My Career: From Star Wars to James Bond to Peter Pan panto!

In our My Career, in Women on Wednesday, Amanda Ferriter tells us about her work in film and theatre
My Career: From Star Wars to James Bond to Peter Pan panto!
Amanda Ferriter

Amanda Ferriter, film and theatre worker tells us about her career

Name: Amanda Ferriter

Age: 35

Lives: Ballincollig

Job title: I work in both film and theatre so it changes regularly! I’m currently the Stage Manager for Cork Opera House’s panto Peter Pan. In film and TV, my job varies between travel / shipping and transport.

Coordinator Salary bracket: Varies between disciplines but generally €25,000+ for theatre and €40,000+ for film.

Education background: Theatre Production & Design, Coláiste Stiofáin Naofa (2004). Event Management, Fitzwilliam Institute (2006). Film and TV Production, St John’s College (2010).

Hobbies: Photography, arts & crafts, reading, travelling.

Describe your job in five words: Rewarding, demanding, unpredictable, creative, exciting.

Describe yourself in five words: Adaptable, dedicated, kind, passionate, quirky!

Personality needed for this kind of work? For both theatre and film, being approachable and accountable are necessary personality traits to have. Along with this, being calm and able to work under high pressure is a must. Having the ability to multi-task is essential also. Additionally, a good sense of humour is helpful when it gets stressful!

How long are you doing this job? I’ve been working in theatre since 2004 and film since 2010.

How did you get this job? I’ve always loved the arts but my first experience in the event/entertainment industry was through the Form & Fusion competition that started in Ballincollig Community School. I both participated in the competition and volunteered on the event in subsequent years.

After attending Coláiste Stiofáin Naofa from 2003-2004, my first professional job was in Cork Opera House on Man Of La Mancha.

From here, I started working as stage crew while also stage managing various shows for COH and I stayed as a regular crew member for more than 10 years. I also worked on numerous independent productions and toured extensively around Ireland.

In 2009, after a trip to see the filming locations of Lord of the Rings in New Zealand, I decided to go back to college to study film. I started producing award-winning short films and from the contacts I made through these, I started working on feature films, both local and international. These included Let Us Prey, The Young Offenders movie and a Hallmark Christmas movie.

This experience led to working on Star Wars, The Last Jedi in Kerry for three months in 2016 which exposed me to extremely experienced international crew and contacts.

After Star Wars and working away from home for most of that year, I was offered work on that year’s Cork Opera House pantomime Cinderella as Stage Manager and I jumped at the chance to return.

I was then offered the stage management position for their summer musical Annie and the following year’s Panto Snow White in 2017.

In 2018, I was hired as a Travel and Shipping Coordinator by Netflix for the upcoming Messiah series where I was based in Jordan for five months.

Earlier this year, after returning from Jordan, I was hired as the Transport Coordinator for James Bond film No Time To Die and spent just over three months in Jamaica. Four days after returning home from that, I flew to Tallinn, Estonia, to work again as Transport Coordinator on the new Christopher Nolan film Tenet.

During this time, I was offered the position of Stage Manager on Peter Pan which I gladly accepted because of the amazing cast, crew and creative teams involved.

Do you need particular qualifications or experience? For anyone interested in this kind of career, I would definitely recommend trying a course to give yourself a fundamental knowledge of how the industries work.

On stage/set experience is a must, however, to further that knowledge and to see it all in practice. What you gain in a real world situation is extremely valuable which you can then apply to your own work.

Describe a day at work: For Peter Pan, I am normally in the theatre 90 minutes before the start of the show. I check the stage and ensure it is ready for the physical warm up. I touch base with the cast and crew and ensure all the pre-show checks are completed.

If there are any notes to be distributed from the previous performance, I talk to those involved and fix any technical issues with the crew. I communicate with the House Department to open the house and receive clearance to start the show.

Five minutes before the show is due to start, I put the full company on standby, which includes all the cast, crew, musicians and technical team. For Peter Pan, this includes 26 crew and 27 cast per show.

During the show, I am responsible for calling all the lighting cues and scene changes. I do this by following the script, called the Prompt Book, and communicate with the technical teams through a headset while the crew have ‘standby lights’ for scene changes. I take notes for each show and send a report on each performance to the creative and technical teams.

Essentially, once the show is open, I am responsible for overseeing the show and its consistency for each performance.

How many hours do you work a week? For theatre shows, rehearsals are usually eight hours a day, six days a week.

With technical rehearsals, hours are longer and can be up to 70+ hrs for one week. In show conditions, it depends on how many shows are on each week but generally 48 hours a week.

In film, the standard work day is 12 hours each day.

This can usually increase to 13 hours+ per day however and can regularly be a six day week.

What do you wear to work? For theatre, it is a requirement to wear black clothing so when you are moving around back stage, you cannot be seen by the audience.

For film, I work from an office or an office trailer and the dress code is casual and weather appropriate.

Is your industry male or female dominated? While it is male dominated, over the last 10 years there has definitely been an improvement in the overall balance, with females being hired for more technical roles and not just office-based roles.

Does this affect you in any particular way? Not particularly as I am lucky to work with people who value and respect a balanced environment.

Is your job stressful? How? Rate it on a scale of 1-10: On a scale of 1-10, can I pick 11?!

It can be very stressful as there are always numerous deadlines to be met and both industries require a very fast paced completion of a large volume of work.

It’s not all stress, however, as the people I work with make all the difference and the sense of achievement is very rewarding.

Do you work with others or on your own? It’s a bit of both and depends on the role. As a Stage Manager and in the transport departments in film, it is very much a team but with definitive roles. As a Travel Coordinator, I work on my own while reporting to the Production Manager.

When do you plan to retire or give up working? I haven’t given much thought to this yet to be honest, I would like to keep working and experiencing the world for as long as I can!

Best bits: The people, travelling, learning about new cultures, watching the finished product.

Worst bits: The long hours and the stress. Missing family and friends’ occasions.

Advice to those who want your job? Neither theatre nor film are easy career choices. You need to be dedicated and if it is something that you definitely want to pursue, work hard and try not to lose faith between jobs.

Early on in your career, be willing to step in to take on any tasks presented to you to gain as much experience as you can.

The hours are long and exhausting so it is essential to take care of yourself both mentally and physically.

Both theatre and film are extremely rewarding however and there is a great sense of achievement and also pride in being part of something that provides a lot of enjoyment.

Peter Pan runs at Cork Opera House until Sunday, January 19. Tickets €27.50, €33 & €35 | Family Pass €90-€120.

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