Finding your way into – and even through – the creative industries at any time is tough; finding one during a global pandemic? Oof. But for Rianne Davelaar, a recent autumn alum of Buzz Culture, it was still time well spent.
2021 is nearly over and what a year it has been. I turned 26 this November and have been reflecting a lot on these unprecedented times. Looking back, I cannot believe how much happened in such a short space of time – a reflection that brings me back to graduating from uni with a Bachelors’ degree in Media Production and thinking… now what? I cannot fathom what it must have been like for those other students during the pandemic – doing their courses online and modules in a completely different way.
As a recent Buzz Culture participant, and having overcome a lot of struggles myself, I hope that by sharing my experiences in the creative industries so far I can pass on the information I wish I knew when starting out. Whether you’re thinking of a career change or you do not know where to go next, I hope this article motivates you to take those first steps.
Entering 2020 last year, I was very lucky to pass my driving test. This was a huge accomplishment for me as I had Viral meningitis in 2019 and the recovery process was not an easy one. A driving license is so advantageous in the creative industries. So much so that not having one meant I really struggled to get my foot in the door. Shortly after passing my test, I started to push myself to drive further distances, continue working in my part-time job and using my spare time to learn new skills. As 2020 came to an end, I found I’d really enjoyed the process of pushing myself out of my comfort zone and seeing where it took me. Then came 2021.
The year started off pretty stressfully for my family and me as we were moving into a new house during a global pandemic. It took time to adjust to the changes that we faced, although around March, I started finding the urge to get back out there. I completed a free online Digital Marketing course that developed my understanding of what marketing is and how I could use it in my freelance career. Sadly, with cases in COVID-19 increasing during this time, gaining real-life work experience became a real challenge. Shortly after, in May, there had been a huge shift towards gaining online training with media organisations via Zoom. Thanks to Sgil Cymru and Screen Alliance Wales, I was able to gain insight into location scouting and script supervision. From these courses, I learned how to produce master breakdowns from a script, maintain continuity and find suitable filming locations.
One of the biggest opportunities for me this year was my experience as a trainee script supervisor on War of The Worlds III with Urban Myth Studios. This experience was so unique during the pandemic, as many production companies do not allow trainees on set due to COVID-19 regulations. The script supervisor, Chiara, was so patient and understanding with me. She emphasised the desire to teach new entrants to the industry about script supervision and give them the best head start to gain work.
I still remember the first day on set. Having had my car break down right outside the unit I had to be in, never having been in this position before, and being so upset about an incident I couldn’t control. I called my dad with my hands trembling, and he told me to call RAC and update Chiara about the process.
Two hours later, I was finally on set. I had met an incredibly kind floor runner, Nicole, who had been in a similar situation with her car, except that her’s had broken down three times that week. The old saying of a problem shared is a problem halved really stood true here. She took me to where Chiara was on set and shortly afterwards I was put onto the Second Unit. This units’ purpose is to film sequences simultaneously with the main unit, which included filming exterior and interior shots. The first day had been incredibly stressful, what with my car breaking down, getting to grips with mastering the paperwork and meeting lots of new people all at once – all in one day. I remember arriving home at the end of it and feeling so overwhelmed that I couldn’t see myself carrying on with the experience.
My first instinct was to pick up my phone and text Chiara to let her know how I felt. The moment I pressed send on the text message, I had a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach about the potential I was about to give up on. It was Chiara’s response that made me come back and give it my all: The mentoring I received from her was so crucial and if it hadn’t been for her support, I wouldn’t have gotten to where I am now.
Shortly after this experience, I saw a post on Creative Cardiff advertising an opportunity with Buzz Magazine called the Buzz Culture Learning Experience – providing opportunities for people between the ages of 18-30 in employability skills and being part of a creative community via Zoom. The programme offered a 12-week mentoring scheme with an experienced industry professional who provides career guidance and support. These can include setting goals, giving advice on job applications and/or simply having a chat about your progress. The moment the email came through from Adam – the Programme Director at Buzz – confirming that I was accepted onto the autumn term was both thrilling and exciting.
Two weeks into the programme, Adam sent out a request for those wanting to get a mentor. The idea of meeting someone new can often be incredibly overwhelming for both the mentor and mentee. I was not sure what to expect but I can assure you I was so happy I made the decision. So far, I can tell you that my mentor, Kofi, has been the greatest listener – a person I can confide in when I need advice or simply a chat about everyday life. His mentoring strategy is very unique in that he focuses on the goals you set for yourself in the future tense and makes them happen with you in the present. I have learned from Kofi that it is always easy to say to yourself, “I’d love to do this or that,” but the hardest part is simply starting.
If the past two years have taught me anything, it is that taking steps towards a career change can be both daunting and thrilling at the same time. It reminds me of this year in February, looking out into my garden, which didn’t have much going on at that time except for a few tulip bulbs planted under the soil. As the months progressed, the tulips started to blossom and to my and my family’s surprise, they were all different colours. This little change seemed so insignificant, but it brought immense joy to our day. Now, we have built a shed and are busy with a cottage garden. My point with this example is that so much can change in a year. In the present moment, you might feel like those bulbs in the soil. Though they just need time to blossom in their season, not a lot is visible on the surface yet.
While we wait for a person to get back to us or make a decision, there are things we can do to make a difference in our present. Chiara taught me to break the ice with new people: handing out sweets, for instance, was a useful strategy to introduce myself and become more approachable. From my experience in digital marketing and social media, I learned that the pressure of always staying ‘up-to-date’ is exhausting and can lead to emotional burnout. Our time is so incredibly valuable, and this taught me to think through those next steps before committing to a new stage in life. Attending Open Days for learning programmes, for instance, are really useful if you want to see if something is worth investing your time in. Lastly, the road to success and the way we measure it is not a simple A to B and you cannot compare one career to the other.
So, thank you to Adam and the team at Buzz for this amazing programme you are running. It is very rare to find an opportunity that recognises the skill gaps in the industry. It was a great joy to be a participant in the programme, and if you’re not sure about which next turn to take in your career, I highly recommend it.
words RIANNE DAVELAAR for Buzz Culture
APPLICATIONS for spring term 22 are now Closed: If you’re 18-30, live in Wales, and want to get ahead in the creative and cultural industries, express your interest for autumn term.