Britt Crowley is an independent Film Producer with an eclectic work background. She has lived and worked across America, the UK and China, and now lives in Australia. She recently won the BAFTA New Talent Award for producing, her shorts have been screened at Clermont Ferrand, Cannes Short Film Corner and and she has worked on an AACTA nominated drama series in Australia.
You can’t connect the dots looking forward you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something: your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. Because believing that the dots will connect down the road will give you the confidence to follow your heart, even when it leads you off the well worn path.
Steve Jobs, Stanford Commencement Address, 2005
This quote resonates with me because most people aren’t fortunate enough to know what they want to do, or they don’t have the perfect path to get them there. It is important to seek out jobs and opportunities whenever you can because you learn something from everything you do. When you finally reach where you want to be you will be wiser from those experiences and you will have some good stories to tell.
Here are my first five jobs:
1. I grew up in the United States and the working age in my state was fifteen years old. The day after my fifteenth birthday I started working as a lifeguard and swim instructor. I spent the next eight years teaching swimming lessons and lifeguarding after school, on the weekends and during summer holidays. I advanced to beach lifeguarding and managed a team of lifeguards. I also taught Lifeguard Training, CPR and First Aid for the American Red Cross. This job taught me about making schedules, managing people and what really constitutes life and death.
2. I worked in several areas of an upmarket department store. In addition to selling clothes, I measured women for bras, got high on fumes while painting fingernails for a promotion and also did some modelling. I eventually worked as a customer service representative where I was involved in loss prevention and handling the money for the entire store.
3. I have always been interested in entertainment. In school and university I danced, sang, wrote stories, played instruments and acted. I also love being where the action is. With these interests I was thrilled to work as an intern in New York on a national news magazine show. I loved the buzz of creating a daily show, but I wasn’t interested in the stories about which celebrities were dating. This experience taught me a lot about writing short pieces and working with editors. One of my duties was listening to the messages people left about show ideas. I remember one woman left a million messages requesting a segment about how Rottweilers were a misunderstood dog breed.
4. My boss from a previous job asked me to take a teaching contract in China. I love to travel and this sounded like a fantastic opportunity. So, after graduating from university I taught the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) at a university in China. Aside from the time when my boss was visiting, I was alone teaching large classes of Chinese students who wanted to do their Masters or PhDs in the United States. I could only say a few basic words and count in Chinese. It was very interesting to live in such a different culture and it taught me a lot about self reliance.
5. I was still really interested in film, but I didn’t live in New York or LA and I wasn’t sure how to get involved. One day I saw an open casting call looking for extras for a film that was shooting in my hometown. I went to the casting call and waited in a queue for the entire day. They called me back for two more auditions…to be an extra! I got the part. Then I found out this coveted role was a maggot! The movie was called The Ring and I was part of the featured cursed videotape. There were only ten of us (5 men/5 women) and because it was the only scene they were shooting that day, we got the undivided attention of everyone on set including the director Gore Verbinski. I was covered in mud and we were duplicated several times so it looks like there are a lot more of us than there were. I’d obviously impressed as a maggot because I was told to move to LA. Instead I moved to the UK to be with my British husband. I kept thinking about film and intended to find a way in. Years later I went to Screen Academy Scotland and studied producing.
We’ve asked professionals in creative industries what jobs they have had in the past to get their foot through the door (or at least pay the rent). For more in the “My First 5 Jobs” series look here.