Want a career behind the camera? Get stuck in and do it yourself, says SteelTV founder Ruth Amos (who has also started numerous other companies, including StairSteady to help mobility among elderly people). That’s what she did, and now SteelTV has developed from an online TV channel to a rapidly expanding production company. Right now we are giving you the chance to be like Ruth and get stuck in to an opportunity to create a short film with our friends O2 and BFI. Below Ruth shares her tips on how to get into production…

You don’t have to go it alone

Ruth, 25, swears by networking, as that’s how you learn and develop your skills: “My younger brother is a sound engineer and knows a lot about video, so I learnt a lot from him – but ask around among your friends, you never know who has a bit of kit to lend, or a bit of advice they can give,” she says. Networking is really important in general as, not only will it help you learn, but it can also enable your project to grow; Ruth and the team now film events and projects for other companies who don’t have the resources, training or funding. “One of the first projects we did was with the National Youth Theatre, and that was because I’m a member so I just dropped them a cheeky email to ask if we could get a press pack and film one of their Sheffield-based events,” she remembers. “In fact, everyone wants publicity, so it’s worth dropping cheeky emails to anyone you know who runs any sort of event.”

Start small and work upwards

“Things will go wrong in the early days – you’ll forget a vital bit of kit, your sound will be dodgy or you won’t get enough shots. It’s a lot worse if those things happen during an incredibly important event,” she says. Of course, she takes all events equally seriously, but starting with smaller days and fairs that are easier to manage will build your confidence.

You don’t need to buy loads of kit in the beginning

Although her brother could lend her various pieces of equipment, Ruth built up her hardware step by step: “We didn’t just buy a desktop computer – we bought the tower, the hard drive, the screen. It’s often cheaper that way, so you should always only buy what you need.” Obviously it depends what sort of quality you’re aiming for, but she recommends looking online on Amazon, eBay and sites like London Camera Exchange for secondhand or discounted equipment. “Be careful though, and check the returns policy – you don’t want to end up with the wrong thing if you’ve spent lots of money!”

You also don’t need loads of expensive software

As an established company, they now use more advanced editing software, Ruth suggests people start by having a look at what their Mac or PC currently has installed. “You can even play around with Instagram and Vine and practise with filters and editing – the apps you can download on smartphones now are amazing!” One of the features they regularly use is the time delay cameras on iPads: “Setting that up at the beginning of an event adds a bit of variety; you get all the people coming in and it adds to the atmosphere.”

Get more shots than you need, and vary the angles

The key to taking event coverage from “OK” to “WHOA” is the variety and amount of footage you shoot. “Always take much more footage than you think you’ll need, and make sure you get cut aways to the audience, film some backstage stuff and have as many cameras filming from as many angles as possible.” There’s nothing more boring than watching a steadycam of an event for six minutes. Apart from, maybe, filming a steadycam shot of aforementioned event. So it’s in your interests as well as your client’s!

Funding, funding, funding

Argh! Don’t have any cash whatsoever? Don’t panic – Ruth approached O2′s Think Big scheme, who provide up to £2,800 for ideas that’ll help your community. She’s based in Sheffield and, as previously mentioned, works solely for companies who can’t afford to do it themselves – but she also trains other young people and teaches them the ins and outs of filming. “If more people did this in their areas, it’d be amazing – I don’t think people realise how easy it is to get funding through Think Big! Apart from the money, they have teams of people on hand to help you out – especially useful in terms of the business side of things!”

Why not take a look on Think Big’s site, and get some funding to start your own local TV channel? Or, for that matter, anything that could benefit your area?

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