David Bowes, Production Designer

David Bowes, Production Designer

What was your path into film and TV

After leaving Batley College in 1990, there were not many openings up here at the time so I used to save up my dole money and go knocking on doors around London. Fortunately, on my third visit, I got a job as a runner at Limelight, who were then the leading promos and commercials company around. Over 18 months, I got to know all the producers well so when it came time to move on, a lovely producer called Kate Sylvester stuck me on her next promo, ‘No Limits’ by 2 -Unlimited (which went to No.1 I think) as Art Dept Asst. That had been my aim after leaving College. Ten years in London was a fantastic grounding for me working in Art Depts on promos, commercials, drama and features being trained by some great names. Eventually, I was able to move back up home as the industry up here was and still is burgeoning.

Over recent years, I’ve worked on Yorkshire based projects including Ackley Bridge, Swallows & Amazons, The Selfish Giant (both features), Happy Valley and Eternal Law.

Tell us about any particular career highlights

This industry is such an unusual way to earn a living that there are probably too many particular highlights to remember. I’ve been very lucky to learn from people such as Gavin Bocquet, Keith Pain, Michael Winterbottom, Slawomir Idziak and Martyn John amongst others. I still love how we go from a conversation to an idea to a drawing to seeing construction, scenics and Set Decs turn that idea into a set. That is unbeatable. Just working in this industry is a privilege. It’s unique, you get paid for enjoying life, creating entertainment and not having to wear a suit! A lot of industries are important but I believe that what we do is just as important as people need to be entertained. This is especially so with events such as we have experienced over the past year.

What are some notable challenges that you have overcome during your career in the industry?

The biggest challenge in any freelance occupation is self belief. This industry will toughen up your self belief and decision making and that will extend in to life itself. That then extends again to practical challenges on any job from meeting deadlines that initially make your heart sink to designing and building huge working spinning mules from scratch for The Mill to making a small budget on The Selfish Giant look double what it actually was. To be honest, that is the challenge with every Art budget, to box clever, converse, storyboard and construct and dress only what the camera will see so the money is on the screen and not wasted.

Do you have any advice for people starting out in the industry?

Patience and perseverance! The journey is probably far more fun than the destination. If you want longevity in this game, take your time, learn as much as you can and enjoy. It’s a special industry, a creative industry and a hard but rewarding industry up there with music and fashion. I fulfilled every role on my way up from teaboy, to drafting, to being on camera so that by the time I was art directing, supervising art directing and then designing, I had the experience. I know what problems my department and other departments including Production can come up against when filming so we can always find the right solution. Also, you can party more when you’re an assistant – you can’t really get away with it as a head of department!!

Have you noticed any recent positive changes in the industry, specifically in the region?

Yes, our industry up here has grown comprehensively and sensibly. I had to start by going down to London – that’s not the case nowadays. People within the industry have grown accordingly and are as accomplished as anywhere else and it is something that this region is rightly very proud of. I hope it continues to grow. I have had emails from London production companies stating how thrilled they were with how well jobs went, how easy it was to get around, how talented the crew were and how nice people were. None of that surprises me as I’ve always said that we can fulfil any requirement up here with assurance. It’s great to see Yorkshire increasingly considered as a first option for filming.

What do you love about working in Yorkshire?

Where do you start? It’s God’s Own County, the biggest in the country and it’s my home. The people here have a lovely attitude to filming, easy going. We have modern cities, historic cities, the most stunning countryside surrounding those cities and a great coastline all within easy reach. This along with talented crews satisfies every film-makers requirements. I have enjoyed filming all over, both here and abroad but I love the “can-do” attitude – no fuss, no drama, would you like a cup of tea?

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    Olivia Thomas, Film Office Co-ordinator

    Olivia is the first point of call for Screen Yorkshire's Crew Service. She is part of the Film Office team and advises on filming enquiries, including locations, crew, facilities and permitting and also maintains our film locations and crew and facilities databases.