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James Thomas – Camera Trainee – movieScope

James Thomas – Camera Trainee


James has five years’ experience as a cameraman, and has recently completed a placement with the Skillset Craft and Technical Skills Academy where he worked as Video Assist on Mike Newell’s Great Expectations. He is currently working as Camera Assistant alongside Focus Puller Simon Hume on Warner Bros’ All You Need is Kill, starring Tom Cruise.

What training have you received?
I’ve known that I wanted to work in the industry for as long as I can remember but, with no one to ask for guidance, I spent hours on the UCAS website searching for appropriate courses; particularly as I wanted a degree as back up if I didn’t make it in one of the toughest industries in the world! I attended Staffordshire University, which gave me a great technical grounding for digital filmmaking—but I knew I needed to learn more. I came across an internship at a film studio in the Philippines, which I did for 6 months; this gave me a better understanding of on-set procedures and my first experience on and understanding of 35mm film. In the last two years, I have constantly tried to take jobs—both paid and unpaid—where I thought I could learn something from them.

What kind of projects attract you?
Ones where we really feel part of it; CGI-heavy films can get a little boring unless there is real life action to go along with it, or projects where there is a real message behind the story. I try to go for ones where I’ll learn something new, and recently worked on my first 3D film and 35mm film. Both were great experiences.

What’s the best advice you’ve been given as a camera trainee?
While I was in the Philippines, I was told by a two-time Oscar winner in the sound department that it doesn’t matter what you end up doing, just try to learn from the best. If you want to be the best it’s the only way.

Tell us the most significant moment in your career so far.
When I finally felt like I could afford to move to London as I was getting enough work; of course as soon as I did I was struck with terror that I wouldn’t be able to pay my rent but 6 months later I’m still there and managing!

You’ll die happy when…
I feel like I’ve done what I set out to.

Supported by Skillset Craft and Technical Skills Academy