Gavin Knight is an EVCOM Member and freelance filmmaker who, for years now, has been mentoring young filmmakers. We spoke to Gavin about his experience of mentoring, why he got involved with it and why he advises other experienced filmmakers to offer their expertise to schemes like this.
You’ve been mentoring for Bath Spa for many years now. Why did you first get involved in mentoring?
About 10 years ago some friends had a daughter studying Film & TV at Bath Spa Uni and they asked me to help her look for a job. So, I got in contact with Zara (not her real name!) and started to give her some advice. One of the first things I asked: what films have you made at University and where can I view them? She had none…? – immediately alarm bells were ringing in my head… How on earth is this graduate going to find a job in our industry if she hasn’t made anything yet?
Anyway, as luck would have it, a perfect role as Junior Production Asst. came up at my old company, Firehouse, so I sent Zara along to see my colleagues. The feedback was not good at all – Zara was totally ill-prepared for her interview and her CV was a mess.
That prompted me to get in touch with Bath Spa to find out how this was possible & what careers advice they provided students. That’s how I got involved with their mentoring scheme!
Happy ending: Zara found some great jobs & currently works at a marketing agency, an area much more suited to her skills.
Gavin, you mentor across two different schemes. Please could you tell us a bit about each of them?
I’ve been working with Bath Spa students for a few years now and some have found their feet in our industry. But not every student engages with the process!
In the early days when you’re matched with a student it was up to the Mentor to make all the running – arranging meetings, setting some objectives etc., based on guidance provided by Bath Spa. Most of all, the students want you to help them find jobs or work experience, so it’s about you pointing them in the right direction, making suggestions & tailoring their CV.
This year Bath Spa have moved the whole programme to an online Mentoring Platform hosted by PushFar which makes the process a lot easier.
Not only is everything captured on the platform but also it enables Hannah Rudd, Mentoring & Careers Officer at Bath Spa, to monitor everyone’s progress.
The other scheme I’m mentoring on is Mama. I’ve only just joined them & I haven’t mentored anyone yet. The scheme aims to help more disadvantaged youth get into media production.
Here are the two schemes:
What do you think mentorship brings to the film and broadcast industry specifically? What have you learnt from the process?
If I wasn’t freelance and I was running a production company again I’d definitely encourage my staff to get involved with mentoring because it can boost people’s perspectives & professional development.
Pushfar claim Mentors experience an increase in self-confidence, as their mentee’s success reaffirms their abilities. It also keeps them up to date with the latest trends & technology in our ever-changing industry.
I used one of my Mentees as an editor on a project a few years ago. Not only did he learn a lot about delivering a film to a specific brief, but I saw how & why crew roles were changing & overlapping. He is now an established Self-Shooting Director who edits many of his own films.
Mentoring is just one of the ways your company can raise awareness of your services and recruit future talent into your organisation.
If you’ve been in industry for a while, like me, then mentoring can be an opportunity to understand the unique challenges and circumstances facing young people today. It’s opportunity to give something back & pass on your knowledge, wisdom & guidance.
The MAMA youth programme aims to go further because it helps disadvantaged people who are not in University-level education. I think I’ll learn a lot too, in areas I’d not considered before as part of mentoring:
- Exchanging perspectives around improving and understanding diversity and inclusion within teams, offices, and the overall industry
- Close the knowledge gap on both sides
- A better understanding of Unconscious Bias
As an experienced mentor, what advice would you give to people who are mentoring others for the first time? What would you say to someone considering becoming a mentor, and to someone considering joining a mentorship programme as a mentee?
If you have the time, I’d definitely encourage people to consider Mentoring.
Not only for all the two-way benefits I’ve explained, but for the simple reason that some of your Mentees might need somebody in the industry to talk to about their goals or careers.
The advice you give may seem incredibly simple, but if a student doesn’t have another adult to talk to then the practical answer to a basic question may escape them.
I’m sure there are many Schools & Universities around the country who are looking for Mentors in our sector.
I wish I’d had a Mentor when I was a student – I didn’t understand the world of work. I kept on applying for similar jobs at the BBC. Eventually the BBC gave me an interview…not to employ me, but to give me a list of independent production companies to write to because I’d been persistent! I had no idea all these ‘independents’ existed, but one of them gave me my first job.