It's non-stop for theatre designer, filmmaker and all round freelancer Philippa Brocklehust
|18 Jun 2020|
What Job/ Career are you doing now?
Theatre Designer, Art Department for Film & TV, Filmmaker Freelancer
What is a typical working day for you? What does your job description entail?
Everyday is different. If I’m working on a theatre production, I might be in meetings with the Director, Lighting Designer or Sound Designer. Going into the rehearsal room to observe the work and build on creative discussions. Collaborating on the concept and world of the piece to make it coherent and relevant. Asking everyday why? Why do we tell stories? I’ll be working on the costume designs, going into wardrobe to pick out items of clothing. I might have costume fittings with actors, so we can see how the character comes to life, so we can practically adjust things.
If I’m working in film/TV I might be updating the breakdown for the art department so they know what is needed or required for each scene/act. I might be driving to pick up or drop off last minute requests to set. I might be painting signage for a street scene for example. I might be helping the set dec’s dress in props. I might be researching a certain topic, ringing or emailing in that profession. Or I might make tea for the team or arrange a team event to keep up the moral. No day is the same… that’s what I love about this job. There is always something new to learn on each job. I always say you become a specialist on a certain topic for that period of time.
Can you tell us about some of the projects you have recently worked on? What has been your favourite so far?
I have worked on feature films such as Peterloo by Mike Leigh, The Personal History of David Copperfield by Armando Ianucci and Dream Horse by Euros Lyn. My favourite job was working on a short film by Jemima James. I felt it was the best, most fruitful professional relationship.
After working in both film and theatre, which of the two do you prefer and why?
That is a very difficult question to answer. I love Theatre and Film in different ways. Theatre is a place to push your creative self and somewhere you can allow the audience to use their imagination. You can be abstract, bold and brave with your ideas. Film is a more literal place, traditionally, a time and place, although there are films out there that are playfully. I love theatre because I can create a close collaboration with the director and we can build a concept/language together. You have intellectual conversations and discussions with the whole team. It challenges your thoughts on the world. I love Film because of the large teams you are working within and the scope of the project. I love that you aren’t restricted to one place.
Have you ended up in a job that you thought you would as a teenager?
Well... I always wanted to be creative. I adored my drama lessons and teacher. I could escape into the world of that character and feel free. So, when I was a teenager, I wanted to be an actress.
What is the best/ worst/ most unusual thing about being a Set Designer? AND/OR What do you most enjoy about your job?
The most difficult things are the long hours for very little pay. It can be physically and mentally draining at times, but the best thing is that you create friendships with the people you are working with, so you support each other through those moments.
What would you say to Chipping Campden Students who are interested in a career in set design and theatre?
Engage in the subject now. Watch everything, read books, go to the theatre, go to galleries. Talk to you teachers. They aren’t just teachers but people with a whole life’s worth of knowledge behind them. Start to challenge your own thoughts about subjects/ topics by debating and discussing things with friends. Reach out to people you admire, email them, write them a letter.
What steps did you take, post- sixth form education, for you to obtain a job in this industry ?
I was lucky enough to study at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama in London on their BA Design for Stage course for three years where I had an internship on a film called London Road.
Can you suggest any examples of work experience that may help students’ success in this industry?
I can suggest having a look at Screen Skills, the BBC has internships and graduate programs. Get in touch with the RSC or local Theatres in your area to see what is available or try getting in touch with artists/directors/designer directly.
Did you partake in any extra- curricular activities that may have either guided you or helped you decide what career you wanted to pursue?
I got involved in the school plays which where a great way to work with people of all ages and to build on confidence.
Do you have any tips for students regarding interviews?
Well, I’m not sure I have advice for interviews as such. I have a few things worth noting. Make sure you're at least 10/15 minutes early for anything. Being on time or early shows respect for the other persons time. It’s important. Be kind. Kindness in any field is underrated, I feel. I truly believe that kindness has got me further than skill sometimes.
Who would you prefer to have on your team for months? Someone who is rude/arrogant but skilled or someone who is kind and willing to pick up skills and put the hard work in.
I know what I’d prefer. Listen, really listen to one another. I’m still listening because you learn so much from so many different people, from all walks of life, all creeds, sexuality and ethnicities.
What advice would you give to your 18 year old self now?
Don’t avoid doing something because you're scared. Don’t avoid speaking up for what you believe in. Fear isn’t a good enough reason not to do it. Failing is not a bad thing. We all fail, we all think we can’t do something. But failing is important to do and experience because it’s about how you brush yourself off and get back up that’s what counts. Life is a continuous journey of learning; it doesn’t just stop at school or uni. So fail knowing you’ve tried your best, that’s all that anyone can do.
What/ Who were your favourite subjects/ teachers at CCS?
I adored all the Arts, Drama, Art, Media Studies! I still tell friends and colleagues to this day that Mrs Caithness, Jon Beyon, Miss Crew and Mr Grover were the reason why I am where I am today. They spoke and treated me with respect and encouraged me. I have realised the great value in having a teacher that speaks to you, that excites you, it’s the difference sometimes in engaging in a subject or not. But if you LOVE something then work around that and find a way in. The arts are so important for so many reasons, through it you learn to collaborate with others, to empathise and to imagine. In all walks of life, you will have to do all of these things, both professionally and personally. The arts made me challenge myself and the world around me. Yes, a career in the arts is difficult and unstable at times but it’s also fulfilling and rewarding. To be in a theatre or an auditorium and all witness the same unifying thing is beautiful and powerful. I have learnt more about people and the world through the arts.
What is your best/ funniest memory of CCS?
I have many fond memories from CCS.. I had a great teacher called Mrs Caithness, JayCatz for short. And we use to, when we could get away with it in our A Level Theatre Studies class, hide from her at the beginning of class. She has a great sense of humour!