12 WEEKS AT CASUAL FILMS: AN INTERN’S PERSPECTIVE

Hello! Allow me to introduce myself - I'm Veronika, a third year student studying Media Studies and Sociology at City University London. I've been interning at Casual since October 2014 and I love it! I happen to be in a nostalgic mood today so I thought I'd take a trip down the proverbial memory lane....

I began my internship on the first Wednesday in October, a few days after moving in to my new flat off Essex Road. I was pleasantly surprised to find that my commute would be just four minutes by foot! It was fate. I began helping out with marketing and social media bits and bobs and fell into a pleasant routine involving editing scripts, sourcing archival footage, shadowing meetings and eating countless bowls of porridge. (It must be noted that the Casual offices' kitchen is extremely well-stocked, and porridge with almond butter, honey and sliced banana became something of an obsession).

Say yes to everything. I’d never done anything like that before and was terribly nervous, but it was so fun that now going on shoots is one of the things I look forward to most. A few weeks in, Bryony, our marketing & office manager, casually (heh) asked if I'd be interested in going on a shoot. Having amassed plenty of experience in marketing during my brief career but none whatsoever in film, shoots seemed to me like somewhat magical events involving lots of expensive equipment and requiring at least two years of film school. Now, I happen to be famously clumsy - so clumsy that my mum says I "can't even be trusted to keep my head screwed onto my neck" - which is not ideal for handling expensive equipment. And although I have a Netflix account, and I have seen AT LEAST three Oscar-winning films (at LEAST), I have not been to film school. Never one to let Bryony down, though, I said yes and found myself on a shoot for 'In Midtown', a company that promotes the Holborn/Bloomsbury neighbourhood. We would be interviewing several key players at companies in the area to get an idea of what makes Midtown so unique.

The shoot started at 8 o'clock and by lunchtime at noon, I'd already learned how to set up lighting and sound equipment (without breaking it! Yay!) as well as how to make people feel comfortable when being interviewed -- one of our interviewees was clearly a bit nervous but our director did a great job of making her forget she was sitting in a room full of people waving a microphone and a camera in her face!

During our lunch break, I grilled Sarah, one of Casual's producers, on her favourite parts of her job. "Well," she said, staring thoughtfully into her chicken katsu curry, "I like planning a project and seeing it completed from start to finish. I also like that every day brings something different and interesting - I never get bored." By the time the shoot wrapped that evening at 8pm, I knew exactly what she meant. Staring reflectively out the window of the 38 bus back to my flat, I realised that even though I'd been on set for almost 12 hours, I'd hardly even noticed -- I always had something to do and something to learn, and I loved it. I immediately asked if I could help out on more shoots.

Don’t be afraid to explore the Casual kitchen. It is kept stocked with amazing goodies! A few weeks later I had my chance -- we were shooting a small segment for an awards ceremony, to be used when revealing the winners of each category. There was a "party" theme involving lots of cake, streamers, and games -- very colourful and fun, and I'd get to be an extra too! What could go wrong?

Cake. Cake could go wrong. As I was on my way to the shoot, Corrina, the producer, called me and asked if I could stop on my way to buy a cake. "No problem," I said, wondering how I would find a cake at 8am in my weird suburban neighbourhood. I checked every Sainsbury's Local and Tesco Express I could find to no avail, until I finally ran (via Uber taxi) to the big Sainsbury's in Angel, where I found the perfect white sponge cake. I frantically threw some money at the cashier and a few minutes later arrived at Holborn Studios (which, strangely, are located miles away from actual Holborn - who knew?) -sweaty and panting, over an hour late, but bearing the promised pastry. The crew bent over the bright purple Sainsbury's bakery box. "I don't think the green icing is a good idea," the director said, sending me into a brief but significant period of self-loathing. That day I learned that presentation and an attention to detail can sometimes be the most important part of completing any task -- an important lesson for any intern, to be sure.

Luckily, the rest of the day went off without a hitch -- notably, I bumped into Joey Essex as I was walking to the cafe to pick up lunch! Even though I am clearly more famous, he didn't seem to recognise me.... odd. As I was vacuuming streamers off the studio floor (not the most glamorous part of the job, to be sure, but it had to be done),nBryony briefed me on my next assignment: the winner of the RAD Awards Young Filmmakers Competition 2014, sponsored by Casual, had been chosen, and we'd be shooting his film in just a few weeks. Could I help find a location and props and make sure the shoot would run smoothly? Only time would tell!

