Just Runners Takes Steps Towards Greater Diversity in the Industry
With a view to increasing the diversity of the advertising industry, Just Runners is an initiative which helps people get a foot in the door by placing runners on shoots.
The advertising industry can be, like many other industries, a fairly nepotistic arena. Getting a foot through the door is always easier if someone's already holding that door open for you.
Which is why a new, diversity-led initiative called Just Runners aims to help those who wish to break into the industry but who have no connections or background in the business but who are talented, enthusiastic and hard-working.
The scheme was created by Paul McLoone, who also heads production company, P for Production, and is supported by Sweetshop who say the aim is to help to equip the runners with the tools, skills and kit they need to be ready for work. "Its our purpose to achieve greater inclusivity within the production industry," said Spencer Dodd, Sweetshop's MD for UK and Europe. "Our aim is to help talented individuals with positive attitudes fulfil their potential, without being held back by circumstance. It’s rewarding to see how much confidence the runners have built through their placements, and we look forward to seeing how they progress from here.”
Above: Paul McLoone, founder of Just Runners. Photo credit; Kitty Casey McLoone
Below, we chat to McLoone about the reasons behind the creation of Just Runners and what he hopes it can achieve. We also speak to a handful of recent Just Runners employees about their experiences of finding work through the company and it has benefited their hunt for opportunities.
Can you explain what Just Runners is?
Paul McLoone: The official line is Just Runners is an inclusive recruitment initiative for the film industry, but I prefer to think that for those who do not know anyone who works in film industry, we are like a substitute uncle, with some friends down the golf club who work in film. And we'll have a little word on Thursday and see if they can sort you out a little bit of running work.
"I want more people to ask that their shoots are inclusive. It’s quite easy to do once you decide to do it."
Why did you set it up?
PM: I run a production company called P for Production, and I felt that I wanted to try and use the platform I have a little more constructively, try to do things more interestingly. So, for example, when I was making music videos I was bringing in kids from the New Horizons project in Camden, and I found that the kids were really great.
However, I realised that although I was giving someone a bit of work experience I wasn’t really creating an opportunity because I could only offer up one or two days’ work a month. So, I thought maybe I could change the approach. I could get a load of productions companies hiring kids, then it could actually become a life changing opportunity. And then I looked at the kids and realised that loads of very talented people were in courses and programmes geared to making the film industry more inclusive. And these people were not getting work at the end of them. So, I thought maybe we could marry the folk who really, really wanted to work in film with the companies who really, really want to employ inclusively.
"We have simple but strict rules and if they're broken then people are no longer represented on our books."
What's happened since the inception of Just Runners?
PM: I've had really great support from virtually everyone in the industry. People have really got what it is about, and bookings have been increasing each month. However, I am proud to say that the kids themselves have made the biggest impact because they have managed to establish a good reputation for the company.
We aren’t some do-gooder scheme, we are aimed at professional companies. Just Runners are a bunch of great workers, desperate to work in film who just need a foot in the door to gain experience.
What do your recruits learn in your boot camp?
PM: Etiquette and how to establish oneself in the crew. We have simple but strict rules and if they're broken then people are no longer represented on our books:
Always honour your booking.
Never be late.
Learn every name on the call sheet and check out people’s previous work.
Introduce yourself to everyone on set and let them know you are their runner for the day.
Never be on your phone.
Never sit down.
Always be polite and enjoy your work.
"[I've learned] that persistence is key, and to always be friendly. The other most useful thing I’ve learned is that common sense isn’t as common as you think."
Where do the recruits come from?
PM: I have built up relationships with people who run diversity-led courses. Things that are financed by the lottery fund or government to bring people towards the film industry. Places like the BFI, University of East London, Creative Skillset, 4 Corners, Princes Trust, among many others. These people will nominate two or three kids that they feel have what it takes to make it professionally. Then those nominees go to a training/selection day where we choose people based on their team work, communication and attitude.
"As a young person wanting to break into the industry I thought this would be a great stepping stone, and it turned out to be a really rewarding experience."
What has the reaction been from companies that have used your runner?
PM: We have never yet had a bad word said from a production company. Which is good, but not something we are going to get lax about. You're only as good as your last job and all that.
How will you continue to grow and impove the programme?
PM: We need more inclusive employers. That is the big hurdle. We need more producers, 1st ADs, art directors to commit to using their power of employment well. I want more people to ask that their shoots are inclusive. It’s quite easy to do once you decide to do it. And I see Just Runners as a very good way to be inclusive. My hope for the future is that if we keep bringing runners into the industry in an inclusive fashion then soon we will be crewing up based solely on the best CV or showreel.
