Zet Roper-Blackman

Special Effects Technician

Zet's job title is Special Effects Technician at Artem

What I do

My job really is as broad as it sounds – I create things like wind, fire, rain, smoke, elemental stuff, and even explosives, but I also do stage props, theatre props and miniatures.

Picture of woman in editing software

How I became a technician

A typical day in my
working life

Because I work for a company, the office hours are 9am to 5pm. However, if you’re on a film or TV set, you can work 10 hours, so it can be a long day – it just depends. I think if you go into the job thinking you’ll start at nine and leave at five, this isn’t the case, because deadlines happen and things change, and you’ve just got to get the job done. I think my longest working day was about 16 hours. I’ve also done night shoots. It’s all a part of the wide variety that comes with this type of job.

A little more about
my everyday role

My favourite piece of eqiupment

We have to master everything from hand tools, power tools, machine tools, drill presses, pillar drills, circular saws, table saws, milling machines, angle grinders, lathes ... lots of things. It’s also good to be able to weld. I’ve got every bit of kit you can imagine. I have my own personal tools, but there are also tools within the company. It’s really handy, because there are so many tools and specialist pieces of equipment, you don’t know what you’ll need. I follow the mantra, if I use it three times, I buy it. The equipment I use the most are callipers, sander drills, hammers, sockets and spanners. These are the essential things that I use every day, so you could say they are my favourite.

The most exciting thing I’ve achieved so far in my job

We did the pyrotechnics and all the explosions for a TV show called Trigger Point. It involved blowing-up cars as part of the plot line. Because I was a trainee at the time, I was very much the ‘extra pair of hands’, so I only did the bits that were within my capabilities at the time and none of the decisions regarding the charges were up to me. The knowledge and training were done by very specialised ex-military and technical experts. There was a lot of testing involved, a lot of crawling around in old cars, drilling holes and plumbing them to explode, which was brilliant fun! For me, it was great that I could be among all this stuff, learn from it and experience it, but it still felt very safe.

The next steps in my career journey

My dream job would be doing something really varied. That’s also a skill and is valuable, because it means you’re versatile. I want to keep learning. There are many different ways I can go, so I could carry on being a technician, where I work with my hands and make things, or I could go towards being a designer, and spend more of my time using computers, computer-aided design (CAD), designing things, etc. I’m very much a hands-on person and I enjoy using machines and being on set, though.

My advice to
someone younger

A lot of people I work with have a ‘thing’ that they love … for some it’s cars, for others it’s bikes. Everyone has a ‘thing’ that they bring in after work and start fixing up and working on. So I’d say to a young person, have a passion and work at it, whether it’s fixing a bike or fixing a lawnmower, just get stuck in. Social media is probably a good way to follow other makers. So, reach out to people. The worst thing they’re going to do is just say no. In my workplace, they’re keen to take people on for work experience if they’re doing a course at university. They’ll just bring them in if they need spare hands. Just ask and see what happens.

What I do to relax

I fix things! I bought a tandem bike recently with a friend to fix up. I had to make a spare part for it, as it was a really weird design, but instead of buying it, I thought I would just make it. I have another bike I cut in half, which I’m going to weld back together. At the moment there are loads of bikes, but I just finished a typewriter, which I took apart, cleaned and put back together. I like to use all these things, and I like to write stuff.

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