19 April 2024 The Irish Film & Television Network

Irish Film and Television Network


Education / Training


Making the Cut

Making the Cut– writer/director/editor Dave Thorpe
20 Jan 2015 : Seán Brosnan
Dave Thorpe learned his trade at DKIT
As part of our Making the Cut series, IFTN profiles some of the countries most accomplished young graduates of the past few years to find out more about the places they first cut their teeth in the industry.

Dave Thorpe is an editor, writer and director currently editing RTÉ kids’ series ‘Spooky Stakeout’ whilst also writing his first feature film – which he plans to direct.

Here, Dave talks to IFTN about his experiences at the Dundalk Institute of Technology.

IFTN: How did DKIT prepare you for your career in film?

Dave Thorpe:‘It was a brilliant introduction to filmmaking, and covered modules on everything you needed to know. Before I started the course I had no filmmaking experience at all really, but I knew that filmmaking was what I wanted to do. The course was a great way to gain skills in different areas and discover which aspects of filmmaking appealed to me the most. Some of which were areas I never knew I’d have an interest in until I tried it out in college. That was the benefit of the course being as broad as it is - giving students the opportunity to learn what they like and what they don’t like. Along with the skills you gain, I think an important part of doing the course is meeting like-minded people and establishing friendships and working relationships that will continue when you all graduate. People often label filmmaking with the “it’s who you know” tag in terms of establishing a career, and doing a filmmaking course is a good way of gaining those contacts if you, like me, don’t know anybody in the industry beforehand.’

Were you offered practical experience/work placement as part of your course? If so, how did it benefit you?

‘Outside of class time there are practical experience opportunities through DKIT’s societies and the occasional job that would pop up looking for students, so the amount of practical experience each student gets can vary depending on how much they pursue it in their time in the college. However, in the fourth year of the course there is a compulsory work placement programme. It’s a great way to prepare for finishing college and to get a sense of how the workplace actually operates as well as meeting people working in the industry and learning from them. In college, although you are gaining new skills all the time, it’s not until you do the work placement that you get a sense of how those skills will serve you outside of your college assignments. You’ll also have some experience on your CV before you even graduate which is great. I would also say that again it’s a way of discovering what you like and don’t like which is what college is all about.’

How did you make the transition from education to paid employment?

‘I took some time out to travel when I finished college, but while abroad I kept scriptwriting regularly. When I got back to Ireland I made short films independently to improve my skills and then I decided to further my education by doing a Masters in Screenwriting in NUI Galway. A lot of the scripts I was writing, I decided to make as short films and regularly shooting and editing had me constantly gaining experience. This led to bits and pieces of paid work, often also working with contacts I’d made through college. I then interned at Tailored Films for a while and now I’m the full time, in-house editor there. I suppose the transition was just that I kept working to the same level I did in college. So I didn’t stop and put filmmaking on hold at any point. Work leads to more work and eventually this had me earning money.’

What areas in training for film/TV production do you feel are lacking overall in Ireland? How can improvements be made?

‘There are more and more college courses in filmmaking popping up in recent years, and places like Galway Film Centre, Filmbase and Screen Training Ireland run some great short-term training courses. I wouldn’t even be aware of all the courses available now because there really are a lot of options, so I don’t think there’s anything lacking in that sense. But I do think with film in particular, it’s difficult to know how to get a job. From my experience, career guidance counselors in college or FÁS don’t seem to have any suggestions on the best way to get a job when you have all the college experience under your belt. This can put a lot of stress on film school graduates, and understandably a lot pursue other careers because of this. I think everyone in the film industry is aware of this lack of clarity for graduates and I would like to see film courses and places like Filmbase take a more active role in helping these young people know the direction of their career ladder. That small bit of extra support for graduates could have a great outcome on the industry as a whole.’

What are you currently working on and what plans do you have for the future?

‘I have just finished editing an RTÉ kids series called ‘Spooky Stakeout’, which will be airing on elev8 in March. I’ve also recently finished my latest short film ‘BedBug’ which won the Judges Award at Clones Film Festival and will be screening that at more film festivals throughout 2015. My main plan is simply to keep busy pursuing bigger and better projects in film. I am also writing a feature script, and so the plan is to work more on that at the moment.’

Have you any further advice for anyone wishing to get into TV and film production in Ireland?

‘Don’t procrastinate, whether you choose to study film in college or not. Work as much as you can and keep at it, it will not only improve your filmmaking skills but also your confidence in your own work. If you only do it occasionally then filmmaking will become your hobby, not your career. If you keep at it, it will become both. There are a lot of online communities such as Vimeo, FilmmakersNetwork.ie and various Facebook groups that are full of people willing to help each other out on their own passion projects. Getting involved as much as you can, as soon as you can, and continuing to do so is about the best advice I can offer.’

IFTA Q&A Series: Joanne O’Brien on Costume Design
IFTA Q&A Series: Eleanor Bowman on Cinematography
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