Below, a selection of runners who gained recent employment through Just Runners explain what they expected from the initiative and how it has helped them.
Above: Brian Sannoh
Please tell us who you are and a bit about your background.
Penelopé Joannidou: I’m 25 years old and was born Budapest. I have been living in the UK for six years now, and I graduated from Falmouth University with a BA(Hons) in Fashion Photography in 2016. My interest in fashion arose whilst modelling in my teenage years in Budapest and Milan. In my final year at university, I began creating fashion films and realised that I'm even more passionate about moving image.
Brian Sannoh: I’m 28 years old and I am from London and Sierra Leone. I’m into all things film; recording, pre-production, editing, the whole sport. I enjoy the puzzle of looking at films, adverts, documentaries and reverse engineering how they were created.
Jordan Dunn: I’m 24 years old and was born in London, but I am of Caribbean descent, and very proud to be. From a young age, I have always been interested in games and media.
Lamin Mulopo Verlaine: I’m 24 years young. I’m from Hackney, although I was born in Belgium and my background is Congolese.
Above: Penelopé Joannidou
How were you selected for the Just Runners bootcamp?
PJ: I first started searching for runner positions in London by sending lots of emails. After a couple of months doing that without any success, I decided to personally hand my printed CV over at production companies. I met Paul McLoone at P for Production, showed him my portfolio and not only did he accept my CV, but also told me that he was starting a company for runners and would like to invite me for interview. I was incredibly happy and excited.
"It is crucial because it is letting a whole new generation of people interested in film, TV or advertising to get a foot in the door and start a career."
BS: I saw the Just Runners boot camp, in a Prince’s Trust job pack. After working a night shift, I went home, changed, prepared myself for the job fair, and was successfully interviewed by Paul McLoone. The following week, there was a training and interview day, in which I was taught how a film set runs, the importance of punctuality, the organisation of a film set, the different departments and their requirements of runners.
JD: When I was in sixth form I completed a BFI course. I maintained the connections that I’d made on this, which meant that after I had finished university, I was sent an email regarding the Just Runners scheme. As a young person wanting to break into the industry I thought this would be a great stepping stone, and it turned out to be a really rewarding experience.
LMV: I got selected for Just Runners by coming to the training day, which I heard about through the Prince’s Trust. They selected who was going to stay after the small tests they had us do. A couple of weeks after that day I found out that I had been chosen.
Above: Lamin Mulopo Verlaine
What were your expectations of what the boot camp would offer?
BS: I always knew that a role like this would give me a deeper insight into how the film industry works and how people in different roles collaborate both on and off set. I knew that I’d also gain networking opportunities with the best creative minds and talent. From the training and support that Just Runners have provided, I have become an efficient runner, able to to pre-empt and promptly deal with challenges across the different areas of the film industry.
JD: I was expecting to gain some great experience in the industry and hoped it would help me to get a foot in the door.
"From the interview and training day, a number of fellow applicants were sent home for being late. At the time this seemed harsh, but having completed the programme, I now fully understand why."
What have been the hardest lessons you've learned so far?
PJ: The biggest lesson I've learnt is that you always have to be patient in life. With patience and consistency, you can achieve your dreams step by step.
BS: As Just Runners provide good training, and I listened keenly, I only learned hard lessons by observation. The first of these is punctuality. From the interview and training day, a number of fellow applicants were sent home for being late. At the time this seemed harsh, but having completed the programme, I now fully understand why. Plenty of the most demanding tasks as a runner, are at the beginning of the day, unloading equipment on set, preparing rooms and breakfasts in editing houses, setting up on live events. As runners we can be seen as the glue holding together different departments, and this relies on punctuality.
JD: To make sure you’re wearing comfortable trainers!
LMV: For me the hardest lesson was making sure to remember everyone’s name on set – something I still find challenging to this day. However, I believe I am getting better at it.
And the best or most useful ones?
PJ: A more practical lesson I've learnt on jobs is to always have many layers of clothing with you, because the temperatures on shoots can be so unpredictable.
JD: That persistence is key, and to always be friendly. The other most useful thing I’ve learnt is that common sense isn’t as common as you think.
LMV: This has to be to have a sharpie on you every time you go on a shoot. Those pens have come in handy every time!
How imporant do you think the Just Runners initiative is?
BS: This initiative is very important as there are many talented and gifted creatives from ethnic and cultural minorities who can find it hard to break into this industry. Also, the life experiences of minorities often are key to a creative brief. Having diversity in the industry helps make the creative work more authentic.
LMV: I believe it is crucial because it is letting a whole new generation of people interested in film, TV or advertising to get a foot in the door and start a career. I have met people of ethnic origin that say that they like Just Runners because it allows more people that look like them get employed.