#FilmMajorFriday: I Survived My First (Production) Runner Job

From Wednesday, July 6 to Monday, July 11, 2016, I received the opportunity to be a runner for Rogan Productions for a documentary they are producing about the daily life in a gun shop in Battle Creek, Michigan called Freedom Firearms.

You only see the extremes on TV, i.e. people who are super pro-gun, people who are super anti-gun, and the mass shootings. You never see normal, everyday people that practice gun safety and use guns for things such as hunting and protection, so this documentary aims to show that middle ground. Rogan Productions is based in London, and guns aren’t allowed in the UK, so this is all quite fascinating for them.


When I received the job offer, my first initial thought was of the movie The Devil Wears Prada when Anne Hathaway’s character Andy was basically a slave to Miranda (Meryl Streep) and had to cater to her every need. That’s basically what a runner is. You assist the director and producer by doing miscellaneous tasks, as well as do things like getting coffee and lunch. This was my first runner job for a major production, so I was REALLY nervous!

However, my experience was nothing like Andy’s from the movie at all! I feel like I got lucky with it being a smaller, more independent company, on top of the fact that the crew was very small and that this was for a UK documentary, not a major feature Hollywood film. Had I been a runner for Marvel’s upcoming Black Panther movie or something like that, I’m sure the experience would have been much more intense.

However, it still wasn’t easy! I worked 10-12 hour days every single day during that week. I had to write down and consent every single person that walked into the gun shop, along with detailed descriptions. I was responsible for picking up lunches and Starbucks. The most technical thing I probably got to do was change the batteries in the microphones and mic the employees of the gun shop.

The first two days were rough because I’ve become complacent with my little 5-hour shifts, 3 days a week at my part-time job where I pretty much sit at a desk all day unless we’re out shooting a video. So going from that to literally being on my feet from 9am-8pm (and sometimes longer) every day for 6 days straight was exhausting! However, as the days went on, I got used to the long hours.

The crew was amazing, and it was a fun experience working with the British! They’re such lovely, nice people. Plus, I could listen to their accents ALL day. The gun shop staff were also really cool and very knowledgeable about firearms. You could tell that they are passionate about what they do. The free food and Starbucks everyday was nice as well!

image2 2I even got to shoot for the first time ever! It was quite the experience. I might even go back and get my CPL (concealed pistol license).

This experience definitely reminded me why I love documentary films, and reassured me that I’m in the right field. I learned so much about documentary film production, and what it takes to make it to the top.

Additionally, before this experience, I was kind of anti-guns and didn’t want anything to do with them. All you see in the media is the harm that guns do, but you never see anything about the normal, day-to-day people who use guns wisely and practice gun safety, which is what this documentary is about. This experience gave me a different perspective on guns, and how the media really distorts and puts a negative stigma on guns even though 90% of gun owners use guns wisely.

THIS is why I love documentary filmmaking. It allows you to gain unique learning experiences, opens your mind to different viewpoints, and you learn perspectives that are different than your own.

I expect to be directing/producing my own documentaries by the age of 30, if not sooner. I know that’s a stretch, but I can do it. I can only go up from here! I’m thankful for having this opportunity, and I know that there’s much more to come. This is only the beginning.


Published by

Tirrea Billings

Tirrea Billings is a native of Saginaw, Michigan, and is the epitome of #BlackGirlMagic with a love for writing and documentary filmmaking. Her life goal is to be the change that the film industry needs: more women and more people of color. She is a keen activist, and writes about issues and social injustice within the Black community. In her spare time, she is a cheer coach, yoga connoisseur, and a believer of supporting organic, locally sourced foods. Motto: Fear the girl with the smell of coffee on her lips, and dresses well on Mondays.

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