15 June 2024 The Irish Film & Television Network

Irish Film and Television Network


Education / Training


Making the Cut

Making the Cut...Career Advice from transportation captain Michael Phelan
28 Mar 2013 : Dylan Newe
Michael on the 'Vikings' set with Gustav Skarsgard
The safe transit of Hollywood actors, directors and producers in addition to entire crews onto set, to varying locations and then back to hotels is sometimes a forgotten job on today’s film and TV set. However the complex and utterly essential task of this operation is handled regularly by transportation captain Michael Phelan.
No matter what you do remember, civility costs nothing! "

Over the course of his 25-year career, Michael has overseen the ferrying of cast and crew on major feature films such as Saving Private Ryan, Reign of Fire, King Arthur and PS, I Love You, making him one of the country’s best-known transportation people in the industry. Recently, Michael worked on the mammoth production of ‘Vikings’, where he was in charge of the transport of cast and crew as well as thousands of extras to the newly-built Ashford Studios in County Wicklow. In another IFTN exclusive, Michael talks to us for this weeks ‘Making the Cut’ about doing his job well, why you shouldn’t bother actors when driving and his motto for life.

If on an outside location or in a studio when working on film or TV as a transportation captain, my day begins with… making sure we are all on time! The one thing you can’t be in this industry is late! Our day relies heavily on the unit base being what we call ‘Up and Running’, this is where the facility driver’s come in. They are responsible for the smooth running of the base. The base is the center of preparation for our cast, it’s where our 2nd AD’s office is situated, it’s also where hair, make-up and costume truck’s are set up. It’s where catering would be set-up, so it’s also where we are fed! This is where we take the cast to be prepared by the departments for their day on set.

The most common misconception is that…A lot of people would think our job is easy. Like any job you must approach it as if it is easy! The easier you make it look it just means you’re good at it! The thing to remember no matter what you do, is to do it as well as you can and with a sense of responsibility towards the people who employ you. Like everything you are only as good as the last thing you did! Our job is to get people from A to B as safely and as quickly as the law allows.

Anybody thinking about working in Transportation in the Film Industry should first be able to drive!! You might have figured that bit already. An essential requirement is a Public Service Vehicle licence, this allows the driver to carry passengers for hire and reward. The next thing is a good alarm clock! Also and again it’s common sense, you have to know when the actor/passenger you pick up might want some peace and quiet; to learn line’s maybe or concentrate on the performance they have to deliver on the day and not be told about your wife’s Lumbago, or your adventure’s as a superhero from the previous night!

I have been helped along the way to get where I am in the industry by lot’s of people. Eamonn Murphy got me in to it in the first place, Karen Richards has been extremely helpful, Morgan O’Sullivan, James Flynn, Seamus McInerney…I could list names for a while but these are the people from the beginning who gave me my chance. I like to think that I’m doing something right to be still employed by them at this time.

There are load’s of things that I could list as being the best about this job…meeting the people involved, actors, directors, producers. I’ve been very lucky to have met some of the biggest and the best, from being on set on Saving Private Ryan to driving the late Richard Zanuck in London on ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’ and it’s been a great experience to now. Also seeing the fantastic locations we get to work on, the locations dept. do a great job finding these places. I have been on private estates on private beaches, places you would only ever pass on a plane away on your holidays without ever knowing they were there.

Again no matter what you do remember, civility costs nothing.. Best of luck

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