The Centre for Business, Arts and Technology offers a range of primarily vocational courses in creative and entrepreneurial disciplines, working with local businesses and theatres to provide relevant experience for tomorrow’s actors, musicians and businesspeople.
Since his debut role in Spitting Image (1984), Herring has built an impressive filmography spanning from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (2005) to Prometheus (2012), the opening ceremony of the London Olympics to the latest Star Wars movies.
Delivering a talk to City and Islington College students, Herring discussed the modern film industry, sharing his own experiences on set and offering advice to the would-be actors, puppeteers, directors and writers in the audience.
“I grew up in theatre. I’m from Harlow in Essex and did a lot of local theatre there. It was something I had always wanted to do. I went to a local college and did a drama class, but didn’t get into drama school. I remember a teacher telling me my obsession with Star Wars wouldn’t get me anywhere in life. In the end, I kept chipping away at acting, taking on things like extra work before I realised I had to specialise.
“The film industry is brutal because you don’t know what’s coming up next. It’s hard if you’re not going to decide on which direction you want to take. I became a puppeteer and stuck at it.
“When Jurassic World came out, we thought that digital was going to take over from puppeteers. But actually, there’s been a big swing round as people recognise the difference between a real puppet and digital effects.”
Herring went on to walk his audience through the layers of the Star Wars set, showing the process of building a puppet up from a doodle on a napkin to a twenty-foot polystyrene model. Opening the conversation up to questions, it was apparent that discipline was central to succeeding in the role. Two months of training and choreography in some of the world’s most extreme climates could become a two second clip in the final cut.
Towards the end of the show, Brian was asked how he would advise somebody looking to get into the industry. He said: “There’s no one way in. The right place at the right time is important. Meeting people. Listening to people. Working out who is who. There are lots of courses that help people get in as trainees. When people start seeing you’re useful, you’ll be asked to come along to the next one. But it never comes to you. It’s never easy.
“The thing is, every single one of you has got the ability to write, edit, publish and broadcast a film in your pocket. The more films you make, the better you get at it. You’ll make a lot of rubbish in the beginning, but stick at it. It’s easier than ever to get the skills required to succeed in the film industry.”