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Matthew Mulligan: Freelancer of the Month

Can you share your journey in the film and TV industry, starting from your experience as a Runner on Game of Thrones to your current role as a Production Coordinator/Junior Production Manager?

Thrones was my first job in the industry. I had just moved back to Belfast after graduating from university in Liverpool. I responded to a crew call I found online, had an interview, and that’s how I got started for the next two years. Some of the team then moved on to other productions and asked if I would join them in the production office. That’s where it really took off. My network began to grow from that point onwards, and that same network helped me secure more work and continue to move up through the ranks.


What are some of the key responsibilities in your current role, and how do they contribute to the success of a production?

Permissions, and this aspect of my role is something I truly enjoy, whether it’s tracking down landowners, contributors, or copyright owners. It requires detective work, and you always get to meet some interesting characters along the way. Internet searches sometimes only get you so far, so it’s fun to pick up the phone. Obviously, if we don’t have the permissions, then we can’t film at a location or use the material – they’re essential to production and can be a monumental task depending on the nature of the show. But this is when it’s good to have the resources of the wider team.


What is the last project you worked on?

It was ‘Rick Stein’s Food Stories,’ produced by Shine TV for the BBC. My previous project before this was also a Rick Stein series with Shine TV. A really fun show to work on, and the team is amazing. Though small, the production and editorial teams work very closely together on this series, which is why I think it’s one of my favourites – everyone pitches in where needed. I learned a lot on these two shows, particularly because it was only my second venture into factual entertainment. The logistics for this show were all UK based but got very interesting, for example sourcing a hovercraft in Cumbria…


You’ve worked with notable clients like BBC or Icon Films. How do you manage client expectations and maintain strong working relationships?

The key to good client relationships, in my opinion, is communication. A client will remember a communication breakdown more than all the good work done. Therefore, if I see something starting to slip that could affect filming or delivery, I highlight it sooner rather than later, usually with a solution in hand if there’s one available. The alternative is waiting until it’s too late, which thankfully happens very rarely. It’s also important to preserve the relationship even after the project is finished. After all, your network can dry up if you don’t nurture it.

Shoot logistics and location scouting are crucial aspects of production. Can you walk us through your process for ensuring everything runs smoothly on shoot days?

For me, it’s just double and triple-checking everything, which sounds boring, but that’s the key to expecting the unexpected. Accommodation always seems to be the one that throws a curveball, but it’s easily avoided with a quick phone call the day before to confirm the booking. In addition, it’s important that everyone knows what we’re filming and where (‘it’s on the call-sheet’). So, making sure everyone has received and read the call sheet is a good way to ensure a smooth shoot day.

Reflecting on the last 3 years, could you shed light on the strategies and principles that have guided you through periods of uncertainty and disruption within the industry?

The industry is resilient; it always bounces back after tough periods, even though it might look a little different each time. These times can be especially difficult for freelancers navigating the uncertainty. However, having the ability to adapt to these changes is crucial. Finding new ways of working and continually developing our skillset to meet these challenges will help get us through.

You mentioned an interest in progressing your career into editorial roles such as an AP or Researcher. What steps are you taking to achieve this goal, and what excites you about these roles?

Currently, I’m nearing the end of a master’s degree in entertainment law. I’ve always loved working with the legal aspects of production, from contracts to clearances. I’ve enjoyed it so much that I’m pursuing a full-time career in this field with the long-term goal of qualifying as an entertainment lawyer as the legal sector has recently changed the route to qualification making it more accessible. But this exemplifies what’s great about the film and TV industry it provides the unique opportunity to try out different roles. You might start in production but discover your passion lies in the art department. That flexibility, I think, is an amazing selling point for our industry.

Do you prefer working remotely or in-house? What is your way of maintaining a healthy work-life balance when working from home?

I personally prefer a hybrid working model, be it a mix of working from home, in the office, or on location. I think remote working is great though, I’ve done a few projects that were fully remote, and they worked great. Remote working also has the advantage of offering up a much wider array of projects and opportunities for freelancers, it’s good for production companies too as it gives them access to much a wider talent pool.

What advice would you give to someone looking to start a career in film and TV production, particularly in roles similar to yours?

There’s certainly an element of chance involved in breaking into the industry. Newcomers may face fewer openings compared to other fields, simply because there are only so many productions happening at any one time. But perseverance is key! Contact production companies directly – many offer paid work placements, which are a fantastic way to get your foot in the door. ScreenSkills also has some amazing schemes like Trainee Finder, which I myself participated in early on. Finally, I can’t stress the importance of networking enough, especially for freelancers. Let people know you’re available and looking for work – the sooner you start building those connections, the better.

What do you enjoy doing in your free time outside of work? Are there any hobbies or interests that help you unwind and inspire your work in the film and TV industry?

When I’m not working, I love exploring my passion for photography. Weekends are a great time to grab the camera and go for a walk or drive. On shoots, I also quite enjoy working through selecting publicity stills. Sometimes, when the opportunity arises, and it’s allowed, I add a few of my own snaps to the mix. To further enhance my skills, I’m currently teaching myself how to use Adobe Lightroom. Who knows, maybe this new skill will come in handy on a future shoot!

How do you connect with other freelancers and engage with the freelance community in the film and TV industry? Are there any networks, groups, or events that you find particularly valuable for building professional relationships and staying informed about industry trends?

Maintaining a strong network involves both in-person and online connections. I try to see many of my contacts face-to-face; we meet up and stay in touch. But connecting with others can be done just as effectively online. Facebook, for example, has a ton of industry networking groups that frequently post crew calls and other opportunities. Additionally, organisations like the Production Guild, The Crewing Co, and Cine-Circle arrange invaluable get-togethers for freelancers. To stay on top of industry trends, I browse publications like The Hollywood Reporter, Televisual, Broadcast, and Deadline. While they can be heavy on jargon at times, it’s important to be aware of what’s happening at the top of the industry, as it inevitably trickles down to the set floor.

What is your dream project?

My ultimate dream is to see one of my own program pitches come to life. Until then, I particularly enjoy projects with international travel or complex logistical challenges. The more countries involved, the better! I get great enjoyment in planning how to get a team from A to B, especially when B could be somewhere super remote on the other side of the world. From researching the appropriate visas, vaccinations, flights, and forecasting the costs, I love the whole process. In fact, if I weren’t working in film and TV, I’d probably be working in the travel industry!


If you would like to see Matthew’s CV or work with him, please contact a member of the team here.