Teenagers in frame working in film world

Teenagers in frame working in film world

5 June 2024

THREE local teenagers were given a fascinating insight into the world of film.

Through the career programme ran by education charity Into Film, Megan Reilly from Blackwater Integrated College, Finnie Gormley from Assumption Grammar School and Conleth Greene from Shimna Integrated College were among the group of young people at the ScreenWorks session run by Northern Ireland movie grip Donavan Gallagher.

Donavan has worked on a vast array of films, including Ridley Scott’s Gladiator 2 which is due for release in November.

For the movie Donavan travelled to Morocco and Malta last year to work as a grip with the camera crew for this major production starring Denzel Washington and Paul Mescal.

Donavan recently shared his skills and passion for film production with the next generation of crew members through the Into Film’s ScreenWorks programme.

This free career experience workshop gives young people aged 14 to 19 unparalleled access to industry professionals across all five screen sectors – film, television, animation, gaming and visual effects.

“Working on Gladiator 2 was a once in a lifetime experience,” Donavan said.

“The scope and spectacle of this film was truly awe-inspiring and it’s something I will never forget.”

He told the young people at the ScreenWorks session how he came to be a grip, one of the film industry’s lesser-known professions.

After completing a degree in Media Studies at Ulster University in Coleraine in 2009, Donavan was uncertain about what career path he wanted to take.

Eventually he took a job at Belfast City Airport working in the bar as he searched for other opportunities.

“I was so lucky as just then a trainee scheme in Northern Ireland Screen came up and there were a number of departments offering placements on Game of Thrones in 2014,” he said.

“I’d never heard of a grip before but I researched it and decided that’s what I really wanted to do.”

Over the past 10 years, Donavan has honed his skills and has worked on projects such as The Northman, Overload, Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dubledor, Line of Duty, Succession and Blue Lights.

Donavan had to learn on the job about what being a grip entails. Being a grip has various responsibilities such as helping set up equipment that supports a camera such as a tripod, dolly on a track, a crane or even rigging onto a car. Recently, Donavan was setting up equipment on a boat between Rathlin Island and Ballycastle for Greg Davies’ sitcom The Cleaner.

The grip and camera operator work as a team with direct briefings from the director and are in close proximity to the actors. Donavan told the teenagers that the job is physically demanding.

However Donavan said his only regret is not starting his career as a grip earlier and that he cannot imagine himself doing anything else.

“There’s a fantastic camaraderie among the people who work in the screen industry in Northern Ireland and we all help each other,” he said.

“It was through a colleague that I was asked to work on Gladiator 2. It’s very important for the young people to learn about working closely with others and building a network who like working with you.”

More information about ScreenWorks and their workshops can be found at www.intofilm.org/screenworks.