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Why Mentoring Matters – Opinions from our Committee

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Duncan Howell

Duncan Howell
Production Designer / Senior Lecturer

“Promoting excellence in the Art Department is at the forefront of the Guild’s many commitments to members. For a long time now, an unwritten, unforced mentorship has been an undercurrent for the success of individuals. From a personal perspective, this selfless attitude from a Production Designer allowed me to strengthen my skills and confidence to not only become a successful Art Director, but in turn (and hard work) become a Production Designer.

I have mentored many Assistants and Art Directors in the same way I was, as part of what I believe was my duty to continue the support that I received. I am in a fortunate position to mentor under-graduates into the industry as a Lecturer, as well as continue to mentor in a professional capacity in our amazing industry. I have found it far from being a chore. It is the most rewarding part of my job along side keeping my own standards high.”

Gary Tomkins

Gary Tomkins
Art Director

“Working in the Art Department in the Film and TV industry is a job which has a vast range of facets that can take a lifetime to master. It might be the ever-increasing skill base required of draughting by hand or digitally, making models in card or computer or learning how the Art Department interacts with other departments.

Learning the basics of architectural history, building construction and decorative forms are also vital building blocks for Art Department success.

Mentoring from other Art Department members is hugely important for every grade during their career. I’ve been lucky enough to have worked with some truly great people in my life, from talented Designers and Art Directors to superb Draughtsmen, I learnt a great deal from all of them; and although it was never formally called mentoring, that is exactly what it was.

When I was in a position to help and advise people starting out in the Art Department I jumped at the chance. That might be simply advising on drawing technique and talking about construction and architecture in the Art Department itself, meeting up, (physically or virtually), to look at a Junior’s work, giving students a guided tour around the Potter Tour at Leavesden, looking at Graduates’ portfolios, or more recently spending Saturday mornings mentoring on-line.

What I have taken away from all of these encounters is how appreciative the mentees are, and how, almost without exception, they improve between meetings. There really is nothing more satisfying than seeing someone that you took under your wing turning into an experienced and successful Art Department colleague.

Please consider becoming a BFDG mentor, the rewards you’ll gain from passing on some knowledge are enormous.”

Dorrie YoungDorrie Young
Senior Draftsperson

“Quite some time ago now, I started on my first job as a Junior Draughtsman, green as a field of grass.  One of the lovely Art Directors on that job took me under their wing.  He oversaw my drawings, correcting them as needed – building on what I had already learned at FDI and as an Assistant.  We went down to construction and to the stages to see my work being built and chatted with the construction team about drawings and construction methods.   He also taught me the importance of good reference and helped me start a library of useful books that I continue to add to.   It was a fantastic foundation, starting me off in the art department in an incredibly positive way.  I will forever be grateful.

More recently I had the opportunity to be a mentor for a formal mentorship programme.   Honestly, I was doubtful at first.  Me, a mentor?! I’m only a Draughtsman. I still have so much to learn! But I had an absolute blast.  It was so refreshing to spend time with someone who was just starting out on their journey in the film industry.  Over the course of our sessions – via zoom, naturally – I realised that I had more to offer than I thought.  I passed on my own booklist, set drawing exercises, and answered many, many questions about the film industry generally and the Art Department specifically.

I truly believe that mentorship, whether formal or informal, is the heart of the Art Department and the secret of our depth of skill and talent.   I absolutely wouldn’t be the Draughtsman I am without my earlier mentor.  I continue to rely on those around me to learn and develop and in turn, I try to pass on my knowledge wherever I can.

Screenskills new partnership with the BFDG is an exciting development.   Creating and encouraging new mentor/mentee relationships is a perfect project for the Guild and could not have come at a better time.  The film industry continues to be incredibly busy and Art Departments increasingly working remotely, meaning mentoring relationships are more valuable than ever.  I am very much looking forward to seeing what the BFDG mentoring programme brings – perhaps I can sign up as both a mentor and a mentee?!  What about you?”

Apply for the BFDG Mentoring Programme.

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