BA Costume for Theatre and Screen students Zara and Nori were lucky enough to secure a week's work experience earlier this year at Warner Brothers Studio, working on a remake of the 1990s film The Witches. Adapted from the Roald Dahl, the new film will be released in 2020 and will star Anne Hathaway, Stanley Tucci and Octavia Spencer.
We spoke to them about their experiences of working on a film set and the value of building their industry networks alongside their studies.
Can you tell me about your work experience?
Zara - We did a week-long internship at Warner Brothers Studio, working on The Witches remake. We worked with the design team, costume team, fitting department and the hair and makeup team. Our role was pretty hands on making alterations, doing fittings and helping out with wardrobes.
How did you secure your placement?
Zara - One of units on our course required us to get work experience, so in my search for contacts I reached out to my tutors as my first point of contact and luckily got the details for the costume supervisor who was working on the film. I sent her about 3 emails with my cover letter and CV, then she got back to me saying she’d take us on.
Nori - Yes, it took a lot of persistence and determination. But I’m glad we took the initiative to utilise our tutors’ networks because it opened such a big door for us!
Zara and Nori worked on the set of a new version of The Witches, originally adapted into a film in 1990 starring Anjelica Houston and Jane Horrocks.
What did you learn from the experience?
Zara - Fake it till you make it, network like hell and always ask loads of questions and there is no such thing as a silly question. Following these steps, I was able to build great contacts at Warner Brothers which I keep in touch with to this day on social media. In fact, since leaving I got an opportunity to work with one of the ladies I met in the buying department, on a dance collaboration piece with a choreographer based in central London.
Nori - Your tutors are your biggest asset! Never be afraid to ask. Stay prepared so that when an opportunity comes you’re ready to grab it. For example, if your CV needs working on, get it done sooner rather than later.
Was the work placement what you expected?
Nori - No. It was so different to what I expected. I was really surprised by how friendly and helpful everybody was and they all talked us through their stories about how they got into the industry, which was so useful because everyone had such different pathways. It was also really encouraging to know I worked with a lot of Wimbledon alumni, it made me realise there are real opportunities out there if you put the work in early on.
Did it give you a clearer idea of what you want to do?
Zara - Definitely, it’s given me a deeper understanding of how the film costume industry works, because it’s completely different to theatre and fashion. I now know the different pathways I can take to crack the industry so it’s looking positive.
Nori - Yes, I think being able to go to each department has enabled me to see what is more of my niche. I know I want to go into film and I really enjoy the admin side of things.
How did you make sure people would remember you?
Zara - I made sure that I introduced myself to everyone I met and got their names. I tried to instigate conversation so that they’d have an idea of who I am. Later that day I’d add them on LinkedIn. Even if they don’t check it often, they will remember you if you made an impression.
On my last day I bought cards, chocolates and flowers to the people I worked with, then sent an email out the following week thanking them for the opportunity and letting them know my availability for any work they might need extra hands with. A few days after sending out my email I got a response from the head designer saying she would keep in touch and looked forward to working with me in the future. I also invited them to the degree show.
What advice would you give students trying to get a placement?
Nori - No job is beneath you. Even if you think your help is small, people are always taking note and will remember you for the little things you do. Be respectful. Thank you cards always work when you leave. Then a follow up email a week later just to express to them how valuable the experience was.
Zara - Be open to new things and don’t be afraid to ask. The worst-case scenario is they’ll say no but you won’t know until you ask. I got the placement through working really hard and building good relationships with my tutors - so they were keen to help put me in touch with the right people. Also everyone on your course has the potential to be a part of your own network, so it’s important you build relationships as you never know who could help you in the long run.
How have you found your overall experience at Wimbledon?
Nori - It’s been a massive learning curve. I am a completely different person from the person I was back in my first year. I’ve developed so much through my work, as a person, in confidence. Wimbledon feels like it’s a real nurturing place to study and I think that’s been a massive help for me.
If you could describe Wimbledon in 3 words, what would they be and why?
Zara - Experimental, challenging and exciting. No day was the same, there were just so many different things happening that it kept me on my toes. I got a lot of opportunities to try new things and it pushed me to explore different directions and approaches to my work.
Nori - Money well spent. I honestly feel like I’ve been challenged to bring out the best in my ability. Each and every project I’ve worked on has enabled me to level up whether it be with my practice and technical skills or just my confidence in general. Studying here really exceeded my expectations.
Find out more about Wimbledon’s BA Costume for Theatre and Screen.