GRADUATE FOCUS / HOWARD JONES
INTERVIEW BY JACK O'KENNEDY
IN GRADUATE FOCUS WE CHAT TO FORMER FILM STUDENTS OF TRINITY COLLEGE who are now working in the film industry. this time we spoke to howard jones (class of 2012) who is now a trainee camera assistant.
TFR: When did you realise film was a medium you would like to work in?
HJ: I've always been obsessed with it. I wanted to be an actor when I was young...still do, maybe. I did acting courses and drama summer camps and all that stuff for years.
TFR: I know for me there was kind of a crystallizing moment where I'd always liked films, but then I saw Reservoir Dogs when I was 12 and thought, this is amazing. Did you have any particular films that sparked your interest?
HJ: Well when I say I was always obsessed I mean from a really young age I would wear out old video tapes of Home Alone, Jurassic Park, ET, Star Wars, all the usuals. Jaws is a favourite of mine. None of those films really made me think this was what I wanted to do, there wasn't really that moment you are talking about. Like I said I thought it would be great to be an actor but I think my interest on a creative level for these films was bit more retrospective.
TFR: How did you end up studying film?
HJ: Well I thought I wanted to do law. I never thought of a non vocational degree as a practical option. Ruth obviously twigged I loved film and I am close friends with her two sons so it was she who suggested I put film down on my CAO somewhere so I have her to thank. Also I took a fairly relaxed attitude to the leaving cert meaning, thank christ, I did not get the points for law.
TFR: How was your experience studying film in Trinity?
HJ: I loved every minute. Obviously I have the same complaints as most film graduates, in that I envied the IADT student's access to film equipment and industry pros and a more in depth practical study of film but that’s not what Film Studies in Trinity is. I loved the theoretical side and the critical study of film.
TFR: Did you make many shorts in college?
HJ: Much to my shame and dismay I must admit: not a single one, apart from those that were part of the course. So I shot and cut a short doc and one other short for a digital video production module.
TFR: How do you feel looking back on those now?
HJ: Oh the short we made was absolutely horrific but it is so funny. I got all my friends into it and the script was ridiculous but it was a lot of fun. Sure you know yourself the constraints of doing the course shoots.You have a few hours and it has to be on campus. The short doc I really like.
TFR: What’s been your career path since then? What was your first film related job or venture after college?
HJ: A friend of mine, his dad is a DOP. So I cold called a lot of people, him included, and I begged him to get me out on set and help out on the camera team. Unpaid obviously. That was the second season of Moone Boy. That went well and I got offered some paid work but I had to turn it down. Weirdly enough I got offered a rugby contract with a club in Boston so I moved to America for three months. When I got home from the US I think I probably panicked a bit.
TFR: So what made you stop playing rugby and return to film?
HJ: My visa expired. I wouldn’t have stayed there. I just did it because it seemed too good an opportunity to turn down but it was never going to be a long term thing. I should have tried to get back into camera departments when I got home but I didn’t really know anyone. I think maybe in hindsight I wanted to work in the industry in any way I could, probably a bit too much, so I started cold calling production offices. I got an internship with Underground Films (They’re the production company behind One Million Dubliner’s). I stayed there for about eight months. I slaved away in the office doing all the production nonsense. I was good at it but it drove me mad, wasn’t for me.
TFR: Was that paid if you don't mind me asking?
HJ: I stayed because I knew they were making a feature soon. It was unpaid until they shot the feature and then I worked and was paid as a production assistant on that. The feature was St. Patrick’s Day.
TFR: So talk to me about your duties as a production assistant, what was a typical day on set like for you how long was the shoot and where did you film?
HJ: Shoot was three mad weeks and it was shot all over Dublin. I’m not sure what your average production assistant does. I was always on set and I just did whatever I could. All the administrative boring stuff on set. Then I left Underground and did some commercials work with Ken Wardrop and Andrew Freedman in Antidote. That was more production work but it was making me money so I did it until I finally got work in camera.
TFR: What was the first production you got camerawork on?
HJ: Charlie was the first big one. That’s the Haughey drama for RTE coming out in January. I did that this time last year.
TFR: What was your experience working on that mini series like?
HJ: So on that I was trainee and to be honest I was just relieved to be out of production and into camera and working as a trainee camera loader. The hierarchy in the camera department is DOP is the boss. He or she has a focus puller or 1st assistant camera and the 1st AC has a loader and the loader has a trainee. I am basically training to be a loader by definition I guess.
TFR: So what does the loader do exactly?
HJ: The loader is in charge of all things camera related. So that includes the technical side of things in terms of having all the lenses close to hand, filters, camera accessories and attachments. So anything that the DOP or focus puller would ask for is got in an instant. Loaders also give marks to actors for the focus puller so they hit the same spot each take and they put the clapper board on before each take. Then there’s all the other stuff you would imagine like batteries for the camera, keeping all the gear tidy and maintaining the lenses and the filters etc.
TFR: Are there any other projects that you’ve worked on?
HJ: Just wrapped on a german film for German TV called A Dangerous Fortune yesterday. It’s a German production, set in Victorian England and shot in Ireland. We were all over Dublin, Wicklow and a few weeks in Kildare. I did some shoots with a director friend of mine for IMAGE.ie. Got myself into a few ads to keep the money coming in, haha.I also did some camera work on the most recent season of Vikings.
TFR: That’s great, to finish up have you any advice for film students whilst they’re still in university?
HJ: Shoot all the time and if you want to work in camera, start calling people and getting on sets, getting your name out there, make contacts while you’re in college. The younger you start the better.