We have been speaking to some entrepreneurs of Ayrshire – many of them former Ayrshire College students – to hear all about their businesses, but more importantly to find out how they got started.
The ‘Our Ayrshire Entrepreneurs’ series will shed some light on what’s involved in setting up a business, the challenges and rewards that come with going it alone, and what our interviewees have planned for the future.
Former student Eileen Frater set up Prancing Jack Productions. It’s is an Ayrshire Film and Video production company specialising in documentaries, wedding, music videos, short films, awareness, educational and promotional films.
You can view her show reels here http://prancingjack.co.uk/
For many years Eileen worked for the Scottish Agricultural College, managing four of their learning centres. After being made redundant, she considered returning to education, but was apprehensive about taking that big step. Instead, she started working for Ayr College in the student funding team. While she was there, she was encouraged to apply for a performing arts course. It was a good choice and she never looked back.
After College, she went to university and became the very first person to graduate with a First Class Honours in Contemporary Screen Acting at UWS. She directed, filmed and edited the Auchincruive documentary for her final year and this gained her the Best Creative Project for her year in 2012.
During her years at university, Eileen discovered that her skills were better served behind the camera and in front of her MAC editing. In 2013 Eileen decided to give up her full time job and to ‘take the plunge,’ and start to develop Prancing Jack Productions into the commercial film business it is today. The business name comes from her Jack Russell dog – Thai.
Here is Eileen’s story…
College was just great fun! I received so much support and was encouraged to take every opportunity that came along. This is where I picked up a camera for the first time and filmed student projects. At that point, I could not have imagined this would lead me to starting my own film production company.
I made this short film reflecting on my time at College and how it inspired me to start my own business.
My first commission was from East Ayrshire Council to follow the Stewarton Academy Brass Band for a year. This led to many more commissions with brass bands and other music and arts projects around Scotland. Word of mouth has been the best way to develop my business. Networking is also key to building a successful business. I use a lot of freelance actors and crew and a vital part of my business is knowing who I can rely on or who has the skills I need for a particular project.
Business has been booming and sometimes I have to turn down projects as I don’t have the resource to meet the demand. There is a big demand for making a film to show as evidence for funded projects. Examples include the Moving on Ayrshire, Big Lottery projects and Ayrshire Sportability. I have enjoyed showing how film can tell the story of the charity.
I think what is unique about my business is me! I am easily able to gain the trust and confidence of the people I am filming, so that they relax in front of the camera. By doing this, I get the best out of them. I know what shots to do to make something look good. I learn by doing, practicing it over and over, so it becomes second nature. It means I can focus on being creative and achieving the best outcome for my clients. I love what I do. I’m passionate about it, and totally immerse myself in all my projects. I also love learning and this energises me and drives me to continuously improve.
The opportunities in my business are raising awareness of how film is the best medium to tell a story and how we can use social media to amplify their message. I can help people reach a wider audience.
The main challenge is to remember my worth and cost a job so that it covers my time. In this industry you feel you have to justify your prices, so I have to be confident when I present my quote to a client, that it represents good value and is of high quality.
The other challenge is keeping up with technology. Learning digital skills is essential for my business to thrive. My daughter helps with this through her business Bat an Eye Productions.
My next project is about learning to use augmented reality so that I can add value to my film productions. I want to know how to do this well, what are the pitfalls, who is using this to great effect and how can I develop my business to offer this new process?
So here is my exciting plan for the future. I am going to live on Barra for a year – housesitting. I am going to make a documentary film about my year on the island. The culmination of this will be an innovative memory gallery – a week-long exhibition in May 2019. The theme is sand, sea and sky. I will be working with artists and musicians from Ayrshire who want to link with Barra. We will be telling the stories of the people who live there. It will be an inter-generational project, helping the islanders to tell their stories through film, art and music. What’s unique, is that I will be using augmented reality to bring the stories to life.
I want to enhance my storytelling skills using film, learn how to engage with the local community and encourage buy in and enthusiasm for my exhibition. I will be helping to develop the skills and talents of students by providing a paid placement to help me curate this exhibition in May.
It’s important to keep learning, keep innovating, to drive business growth. I am really excited about my Barra project. The adventure starts this month. You can follow my progress on my website.
The website for the Barra adventures is http://www.roadtobarra.com
Prancing Jack Productions is seeking funding through the Scottish Funding Council’s Innovation Voucher Fund to help them develop their business by using augmented reality.
This fund gives sole traders and public limited companies the opportunity to access knowledge and support that could help to make their innovative idea a reality.
Do you have any innovative ideas that you would like to explore with Ayrshire College? Get in touch with our Director for Industry Programmes firstname.lastname@example.org.