Arts and Media

Designing costumes for film and TV

Claire Anderson’s website is a pleasure to surf. She’s designed costumes for all sorts of familiar films, TV series and ads.

Suddenly I realise what an art there must be to dressing someone to look just average, or to fit a certain type of character.

Yet like so many of us, it’s fair to say that Claire more ‘fell’ into her current role, than planned to end up there.

A life in publishing

“Various times it has crossed my mind that it’s kind of simpler to have a job, but I have a two year old son. Even though it’s a challenge to have a toddler at home when I’m working, I don’t want to leave at 7am and come back at 9pm.”

Michael Lommel runs his own publishing company, and helps other businesses with their internet marketing.

The satisfaction of creating art that people want to buy

Ann Ardron sold her first painting when she was in her early twenties, but never really considered it as a career until much more recently.

“I didn’t really think of myself as artistic then, in fact I don’t really think of myself as artistic now, because I think of myself as quite technical. Art was just a hobby for a long period and then it gradually kind of crept back.”

Days of freelance fear

Another one on fear! The fear. The fear that new business will never come in. The fear of starving to death and being gnawed on by scrofulous rats.

We've all been there. (Or you haven't? Congratulations!)

This is a nicely honest article from Liz Elcoate about the fear, and the practical steps she took to drum up some freelance business:

I have been a freelance Web Designer for six months now. I have learnt much in this time.

Going freelance

Nicki Defago left her full time job at the BBC in 2004, to work for herself.

She’d been there for twelve years and “I’d worked on programmes that I’d really wanted to work on and I think I just decided that I wanted a change. I wanted to manage my life a bit more.”

Going freelance has given her more variety, with shifts and contracts on BBC programmes, as well as writing magazine articles and running training programmes, and it’s clear that she’s very happy with her new way of work.

Choreographing the dance

David* started out as a dancer, and soon found his true vocation in choreography.

“Well, I started to dance. I think I’m not an exceptional physical talent, and I felt like it’s most interesting to make things, rather than be the vehicle to make things.”

“There’s a kind of power differential. Rather than trying to form yourself, to be something that someone else wants, by making my own work, I was pursuing my own interests.”

Going freelance as a copywriter and PR consultant

It was becoming a mum that got Josie Fitzhugh started as her own boss: “I was heading up a regional office of a big PR company in the UK and when I went on maternity leave I decided not to go back. I became a freelancer, ticking along.”

But it was a sadder family development in her family that helped to bring her and her business across the world, from the UK to New Zealand.

“My mum died very suddenly about ten years ago and that gave us a jolt. We are not immortal. It got us thinking about what we were going to do.”

Going freelance

It wasn’t spotting celebrities in the foyer of television centre, it certainly wasn’t the canteen food and perhaps bizarrely, it wasn’t even the reliable monthly payslip.

The thing I missed most when I left the BBC after twelve years as a staff journalist was a phone number: 60950.

I’d thought about going freelance over a long enough period to adjust to the idea of a less secure work pattern.

An actor's life of uncertainty

After a drama degree, theatre school in Ireland, and RADA, Stephen Darcy “was 26 basically before I hit the adult world.” Working for yourself generally includes quite a lot of uncertainty, but life as an actor seems to stretch that to the max.

In a year he typically works six or seven months. “The last two years I’ve been extremely lucky with commercials. A commercial that you might do in a day or three days can earn you your year’s salary.”

Professional musician, and full time student

Evan Katz initiated himself into the tribe of the self employed at the age of 16.

“I’ve always not been a fan of kind of the standard teenage jobs. I mean all my friends kind of have cashier jobs, or they’ll work as like a lifeguard or something. So I used to give guitar lessons and I realized that what I really liked doing was playing guitar and singing.”

Now Evan’s funding his student years by making music. “The main source of my income is as a professional musician.”

Actress turned model, poet and author

Listening to Venus Jones’ story is kind of touching. Her career has gone from strength to strength, but powered not so much by self-belief, as by the belief others have had in her.

She is doing great, despite a really modest attitude towards her wide range of talents.

“It was maybe 2000 was when I stopped doing full-time work. That was when I was working for the Boys and Girls Club and youth programs. I was an individual service counselor and a project coordinator.”

Looking back on a career in film production

Ann Skinner lasted only six months at her first job, as a shorthand typist, before getting a secretarial job in 1957 with Rank at Pinewood Studios, ‘one of the local factories’ in her native Hillingdon.

Two years later she got a job as a production secretary and from there on, she freelanced, moving from film to film.

After an investigation by the taxman early on, her top recommendation is to make sure your accountant understands your industry. “Without my wonderful accountant, I wouldn’t have a pension today”.

Leaving teaching to sell art and antiques

Ten years ago Dawn Birch-James was teaching languages. Listening to her now, and hearing all the drive and enthusiasm that she clearly throws into her collection of businesses, it’s hard to imagine her vigour and energy ever having been contained within the bureaucracy of a school.

“Well I was reaching the big 40 and I thought to myself, do I want to I stay in this profession? Plus the fact that I’d just got pregnant with my second child.”

I see myself more as a craftsman than a tortured genius

A novel has to be gradually accumulated and I think the crucial thing is not to get lost in the long perspectives, not to spend your time thinking how is this going to work out in the end, but just to think, how am I going to fix this paragraph.

There’s an idea that looms large of the undiscovered artist, the neglected genius who stays in the garret and is maybe not recognised until dead.

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