James lands props
role at Sony Pictures
UCA grad James hunt tells us about life working as a propmaker at Sony Pictures.
17 Mar 2023
From the moment he discovered he could have a career in film, James Hunt worked his way towards it. Now, after graduating from BA (Hons) Television Production at UCA, he’s got himself a job at Sony Pictures.
We caught up with the trainee propmaker to find out how he landed his dream role, how he’s finding his career so far, and what memories he has of his time at UCA.
Hi James, thanks for chatting with us. Congratulations on your job – how did you get it?
“It was due to my work with Avalon, working on season 2 of Spitting Image. The propmaker there took me under her wing, taught me loads and became a good friend. When she was offered a job with Sony, she asked if there was a trainee role available so I could come along too.”
You graduated in Television Production, so what got you into propmaking?
“Since I was around eight or nine years old, I’ve wanted to work in film. From the moment I discovered that there was a career to be made in it, it was always in the back of my mind throughout school, and when time finally came to go to Uni and study it, I was thrilled.
“I quickly learned there are so many different departments in film, each with unique skillsets, all of which sounded exciting, but I wasn’t sure which way to turn. Fortunately, UCA allowed me to try out each of these departments and find my passion. During this time, I found I got great enjoyment out of designing sets, making props and costumes and decorating rooms for the short films we were making. On top of this, I had always been making things at home anyway, whether it be a piece of terrain for a Dungeons and Dragons game, or a simple Lego set. With all this in mind, it narrowed down for me that I wanted to work in the Art Department and, more specifically, in propmaking.
“I worked my way up from being a runner, to becoming an art department assistant, to then getting the role I have now, using connections and experience I picked up on the way.”
So what’s a typical “day in the office” like for you at the moment, in terms of duties and responsibilities?
“For me, every day is different, and problems you didn’t think were problems can become the sole focus of the day. ON other days, you can begin a two-week project, ONLY for it get scrapped six hours in!
“As a trainee I do get some of the less exciting jobs, such as making sure the bins are empty and the water cooler is always full, but aside from that, I am always able to get stuck into the big projects with everyone else, often taking on simpler tasks such as sanding things down, spray painting, or making simple moulds. Occasionally I get the opportunity to do some finishing touches on a hero prop or get given sole ownership over some of the less important props or scene dressing.
“Now I am technically an intermediate trainee, I have been given some larger responsibilities and freedom to work on things without needing as much guidance.”
What’s are the best and toughest parts of your job?
“The best part of the job (or should I say parts, as there are a lot) is that it is exactly what I wanted to do from a young age, and it is just as exciting and rewarding as I thought it would be. I get to work with my hands, on something that will be a part of film history, and something I can look back on in years to come. Plus, I get to meet loads of like-minded, brilliantly creative people every day. I often find myself smiling to myself on a long drive when I think about how much I enjoy the work I do.
“There are some parts of the job which are challenging. Mostly it’s the travel - I live in Kent with my girlfriend, but to work on the jobs I want to, it will almost always mean travelling two or more hours away from home and staying in hotels or an Airbnb. Not only does this eat into my wages, but it also means I spend less time with my friends and family. When I’m on a job I basically have zero social life! But it is worth mentioning that the money in film is very good and so if I have worked on a job for six months, then the money saved from that can allow me to take five to six months off, which lets me catch up with friends and family, as well as go on holiday during off-peak times!”
Now you’re working in the industry, what advice would you give to someone joining UCA with ambitions to work in television or film?
"The biggest piece of advice I can give - and a point I cannot emphasise enough - is to go to UCA, do the Television Production course and take full advantage of the work experience opportunities it has. Although I may sound biased saying this, the course is by far the best in the country for those trying to get into the industry, as it is within a real working studio, allowing you to work alongside professionals and have multiple opportunities to work on the variety of shows. During my time at UCA, I worked on This Time with Alan Partridge, Game of Talents, Take Me Out and I Can See Your Voice, which meant I was leaving uni with four credits already on my CV and enabling me to go straight into work when I had finished.
“The work experience is going to be outside of uni times, and may occasionally interfere with the course work, but I would strongly advise you to take as much of it as possible no matter what, as it will the best way of learning what the industry is really like, and the tutors are always more than happy to give you an extension on a deadline or two if they know you have been up for hours working on the shows."
What skills did you learn at UCA that you’re using in your working life now?
“In terms of practical skills, there are very few that have been taken with me into my propmaking journey, as my course was based around cameras, lighting, sound etc, and not modelmaking.
“However, I did learn multiple other things during my time at UCA that I feel are far more transferable and valuable, such as teaching us how to be professionals. My tutors were great at treating us with respect and taking us seriously in our opinions and views, which in turn taught us to respect ourselves and others. UCA created an environment very similar to the real world, but without the pressure. They told us to take risks and experiment with new ideas now, while we had the chance to make mistakes that were relatively low-stakes. Being within this environment made me more confident in my ability to talk to a variety of different people and come together in a professional environment to achieve a common goal, which can not only be applied to my work now, but to any career I may move onto later.
“My time at UCA was great. Given the fact that not only did I go to Uni there, but I also went there for college to do my Extended Diploma, you could say that I am a fan. UCA is packed full of interesting people, all ready and willing to share stories, knowledge, and creativity with you. The facilities and technology we had access to were, like a treasure trove, all well looked-after and easy to book out for any project you wanted. The tutors were kind, attentive and inspiring leaders, able to help guide you through the course modules, while also being a great source of film recommendations!”
UCA offers a range of courses to help you forge a career in film, television, set design or propmaking - check out our course pages to find out more.