Action and Results: A Profile of Cody McCullough

FTM’s 20th Anniversary: 20 For the 20th – Reel Careers Profile Series

“This industry demands continuous learning, everyday you learn new skills and technologies…”

After growing up in small town Manitoba, Cody moved overseas for several years. He came back and went through the film programs at University of Manitoba earning a BA in Film, and began work in the film industry as an Assistant Director in 2012. He primarily works now as a 2nd Assistant Director (AD). In addition to set work he serves as the AD caucus representative for the DGC Manitoba District Council. He prides himself in thriving under the often times stressful and chaotic work environments that film sets can be.

When and how did you start in the media production industry?
I started working in the film industry in 2012. I had made short films in university but after graduation was seeking out employment in the film industry and through FTM had the opportunity to work as a director’s assistant on Curse of Chucky. The director gave me latitude to observe and see what departments I was interested in and the work AD’s do caught my eye. I spoke to the AD’s on that show about training with them and have worked with them since.

What area of the film industry do you work in now and why?
As a kid I liked building things. Tree-forts, Lego – almost anything. I saw the work the Assistant Director’s do as similar to these things. You take this idea the Director has and break it down into smaller, manageable parts, only to rebuild it all. I like having my hands and eyes on everything on set all at once.

What has been a substantial change in the industry since you started?
The amount of work coming to Manitoba. When I started you would do a production for 4 or 5 weeks and not know when you would be working again after wrap – accepting any work coming your way. Productions now are longer, bigger, and you find yourself saying no to job offers more so than accepting them.

If you could give yourself advice today to yourself in the past, what would it be?
You don’t have to say yes to everything. Learning to say no is just as important.

How did taking FTM training affect your career?
I walked in the doors of FTM to try and find work and spoke to Allison Bile who was managing FTM’s work experience program. She handed off my resume to the first production I worked for. Speaking to the AD’s on that show and with Allison afterwards I became an FTM intern in the AD department. But the training doesn’t stop once you get your foot in the door and have continuous work. On my most recent show I was again mentored through the FTM skills upgrade in a higher position. This industry demands continuous learning, everyday you learn new skills and technologies, and encounter new and different problems to troubleshoot.

What is advice you would give to someone starting off in the media production industry?
Don’t become flustered by the way this industry works. The life of a freelancer going from one gig to the next – with no guarantee of another job – is a scary proposition. But if you try hard and prove that you are worth hiring, you will get succeed.

What are some of the films, TV series or even books that have inspired you? How about anything new you’ve been into?
I remember watching Jurassic Park for the first time and being blown away. How did they even make this movie? That was definitely one of the more formative movies I watched when I was younger. And The Simpsons has shaped my worldview more than it probably should have.

Is there something about you or an interesting past experience that you’d like to share with your colleagues?
Most people already know this about me, but most forget that I was a school-teacher in China for two years right after high school.

Is there a film technician or filmmaker that you would really like to work with and why?
I think it would be cool to meet/work with Wong Kar Wai. Chungking Express is, to me, almost a perfect movie. It would be super interesting to see his film making process – even if I feel as an AD he might drive me up the wall. But that would be the interesting part – would his process be like I imagine it to be or something entirely different?

Where do you see yourself in ten years from now?
Hopefully taking a little more time off than I do now. As much as I enjoy working, you need to balance your life, and that’s something I have to work on. That or I could just go work on a skiing movie, that’d be cool too.