings and was sat on a rostrum strong enough to withstand the Aston Martin and Jaguar in their spectacular car chase sequence. I was also the standby rigger on Saving Private Ryan and had a 10-minute conversation with Steven Spielberg who wanted me to build a rig so that he could shoot 360 degrees at a 3ft radius around an American WWII jeep and trailer. I spent four days rigging two jeeps in different camera positions, only to find the scene had been edited out of the script.
How did you get into the industry?
After I left school, I qualified as a scaffolder and was working on Magdalen College, Oxford, building a large scaffold for stonemasons who were carrying out renovation work. By coincidence, Sir Richard Attenborough had chosen Magdalen as a location for Shadowlands. Through the college, the crew asked if could I build a lifting gantry on the top of Magdalen tower.
With the rig built, the crew arrived. The place was buzzing. I decided there and then that this was for me and I wanted to know more. Over the next couple of weeks, I got to know several of the crew and wondered how I could make an in-road into their industry. The main piece of advice I heard was to get myself known around the studios.
From then on, every spare morning or afternoon, I would travel either to Pinewood or Shepperton studios to walk around the stages and meet people. Eventually, after 13 months, I had a job offer in the rigging department on a film called First Knight. Since then I've worked on several Bond and Harry Potter films, among many others.
What advice would you give to someone just starting out?
My advice to anyone wishing to get into the rigging side of the industry is to learn as much about the trade as you can. Spend at least two or three years with a reputable scaffolding company to gain valuable experience and training. Health and safety is becoming a much bigger part of the industry now, so the more knowledge you have, the better the foundation you will have to build your career on.
I've talked about the highlights so far, but for every one of those there are 10 more scenarios that are not so glamorous, like being stuck in a muddy field at 4am, working in rain or, if it's Friday night, the unit wrap at 8pm and you know you've still got two more hours to de-rig.
It is hard and dangerous work. Government figures show falling from heights is the biggest killer in the construction industry. If rigging is the path you decide, then set yourself a goal and go for it, you can determine your own destiny. It takes a lot of hard work and determination, not luck. Luck is being prepared when the opportunity presents itself.
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