Inside a Production company: A runner’s POV

Hello, my name is Alex, I’m a runner at Pretzel Films and I’m going to tell you about the weird world of a film production company from my position; the bottom.

My job is unique in the sense that there aren’t really any boundaries in terms of job description. If something needs to be done, I do it. This has ensured that I regularly encounter situations that most never will.

I will tell you all about those in a minute. First, let me tell you a little bit about my role. My job splits into two main categories, production assistant work and runner work:

The production assistant side involves organising or helping organise:
Locations/crew/studios/hotels/flights/logistics/wardrobe/processing invoices.

The runner side mainly comes through on set. It involves:
Coffee/carrying kit/setting up kit/steaming the creases out of wardrobe/crowd control/silencing any noises/coffee/sorting out anything that could go wrong, before it goes wrong/sorting out anything that goes wrong/coffee.

I’m now going to dip in and out of some totally unrelated stories with very little structure in the hope that you find it interesting or amusing and perhaps gain some insight into the life of a runner.

Sourcing things

One large part of my job is sourcing things. All sorts of things. On smaller jobs it might not merit getting wardrobe or art department involved. In which case it’s up to me to source weird props or clothing. Sounds like fun right? It is. However, I can always depend on them being a nuisance to find. This is always a joy when stomping about London with 40KG of items, in the rain, generally with massive time pressure.
You know the feeling when you are determined to take all of your grocery shopping up the hill in one go and some sort of rage induced strength comes over you, allowing you to power through and complete your mission like a winner. That’s what it’s like, for 7 hours at a time.
As you’ll see later, I have no problems sourcing specialist items. A gimp mask for example. It’s the supposedly common items that frequently bring me to despair. Some items are so common yet so hard to find I feel like this:

production company

I’m not sourcing Otter’s Tears, THIS SHOULDN’T BE SO DIFFICULT!


So, I needed to find a Red Yoga Mat for a commercial, six in fact. Red was key as it’s the main colour associated with the brand we were filming for. I could have guessed, not a single one would be found in ANY of the major sports retailers or specialist Yoga shops in Oxford Street. The closest I could find was a burgundy one in Lululemon but it had massive great Lululemon logo on it and thus, it was useless. My hands have already turned blue at this point from the weight of the other bags I’m carrying. The encouraging internal monologue which usually shouts “COME ON! YOU CAN DO THIS!” has started coming up with self sabotage plans. “Maybe you should just go back to the office and come up with a plan later?” I wandered aimlessly for a while, gradually warming to the idea that there was a conspiracy against me. Perhaps I’m on something like the Truman show and they like to cripple me in hilariously petty ways.
Finally I stumble upon my savior, a JD Sports where the shop assistant tells me that red isn’t really used for Yoga mats. Apparently it’s not very OM or Zen or something. Not very relaxing in other words. I guess it makes sense but I thought you were supposed to be able to push that stuff out of your mind with breathing or… Whatever.
I ended up finding something red-ish without a logo and we just fixed it in post. Magic.

Buying a gimp mask for a Granny.

So, we had a commercial job that involved getting a granny in a gimp suit. End of. I had to source it. Luckily I used to work in Soho and knew a book shop with a downstairs that would have just the thing. It needed to have a zip on the mouth as she needed to be able to eat pizza with it on. Don’t ask. Anyway, I get downstairs and brows the gimp mask section. I struggled for a while as there was so much variety, (seriously, Google “gimp mask”), yet none with a zip-mouth feature. I had to ask the cashier who found me one from the back room. I asked him what his return policy was as we were using it for a film but it might not get used and no, it’s not that type of film. 28 days he said and then indulged me in several stories of previous attempts to bring back used items. Brilliant.
Getting the actress in it is a different story for a different time.

These are just a few of the many hilarious situations being a runner has thrown me into. Tough or fun, my job is never boring and plus, it makes for great stories. Come back next time for more.