Welcome to the March 2019 edition of the Career Inspo Blog!
This is a monthly interview with someone who has followed their passion, dreamed big and now has a successful and exciting career. Whether you are searching for your passion or looking for guidance and insight from those in your chosen industry, the Career Inspo blog will have something for everyone. After the success of the 2018 blog, I am so excited to be continuing the interviews into 2019 and I am sure this year’s line up will provide plenty of motivation and inspiration!
This month I interviewed Andrew Ellinas. Based in Canada, Andrew is a creative video specialist and filmmaker and has worked in the industry for over 10 years. Cutting his teeth making short films with friends whilst at uni, Andrew then worked in various roles on the Harry Potter movies and then Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight, beginning a successful career at Warner Bros. studios in Leavesden. Most recently, one of Andrew’s short films premiered at a film festival in Toronto.
Sarah Ellis: Thank you for being interviewed for March’s Career Inspo Blog! Please can you provide a summary of your role(s) and responsibilities for our readers:
Andrew Ellinas: I am currently a working creative video specialist at a rapidly growing agency in Toronto, Canada producing content for large international brands. I advise the Art Directors on the technical side of video production during the concept stage and then set about putting together the video shoot with the Producers. Working as part of a camera team I operate the camera on set, finding the right shots to meet the client brief and ensure the best creative is achieved in camera. Once the shoot is wrapped I start the post-production and work with the art directors to select the best takes, make the first edits of the material, and then either complete the edit myself or pass to motion graphics team to finalize the output. It’s a great role as we are part of the videos all the way from concept to delivery.
AE: This was partly a career move, partly a lifestyle choice. On moving to Canada I wanted to move horizontally into the space that has everybody’s eyes right now – short form online content. I felt it was crucial to add this branch of the industry to my skillset and I knew this would be great training. The pace of content creation is intense. It’s short, fast projects; you have to think on your feet and efficiency of message is everything. It’s very creative and a fantastic way to sharpen your skills.
From a lifestyle perspective I also wanted to have more time to focus on my own creative projects. Working in film is a 12-14hr day career with an often unpredictable schedule. Whilst establishing myself in a new country, and newly married, I wanted a role that had more regular hours but also complemented my passion projects. It’s all about building a broad skillset to make yourself more resilient in a rapidly changing world.
SE: What route did you take into this career and was there any particular training you completed?
AE: Through my teenage years I would often assist my uncle, a videographer, on shoots – coiling cables, recording sound for interviews etc. When I was at university studying Biology I had the good fortune to meet a group of friends who were all interested in filmmaking. I had an interest in special effects so we would get together on weekends and shoot short films for fun; me doing the effects. I never really considered it a viable career option.
On graduating I started to look into the world of special effects more seriously and my prior attempts, put together as a crude PDF portfolio, managed to impress enough to land some work experience on a feature film. After a few weeks I was being paid, and when that film ended I managed to get hold of the phone number for the Harry Potter special effects department. It only took me three phone calls and I was there!
I worked in the production office on Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix & then moved to the special effects department on Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows parts I & II, and the Art Department on Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight. To say I had a great start is an understatement; it just took some persistence to get there.
I then joined Warner Bros Entertainment full time in 2011 where I stayed for a further 6 years. I was a founding member of the Warner Bros. Archive based at the company’s UK studio facility at Leavesden, which I went on to manage. This included caring for all of the production assets (props, wardrobe, sets etc) for the Harry Potter/Fantastic Beasts and DC Comics (Justice League/Wonderwoman) franchises.
I have always been a filmmaker at heart however, so whilst at Warner Bros. I directed several short films and music videos, and several corporate videos for Warner Bros. Studios. I’m pleased to say my latest short film is premiering at a film festival in Toronto in March!
SE: What makes you jump out of bed in the morning to come to work and what are your favourite things about what you do?
AE: I still love creating. Knowing that by the end of the day you will have brought something into being that did not exist at the start of the day is a great feeling. It’s not some abstract thought process, your output is very tangible, and you can see it immediately…and hopefully will be seen by a lot of people.
AE: Sometimes you will have to move sideways, or even down, to re-orientate yourself to the correct path. Learning that careers aren’t a vertical ladder to be climbed but rather a jungle gym of things to play on and get better at is something that took me a long time to learn.
I love my job. But on tough days I remind myself of the things that I’ve created that I’m proud of. I sometimes re-read an e-mail or two where someone said ‘thank you’, or ‘good job’. I know a very wise family member who keeps an e-mail folder purely for filing feel good e-mails. I’m going to start that tomorrow.
SE: What are your key moments/most memorable experiences in your career so far?
AE: Working on Harry Potter has to be a career highlight. I was in my mid 20’s and even at the time we were all aware that we were creating something unique. In a sense I think Harry Potter was in some respects the tail end of the old filmmaking era.
SE: What key strengths do you have that make you great at what you do?
AE: I feel I’m a very creative person with the ability to organise his thoughts into a practical plan and am able to adapt quickly to changing creative situations. Most people in my life will tell you that I don’t relish changing plans or having to make decisions on the fly, but when it comes to creative decisions – I’m fast. I can have an image in my head, scribble out a storyboard in 30 seconds and then start setting it up and lighting it. That confidence comes with experience. I’m also not afraid to try something that may or may not work – even with a client standing by. Learn to read their mood and if appropriate involve them in the creative process – 9 times out of 10 they will enjoy the experience even more for being part of it. (Note: you must still be prepared, don’t plan to make it up on the day!)
I’m also able to keep calm and think rationally when things aren’t going to plan. The ability to put things in perspective and stop and breathe will help calm everyone else.
SE: Do you have a role model or mentor? If so, what have you learnt from them that has helped you in your career?
AE: No mentor currently. I look up to and admire the whole community of filmmakers who collaborate to produce amazing work against the odds. My peers are my mentors.
I have been a mentor myself whilst at Warner Bros. as part of the Warner Bros. Creative Talent program – a role that I found extremely fulfilling.
AE: Educate yourself and create your own content. There is so much information out there these days, from online courses to part-time learning; it has really never been easier to learn technical skills. Then go out and practice. But the most important thing is to meet people in your industry or the industry that you want to get into. Join local societies, take courses in person, and don’t be afraid to pick up the phone and call somewhere you’d like to work. A human voice is way more effective than an e-mail.
SE: What are the top 3 things to consider when choosing and pursuing a meaningful career?
- The lesson that has taken me the longest to learn – and in some respects I still have to remind myself of it every day, is to be completely honest with yourself about what you really want from a career. It’s so easy to convince yourself that the sensible route is what you really want to do, or the job that you know would make your parents proud, or the job that is almost what you want to do. This isn’t a bad thing while you work your way towards your dream job, but make sure it’s part of a plan.
- Just because you weren’t born an expert at something doesn’t mean you can’t do it. Many people will point to the geniuses in your field, and the top players whose achievements seem stratospherically out of reach. Picasso wasn’t born knowing how to paint. Remember that few people (maybe bar Mozart) were born that way. Yes people do have innate talents, be honest with what yours are, but remember that you can educate yourself to fill in the gaps.
- For me, and this is a very individual choice, I want my career to have some positive impact on others. Focussing on yourself is important in terms of personal development and being able to achieve the appropriate level of income for you and your family, but creating something that goes beyond the bounds of your immediate social bubble I find brings satisfaction. For me, producing entertainment is my small way of adding to our collective culture. The bottom line is; it’s nice to see other people enjoy your work!