Back at the end of March I was given the incredible opportunity to spend a week doing work experience for one of the biggest commercial studios in London. Big Sky Studios has an impressive 7 high end studios on their main site as well as another studio at their other site. What is even more impressive is their long list of clients. Over the course of the week I was permitted to work on 5 amazing shoots as a studio assistant.
Day one started bright and early for me. By 6am I was at Reading station coffee in hand ready to catch my train to London for my first day at big Sky studios. I arrived at 7:30 and on my arrival I got given my uniform that I was to wear for the duration of that week. Then once I was dressed appropriately I was give a tour round the studios. It interested me to see that even though the studios varied greatly in size they all fitted the same kind of formula. Kitchen area completed with dining tables, hair and make up station, dressing room, computer area, all with infinity coves apart from one.
All the studios are laid out this way except for studio 7 which is described as a life style space which offers the variation of a location with the convenience of shooting in a studio. This mean that the studio doesn’t have a infinity wall instead has a number if different types of walls and furniture which provides flexibility to create a wide range of looks.
I was also interested to see that unlike the studios that I am used to shooting in none of the lighting equipment is kept in the studios themselves instead they are all held in a big store room which is run by specialists. Where the client can book out the equipment in advance to the shoot. And then on the day of the shoot it is carried up but the studio assistant who is in charge of that studio.
When the tour was over I was introduced to a lovely girl named Harriet who I was to shadow for the course of that day. She and I went up to the studio and welcomed the clients and made sure that they had every thing that they needed. Then I went and picked up the equipment that they had ordered and brought it to the studio. I then spent the day doing the tasks that was assigned to my studio whilst making sure that the client was happy.
Towards the end of the day I was told to go to studio 7 and help do a turn around. Which involved putting every thing back in its respective place counting everything making sure that it is all present and correct. Then cleaning all the surfaces, taking everything out the fridge making sure that it was all in date.
After my first day I felt like I had learnt many things but the thing that stood out the most is that no task is to big or to small if the client requires it then it must be done. Being friendly, approachable and polite are the main qualities that a studio assistant possess as well as delivering the best service possible.
My second day was much less hectic not because there was less things to do but more because I had a better idea of what to expect. I was also given a radio ear piece so that I could communicate with the rest of the staff a big sky.
I was assigned to shadow Connor who gave me tasks to do. We were looking after studio 4 as well as doing a turn around of studio 5. Conner decided that I should take care of studio five so he set me up with the check lists of things that needed doing that I could check off. If I wasn’t sure of anything he was in the next studio. This entailed things like descaling the kettle and the steamer, inspecting the Polly boards for damage, and doing the studio kitchen inventory. It also involved painting the infinity wall, which had to be swept, scraped, swept again then painted. This is to insure a beautifully white infinity cove for the next client. After I had finished this job one of the site managers came round to inspect the job and was over all happy with it.
I then helped Connor set out the lunch for the clients and while they were eating busied my self with tidying the studio, clearing empty bottles of water, washing up empty mugs and putting them back so that they can be used again. Once the client had finished eating I cleared the plates away and threw away all the remaining food. For the latter part of the afternoon I focused on getting the jobs done that was allocated to studios 4 and 5 this included doing the laundry, tidying the stock cupboard and maintaining the balcony area.
My final task of the day was to clean up the staff room, washing up any plates that were left over from lunch, dry them and then put them away and clean all the surfaces.
After today I felt that the biggest thing that powers a big commercial studio such as big sky is teamwork and communication. Taking the initiative to go and help someone with his or her allotted tasks if they have a particularly busy studio.
On my third day I was assigned to studio 1 which is the largest studio at Big Sky we had so very important client in. So the day started bright and early starting with laying out the breakfast for the client so that it would be waiting for when they arrived.
I then went around the studio making sure that all was tidy and that there were no cups or anything that was left over from the day before. Because of the size of the shoot and the number of people doing it I made sure that I was on hand for anything that the client may require. It was important that any requests that were made were fulfilled quickly and to the letter. This can include some seemingly strange request. For example I was asked to go and get Haribo Star mix for the shoot the next day.
Because of the size of the shoot keeping the studio tidy was of upmost importance. Because of the number of people in the studio one of the main jobs that I ended up doing was coffee runs, taking peoples coffee orders and going up to the café which was on the top floor of the building collecting the coffee and the delivering it to the various people.
Because of the nature of the job the work is physically quite demanding you are on your feet the entire time you are working, combined with the long days and the amount of heavy lifting required due to the equipment used requires a lot of physical stamina and a determination to get the job done.
The Forth day was my final day at the main site at Big Sky I was once again working in studio 1 with the same client but on a different shoot. The day was made even more exciting when I found out that a well-known actress would be modelling for the shoot. I made sure that breakfast was laid out ready for when the clients arrived. As people arrived the next hour or so was spent running and getting everyone's coffee orders.
When everyone had got their coffee and had finished their breakfast I spent the next little while cleaning up the aftermath of breakfast. In a brief lull where I was not needed in the studio I went and mopped up the water that was on the balcony as it had rained over night. I then spent the rest of the morning running errand for the client. Then it was time to clean away all the food from breakfast and set out lunch. This proved to be an unexpected challenge as there was so much food that needed to fit on one small table and after a little bit of persistence we prevailed.
While the clients were eating lunch I was called to help out on a shoot that was being shot on the roof. Due to health and safety regulations there needed to be a member of staff with the client at all times. My job was to make sure that everything and every one were a decent distance away from the edge. And that none of the equipment got blown over or rained on as the weather was quite variable.
When I was no longer required on the roof I went back to my studio and started clearing up lunch. I spent the rest of the afternoon cleaning up the studio or doing coffee runs, till the late afternoon where I got shown around Big Sky’s lighting department. I got shown all the equipment and how it worked and I was amazed at the sheer quantity of equipment they had.
The main thing that really stood out was the importance of security and confidentiality. Client privacy is so important especially on shoots like today when the shoot includes actors or celebrities. The person in question is referred to as the “Talent” over the radio or in any part of the building that isn’t the studio.
For this kind of shoot the only person in the studio who’s allowed to take pictures is the photographer. In some cases devices with cameras may be taped over. Taking any sort of picture is strictly prohibited. Privacy in relations to the clients at Big Sky studios is taken very seriously.
For my final day at Big Sky studios I was based at their other site Omega Place that is situated not too far from Kings Cross Station. This studio is by far the largest of all the studios covering an impressive 5,400sqft which included an infinity cove, drive in access, main room, client lounge, Kitchen and dining room, hair and make-up / styling, talent lounge, toilets and flats storage.
I think that it is fair to say that this was by far the grandest studio I have ever been in.
It was interesting to see how due to its stand alone nature that the way it was run varied from the studios in the main sight, for starters there was no café on sight so I had to make all the coffees my self with the coffee cart. Which was a form of mobile café. Also there wasn’t a main kitchen at this sight so all food had to be delivered by the chef himself. A small and dedicated team runs the whole of Omega Place. Apart from that the general duties of the studio assistant were pretty much the same as they were at the main sight. Welcoming the clients, getting coffees, setting out and clearing away both breakfast and lunch and keeping the studio clean and tidy.
Overall I had a knackering but fantastic week at Big Sky Studios I learnt a lot and saw some amazing shoots. To be honest I don’t feel that a week was enough time, just as I felt that I was getting in to the swing of things I’m leaving again and I am gutted that I couldn’t spend more time there.
I would like to thank every one at Big Sky for a fantastic week and for being so nice. I will miss working at Big Sky and I hope that it wont be too long before I can work there again.