Thomas Gude on using his ScreenSkills bursary

For ScreenSkills, awarding Thomas Gude a bursary was what you could call a calculated risk.

In 2019, after four years working for small prop and effects houses, Thomas was hired to design and run the builds for big special effects rigs on the film Fast and Furious 9. 

Safety is obviously paramount and with the kinds of stunts the action film franchise is known for Thomas wanted to do a course - called FEA Simulation - that helped him calculate the risks more quickly. 

He explains: “FEA stands for finite element analysis; it’s a method of simulating loads and stresses within a structure, say a steel structure, [when] you’re moving it about and it’s got a weight or actor hanging off it and got to be a specific size and shape but most importantly it has to be safe. 

“Traditionally there’s hand calculations that you’d do. The advantage of the simulation is it speeds everything up and also shows things you may not have spotted. The crux of it is it enables you to produce work safely and in a timely manner.”

Thomas had heard from a colleague on a previous project about training bursaries being available. He was guided by technicians’ union Bectu towards ScreenSkills so applied online. He had already been accepted onto an FEA course run by software specialist Solid Solutions when he got an email saying ScreenSkills was awarding him the bursary of just over £1,200 that he had applied for - a proportion of the course fee.  

“The bursary has really helped,” says Surrey-based Thomas. He had to take unpaid time off to do the course and that, coupled with the cost of the course, would have “been a big hit on the finances, so it was great for ScreenSkills to help alleviate this”.

After Fast and Furious, Thomas was snapped up as an SFX designer on Disney’s live-action remake of The Little Mermaid - filmed at Pinewood. 

His career in film is now well underway, although it was not where he started. Having studied engineering at university, Thomas was working for a loudspeaker manufacturer until he was inspired to turn to the screen industries after going on the Warner Bros. Harry Potter tour.

He acknowledges that, “my route into the industry is perhaps a little less direct than others”. However, now with the FEA training, he now has more strings to his bow. 

“The course was very helpful and I felt a lot more confident going into the next job with a new tool and skillset that should help develop my career in this industry.”

His tip to anyone thinking of applying is, “express how it’s going to help you and the industry and why it’s a necessary skill to have.” He adds: “I’d definitely say to anyone thinking of applying, ‘Go for it.’ The money’s there to help people.” 

ScreenSkills bursaries are supported by BFI-awarded National Lottery funds, by industry contributions to the Film, High-end TV, Children’s TV and Animation Skills Funds and through money from the Television Skills Fund targeted at improving diversity and inclusivity

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