Lights! Camera! Action! Working as a location tutor

What does the role of location tutor involve?
I tutor child actors on film locations in order to keep their schoolwork up to dateTo be successful, it is essential to work with the production team and recognise that from their perspective you are creatively and commercially non-essential. Rather like the health and safety officer, you are there because the law demands it. In school, education is the name of the game. On film locations, it is the creative process that is important and the child or children you are teaching have signed up to that for the day, week or months that they are engaged for.

Which locations has your job taken you to?
I have worked in Madrid, Northern Spain, Bucharest, Prague, Isle of Mann, Luxembourg as well as various parts of the UK.

What were you doing previously?
I began my teaching career as a primary school teacher and over the years worked as a supply teacher in secondary schools and special schools. I’ve also run language classes for teens and adults so I am used to a wide range of ages and subjects, which is essential for this type of work.  I had been running a business from home for ten years before becoming a tutor which was useful as an understanding of commerce and business does help in my role. 

What skills are needed for the job?
There is no back-up, no syllabus and no one to ask. You have very little time to prepare and may be teaching up to twelve children at very short notice.. Being very self-motivated and able to work independently is essential. You have to improvise a lot of the time because the setting is very different to school and you may have to work anywhere with only the equipment you can carry.  The main thing is to be adaptable, flexible and reliable.

You also need to be able to negotiate with management, which is under pressure to get filming completed and to resist the pressure to compromise on school time. You are there to help film producers meet their legal obligations as well as ensure that the child’s educational needs are met. In doing this you are usually supported by the child’s legal chaperone who may also be the child’s parent or a professional chaperone that is responsible for ensuring that the minimum school hours are completed. It is also possible for the role of tutor and chaperone to be combined but generally they are kept separate.

What’s best about the job?
Teaching one-to-one can be very rewarding as children often get bored because there is a lot of hanging around: they are sometimes glad to do something familiar and interesting with a teacher.

The opportunity to work in some normally inaccessible locations is one of the fascinations of the job and goes a long way to compensate for the long periods of inactivity that happen whilst the child is on set and you are not needed. Of course there is always marking to do and work to prepare but nevertheless there are opportunities to go to wonderful places such as private homes and landscapes that the public never generally see.

There are famous faces around but, as a tutor, you will have very little to do with the actors other than those you are teaching. Essentially on a film, everyone gets on with their job and leaves others to do theirs.  

What’s worst about the job?
One of the worst aspects of this job is not knowing when you are going to work because children’s roles are often not confirmed until the last minute. You could be given a day’s notice or a week if filming is abroad.  Work is not guaranteed, so you have to be free and flexible and this works well if you are a retired teacher.  

What are the difficulties and how do you overcome them?
You may have  ten Y7 and Y8 children for two days or one thirteen-year-old for three months. The children’s school may be very supportive and send work for you to do with the child or you may have to provide it, so you have to have a range of resources ready for any eventuality. Sometimes a specialist subject teacher will need to brought in to cover certain areas.  On big child-oriented productions there may be a several teachers who cover the syllabus between them. It then becomes much more akin to teaching in school.

Who else should think about becoming a location tutor?
If you want to do something unusual that uses your teaching skills, it is certainly different. However, there is very little work available and
it’s is a job that you get by word of mouth. The best way to start is to find people who already work in the industry at any level and let them know you are interested. There may be a day when they need a teacher on set and nobody knows anyone but suddenly your contact remembers you.

Want to know more about alternative careers in education? Visit New career directions