ScreenSkills trainees take first steps in film on All of Us Strangers

By Matthew Walsh

Image: All of Us Strangers © 2023 20th Century Studios

With seven BIFA wins, six BAFTA nominations and a box office haul that represents its directors largest yet, All of us Strangers has resonated with audiences and critics alike. Andrew Haigh’s evocative tale of love and loss sees actors Andrew Scott and Paul Mescal meet and fall in love just as Scott’s character grapples with memories of his past.

In addition to the commercial and critical acclaim, the film is an illustration of how ScreenSkills and the Film Skills Fund work hand-in-hand with industry to develop the screen workforce and provide opportunities for those looking to take their first steps in the screen industries.

During its production, the film welcomed eight trainees from the Film Trainee Finder programme onto set to provide invaluable hands-on experience to those at the early stages of their screen careers.

ScreenSkills’ landmark new entrant initiative offers paid placements in conjunction with tailored training and networking opportunities to provide comprehensive guidance to industry newcomers. The initiative allows for role-specific training in departments identified by industry as areas of skills shortage, responding to and directly addressing the industry’s needs.

"My experience of taking on ScreenSkills trainees for All of Us Strangers was very positive and undoubtedly their contribution helped with the success of the shooting of an amazing film."

Jeremy Campbell, co-producer, All of Us Strangers

One such department was in accounts, an area that saw Amelia Deering welcomed onto set as account production trainee and given a glimpse into a new environment. She said: “I was still very green at the time, and completely new to working in accounts.” It quickly proved something of a dream opportunity for Amelia when she found out the director was Andrew Haigh, whose previous film was the catalyst in her decision to join the screen industry. “I like to say that my ‘inciting incident’ which led me to working in the film industry was seeing (Haigh’s) 45 Years. I wasn’t told who the writer/director of All of Us Strangers was before I started, so I genuinely couldn’t believe my luck when I saw Andrew Haigh’s name on my first day.” 

Beyond the director’s name, Amelia spoke of the “fantastic” experience of working on the production. “Our department was just a handful of people, and it was hard-work, but I have such fond memories of that time and that team. Working in accounts meant that I got to know people in every department, and I had a window into the financial ‘engine room’ that enables the film to be made in the first place. I found that really exciting, and fascinating.”

These experiences and opportunities are made possible through contributions to the Film Skills Fund. These in turn allow contributing productions to make use of the trainees their payments help support. It’s a relationship that cements ScreenSkills industry ties and sees benefits for the production as well as the trainee as the film’s co-producer Jeremy Campbell explains: “My experience of taking on ScreenSkills trainees for All of Us Strangers was very positive and undoubtedly their contribution helped with the success of the shooting of an amazing film.

“The trainees who came onboard were dedicated and already well skilled in their respective disciplines and each quickly became invaluable members of their respective teams. In turn, each trainee gained a great opportunity to work alongside very well established and professional crew, working on a challenging but exciting production and I’m sure the experience will have stood them in very good stead for their future careers.”

Hugo Lagnado was looking to start his career in sound when he joined Trainee Finder and soon found himself joining the production. "All Of Us Strangers couldn't have been more accommodating from a trainee perspective,” he said. “We were all able to learn and develop in a truly creative and engaging manor within our departments as well as cross department" 

It proved to be fruitful in more ways than one. He also spoke of how this placement has helped lead to others. "Working on this film bolstered my network and I still work within the sound team today. It's where it all started for me and I was very lucky to have had the opportunity”. 

Image: © 2023 20th Century Studios

Being part of the programme also proved hugely beneficial for Alysia Daly who received a placement as a hair and make-up trainee on the production. “ScreenSkills Trainee Finder played a pivotal role in my screen knowledge,” she explained. “I learned about continuity, set etiquette, radio usage, and inter-departmental collaboration as well as aiding my networking and industry insights. I was so lucky to work with supportive and patient colleagues who taught me a lot about my role as a trainee.”

Morgan Avery-Chisnell spoke of a similar experience. “Working on Strangers was one of the first ScreenSkills jobs I got and it was one of the best ones yet.” Placed as a costume trainee, he felt the number of others from the Trainee Finder programme led to a camaraderie on set. “Film sets are huge and you don’t really get to speak to all departments however I felt like I knew everyone on Strangers, there were many ScreenSkills trainees from costume to AD’s, such a lovely crew all around - Strangers no more as we all said once wrapped!”

Each of the trainees – working across six departments – spoke of how the taste of production has further fuelled their determination in progressing in the industry. “I continue to work in the production and accounts departments on independent feature films,” said Amelia. “Since All of Us Strangers, I have worked on How to Have Sex, and three films awaiting release.” She’s even been inspired to “build my career as a producer after setting up my production company”.

For Hugo “It's where it all started for me and I was very lucky to have had the opportunity", while Morgan, yet to see the film “Can’t wait to see the hard work pay off!”

Production experiences like these prove vital in supporting new talent and furthering the carers of the UKs screen workforce. The hybrid of skills training, job shadowing and industry connection help tool trainees with the skills and knowledge they need to continue their screen journey. It’s a model that proves just as exciting or those with hiring responsibilities too. As co-producer Jeremy Campbell says: “I look forward to working with all of them again in the coming years.”

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