First TV Commerical and Outreach at Staffordshire University (Guest Post by Director/Producer Cain Jennings)

A Crazy Few Weeks

In these strange and uncertain times, I thought it’d be good to try to look past what’s currently going on, and start planning for a future; when we’re no longer confined to our houses and are free to do whatever we like again (for me it’s making films). And it’s hard to properly set goals and imagine what the future might look like without looking back to see how you got here in the first place. 

In the weeks leading up to the current isolation period I was given the opportunity to tick off two of my life goals and I want to share my experience with you and what I learned while doing so.

It’s been a crazy few weeks due to COVID-19 and the majority of the UK going into isolation and Coolbox, like many, packed up our studio and moved home for the foreseeable. But it’s not all bad news. It’s provided me time and distance to reflect on the past few months, and take stock of the amazing start to the year we’ve had at Coolbox. 

My First University Talk

As a filmmaker at the start of their career, I studied Media (Film) Production at Staffordshire University (a course I highly recommend)! My final year included a module called ‘Design Futures’, essentially it advised our class on ‘getting a job’ and ‘setting yourself up for life after university’. Our lecturer would organise Q&A’s with post-graduates to share their experience and knowledge with the class. Back in 2017, sat in the lecture theatre, I remember imagining what it’d be like to one day be in a position where I could share my own experiences to help others at the start of their careers. But I never thought it would happen so soon!

Alas, the time had come. Almost three years since graduation, I was invited back to Staffordshire University to share my own experiences with the final year students. Of course, I was honoured to be asked, but also nervous about what I could offer the students, having only left a few years previously. Turns out, quite a bit! 

I don’t spend time reflecting on past work (and maybe I should). After scanning through our Vimeo profile, it dawned on me that I’ve been involved in some amazing projects and had the pleasure of working with so many great people over the past 15 months. Without realising it, I’d landed a career in an industry that I love, was producing videos for cool brands and clients, and building relationships with industry professionals who I’d admired since before I even started university. In a few short years, I had achieved many of my career goals set out as a student but was too busy focusing on what was next to acknowledge I’d got there.

Producer/Director Cain speaking at Staffordshire University

I was excited to share my experience with the final year students; totally forgetting that I, along with two other graduates, would be sat in front of a theatre full of people. It’s been a long time since I’d done any public speaking – so the jumper and coat I decided to wear immediately came off! The Q&A lasted a few hours and the students had asked some great questions, and I hope some of my answers will help guide them in their future careers. 

Once the lecture had finished and I was back on the train to Manchester; complete with a huge sense of fulfillment. I had done what I set out to do, and I sincerely hope I get the opportunity to do it again in the future. It’s good to reflect on the work you’ve put your blood, sweat, and tears into, acknowledge what was good and bad about it, learn from it, and see how you can help others. 

It’s a whirlwind industry and two people’s journeys are never the same, but I got to where I’m at right now by asking for advice and feedback whenever I could, and I’m eternally grateful for the people kind enough to take time to reply to my cold-call emails. And I fully intend to keep paying it forward. 

The Second Life Goal

A few days after my talk at Staffs University I was about to achieve my biggest career goal to date; directing my first ever TV Commercial. Madness! 

Traveling to London on a Sunday night before the shoot gave me time to realise the magnitude of what was about to happen. In less than 24 hours I was going to fulfill one of my childhood dreams. Usually, when producing or directing shoots for big, household-name brands I tend not to think about it; and while I care deeply about making sure our client is happy and that the quality of our output is high – at the end of the day; it’s work. But this was different. This will be on TV. My mum will be so proud!

TV Commercial filming

It’s safe to say I learned a lot! I can’t say much about the project or who it was for (as it’s still in post), but what I can tell you is what I took away from it…

I realised I was capable. More than capable. That may sound odd but I’m guilty of saying ‘when I’m older I will..’; that in my mind somehow being older will allow me to do things I cannot do now? Once, when I began to say ‘when I‘m older…’ my Dad interrupted me and said ‘when you’re ready’. He was right, I didn’t need to be older, I just needed to be confident in myself and my work. 

Despite the delivery medium of the advert being TV; it was still essentially the same process and format as the hundred previous shoots I had been a part of. There was all the necessary pre-production to complete, booking crew and kit, sorting travel and accommodation, and having to be adaptable and flexible on the shooting days. I jumped in headfirst, and using our combined experience and knowledge (and despite poor weather, noisy gas works nearby, animal talent not playing ball, etc) we managed to overcome the challenges and produce a really great commercial, and had fun while doing so!

It was a fab experience directing my first commercial, and once this whole strange situation is resolved we’re looking forward to shooting many more in 2020.