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Becoming an Electrician/Spark in the UK


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#1 Sam Care

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Posted 04 November 2005 - 01:01 PM

I am based in London and am interested in training to be a Lighting Electrician/Spark. I have heard that most people starting out work at a lighting rental company for a few years while taking a part-time electricians course to get the relevant qualifications. Firstly I was wondering if there are any specific film electrician qualifications which you need to become a Spark in the UK, how long they take to get and where the best places to get them in London are? I was wondering if anyone knew of any other routes to become a professional spark? For example if you have an electrician?s degree do Gaffers ever take on apprentices with some experience in smaller productions and train them? I am looking to work my way up in the lighting department to eventually become a Gaffer/Chief Electrician and maybe one day a DOP. Does anyone have any info about the implications of this route in the UK film industry? In other words do Gaffers in the UK often step up to become DP?s or is that more common in the US?

I would appreciate any information or advice.

Sam.
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#2 Tomas Koolhaas

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Posted 04 November 2005 - 03:31 PM

Hi Sam,
To be honest I dont know what the UK industry is like because I am based in LA, I am a DP, and have gaffed and been a spark on a few shoots- imbetween DPing- mainly for the extra money but also for the experience.
As far as I know none of the guys I have ever sparked or gaffed with have any type of degree in electrics.
I would say that you can pretty much pick up all you need to know on the subject just by starting of as an electrician on smaller projects and if you have a good friendly gaffer who is willing to teach you as you go along (and reading lots of books on the technicals of it helps a lot too). As I said this seems to be the case in LA and this is strictly non-union (I have no idea what union requirements are, it may even be a degree) jobs I am reffering to. It may well be a very different case in the UK as it seems people are less willing to give you a chance to learn out there without having paid some sort of dues already (I am from London too, and that's one of the reasons I came to America). Also, I would say that gaffing is definately a good way to get into DPing, for me it seems to be a better base of knowledge than ACing to DPing, and when I am not shooting I preffer to Gaff way more than AC as I feel I learn a lot more from working to create different lighting scenarios with different DPs than I would loading mags or pulling focus etc.. (thats not to denigrate the work of ACs in any way, who I respect and rely on every time I shoot).
Good Luck.
Cheers.
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#3 Stuart Brereton

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Posted 04 November 2005 - 05:40 PM

Sam,

I believe that the qualification you need is the City & Guilds Certificate in Electrial Skills (Supply & Distribution) You can get this part time at many local colleges. I could be wrong, so anyone that knows better, please correct me.

Tomas,

It used to be the way you describe over here, too. A few years ago new legislation was brought in which meant that even sparks with 30 years experience suddenly had to get a qualification. It's probably not a bad thing, but I can imagine that it upset a few people at the time.
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#4 Stuart Brereton

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Posted 05 November 2005 - 10:05 AM

I'm going to correct myself here; the qualification needed is actually City & Guilds 2330 Certificate in Electrotechnical Technology. There's a load more info on the Skillset website.
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#5 Adam Frisch FSF

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Posted 05 November 2005 - 10:10 PM

Yes, Stuart. You can get that part time and even on evening courses. In the long run it will be a nescessity, but you don't have to have the certificate to be a spark. Some sparks have it, but many do not, as I've understood it.

A good place to start is, as you suggested, prepping lights at a rental facility like AFM Lighting, Arri Focus or Lee. From there you'll most certainly be able to get on some jobs quite quick. Especially in the UK where the producers tend to ask me "will you be alright with just five sparks?" on a job that has two lights all in all...

:P
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#6 Stuart Brereton

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Posted 08 November 2005 - 09:02 AM

There are probably many sparks, particularly guys that have been in the industry for years that don't have any Electrical qualifications. However, it is getting very difficult to find work without being a qualified electrician. It's not that a lighting spark necessarily needs the full skillset of an electrician, it's that insurance companies demand it when covering for Public Liability.
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#7 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 08 November 2005 - 03:54 PM

"Electrotechnical Technology".

Clearly a phrase from "how to be redundant in English". What next, coffee-flavoured espresso?

Phil
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#8 Stuart Brereton

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Posted 11 November 2005 - 01:58 PM

Careful Phil, those nuts may contain traces of nuts...
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Gamma Ray Digital Inc

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Rig Wheels Passport

Wooden Camera