The winner, Denis’s film was based on Leonardo DaVinci's The Last Supper, so the ideal location was a rustic, barn-like pub with lots of light and high ceilings. Unsurprisingly, this proved difficult to find in the cosmopolitan hub that is central London. Many places, the team agreed, didn't seem authentic enough or were just plain expensive. "This shouldn't be so hard to find!" I shouted, shaking my fist at the ceiling with rage (not really). "Rustic.... barn-like.... light.... high ceilings...." In a flash of inspiration, I had it - the Tudor Barn in Eltham! A 16th century pub in southeast London, the restaurant had been my family's favourite for special occasions. A few phone calls later, I'd done it (this, I hoped, made up for the cake mishap) - Denis agreed that the Tudor Barn looked great, and they agreed to let us shoot there for the day! And that, dear readers, is one of the very few times being raised in southeast London has done me any favours.

Next on the list were props -- after procuring some beards and moustaches from Mad World Fancy Dress in Old Street, Bryony, Denis, and I headed to northwest London -- Willesden Green, to be exact, where prop hire shop Theme Traders is located. Theme Traders may just be the coolest place I've visited during my time at Casual so far -- in the cavernous, maze-like building lie literally thousands of elaborate, beautifully crafted props, some of which you may be able to recognise if you've ever watched The X Factor (along with countless other awards shows and films)! I could've spent hours in there exploring the different rooms, but after we'd acquired a few barrels to use as props in Denis's film, we were off. (Though I couldn't come to the shoot as I had to present a project at uni, I am told it went great! Read more about Denis's film and the Young Filmmakers Competition here).

Don’t be afraid to ask questions. The Casual team is always willing to help, so you shouldn’t be nervous about trying to absorb as much knowledge as you can. Before I knew it, it was December -- a festive and joyful month for all, but for me in particular as I would be leaving London for a month to visit my family in New York. Having learned (and smiled, and laughed!) so much at Casual so far, I asked Barnaby if it would be possible to arrange a mini-internship in Casual's New York office over the break. And so I hopped from one side of the Atlantic to the other -- and from one Casual office to the other!

I was enjoying spending time with my family, but after two weeks of my mother's raw desserts (her new obsession, leaving me dumbfounded - if they aren't baked, and there isn't any sugar in them, how can they be classified as desserts?) and my dog's random and loud barking, I was happy to be going back to work. On my first day, Barnaby told me I'd be focusing on finding Casual’s new office space – something bright, spacious and modern, ideally located in Long Island City or Brooklyn. Having lived in New York (Connecticut, a state generously included in “the New York City metropolitan area”) for half of my life and after interning there for several years, I felt I knew the city relatively well – but I still didn’t know where to start when it came to finding the perfect office space! I was up for the challenge, though, and set up a viewing in Williamsburg, an area I vaguely knew as being trendy and cool. I confidently set off in search of the subway, planning to meet Barnaby and the broker at the building.

As I emerged from the L train station, I realized that “trendy” and “cool” may have served as adjectives kindly masquerading as “grungy” and “grey.” Although the building and neighbourhood were very nice, the street wasn’t – “they have illegal raves over there,” the broker remarked, gesturing vaguely across the road. Lovely. As I waited for our taxi, the pouring rain matched my mood – I vowed to check Google Street View next time.

After some more viewings in Dumbo, Williamsburg (sans illegal raves), and Long Island City, things began to look up – we found two options that fit the bill, and are in the process of choosing one (watch this space for an office tour!). And with that, my time at Casual New York came to a close.

Pay attention to detail. In film especially, this can be really important, as a minor change can alter the “feel” of the project entirely. I’m not sure how to end this marathon of a blog post, but I’ll start with a quote: “Film lovers are sick people.” –Francois Truffaut, famed French filmmaker. But also: “Cinema is a matter of what’s in the frame and what’s out.” –Martin Scorcese. During my time at Casual, I learned about production from both sides of the lens – from scriptwriting, casting, props, and location, to the direction and production done on the day of the shoot, to the video editing and sound engineering that comes after, I loved being involved with all steps of the process and discovering an interest in film I didn’t even know I had. I loved how the young and whip-smart team at Casual felt like a big group of friends, and I loved how no one was afraid to show and teach me about things I had little experience in, leaving none of my questions unanswered. Thank you so much, Casual…. I’ll go now before I get too cheesy. See you soon!