In the spotlight: Film industry Buyer Terry Jones gives us some tricks of the trade

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This week our featured Production Buyer is Terry Jones. A connoisseur in her field Terry has been working within the industry since 1974 and started her career by completing an apprenticeship within the Props Department at London Weekend Television, which she later managed! Today Terry is found working on a combination of Film and TV productions, her recent favourite being the movie Paddington! She is also a member and Treasurer of the British Film Designers Guild.

Here Terry provides us with a unique insight into the industry:-

What 5 skills and abilities are required to be a successful Production Buyer?

  • Resourcefulness, think where to get props outside of the box.
  • Initiative, use it, it works.
  • Deadlines, they’re there, but don’t panic, it all works in the end, best not to have an accident.
  • Budget, especially nowadays, have a good spreadsheet that everyone can understand easily.
  • Good Eye, when the Set Decorator is under pressure, she/he will need the support of someone that understands where they are coming from.
  • Plus one extra – personality, that could win or lose that important ‘prop’. Never get arrogant!

When were you first aware of the Production Buyer role – How did you get into the industry?

In 1974, at London Weekend Television, via the Props Department. We had a Design Department, and a Production Buying Department, lots of ex film guys came to work there, and luckily, my ‘apprenticeship ‘ was with some very experienced people.

What relevant qualifications do you have or think would be relevant?

 Get a good mentor who is willing to pass on information. I was lucky; LWT did that. Qualifications, personally, I think it’s a lot do with the skills and abilities listed above.

What do you like most and least about the role?

I love that everyday is different, I get to work with some fantastic people (and some not so). Some of the talent blows me away with their artistry.

Least liked- the inexperience of lots of people, various departments, who haven’t come up through the ranks, expect respect, and then cause absolute panic due to their lack of knowledge. grrrrr!!

What has been your favourite production to work on? Do you prefer present day or period?

Don’t mind period or contemporary. I have worked on most genres now, so, can’t say, I love film, very hard, but so rewarding. Especially Paddington!

TV- has to be the 2nd World War dramas, sad, and so interesting to source. But also light entertainment – My favourite was working with Ron Moody on a Royal Variety Show and getting his Fagin Props, I was in my element!  The David Letterman Show as well in London – budget – no problem, I did lots of Royal Variety Shows. Just being in Theatres, yes, especially the smell of the greasepaint.

What is your favourite film and why?

Hmm, can I have a few: Apocalypse now, Oliver, When Harry met Sally,The Godfather 1 & 2,  Monsoon Wedding, oh I could go on…

A still from one of Terry's favourite films, Apocalypse Now

What has been the hardest prop you have had to source?

A clockwork mouse, that had to zig zag across a room.  It didn’t exist, so eventually I had to have it made. Absolute cheat, but hey this was in the 80’s, before the internet, you could most probably get dozens now. Oh, a specific camel for Peter O’Toole to ride into the studio, he could only use the type he had on Lawrence of Arabia.

The camel Terry had to source for Peter O'Toole

To see the clip of Peter O’toole arriving on his camel on Letterman, The Late Show London, click here

What advice would you give to your younger self?

Don’t be such a ‘know it all’ 😉