Gentleman Jack: How Leeds Centre of Screen Excellence took Yorkshire Dales student from 'pipe dream' to standing in for Suranne Jones on BBC show

Young people in Yorkshire are getting trained up for film and TV jobs on dramas like Gentleman Jack. The latest round of course applications is now open. John Blow reports.

Georgina Vaughan thought that getting a job in film and TV seemed “like a pipe dream”.

But having studied at Centre of Screen Excellence: Yorkshire (CoSE:Y), she has gone on to gain credits for productions such as Gentleman Jack, the Halifax-set BBC and HBO mega hit.

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She’s not alone, as two years on from the launch of the centre in Leeds in February 2020, the majority of its trainees have since found employment in the industry, with a many crediting the facility as being the gateway that led to their fledgling careers, says Screen Yorkshire.

Georgina Vaughan.

Applications are now open for five part-time training courses aimed at getting people aged 18 and above started in the film and television industry.

Courses which can still be applied for until March 14 include Lighting, Hair and Make-Up, Costume, Art Direction and Props, and My First Factual TV Job.

They will be will be delivered in partnership with University Centre Leeds and Keighley College and are taught by tutors specific to each craft subject, alongside “top-level industry practitioners”, through a combination of practical training in person, one-to-one tutorials, masterclasses and mentoring. A work experience module is also intended to be included in the programme, if Covid restrictions permit, which iss delivered with local industry partners including ITV and ProVision in Leeds.

Georgina, 24, who lives in the Yorkshire Dales and took part in a Production Assistant course, now has credits including upcoming feature film The Railway Children Return, Gentleman Jack (BBC), The Confessions of Frannie Langton (ITV) and Citadel (Amazon Studios). She says that with the guidance of her course leader, she “gained deep insights into the industry, learned actionable skills which were immediately applicable to my future roles, and forged a strong network of like-minded and creative professionals”.

Suranne Jones as Anne Lister in the BBC series Gentleman Jack, filming at Salts Mill in Saltaire. Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe.

It left her with “a new-found confidence and understanding which contributed to securing me roles on high profile film and TV productions”, she adds.

It was the second assistant director on The Railway Children Return, Chris Marshall, who asked if Georgina was free to work on the Gentleman Jack as a floor runner - and as a stand-in for lead actress Suranne Jones.

Earlier this year she told the ScreenSkills organisation: “It was quite weird but brilliant because my role as floor runner was looking after the talent, but then when I’m on set I was doubling for the talent, so the lighting and prop guys could set everything up for when Suranne returned to set.

“I actually learned a lot about things like lighting from the gaffers and sparks, including their unusual lingo, as they said things like, ‘Let’s get some chutney on this!’"

Matt Jas on lighting duties.

Nele Wöhlk, 25, is another former student who benefitted from the centre after being accepted on to the Grips course.

Since completing her CoSE:Y training in 2020, Nele has accumulated an impressive list of industry credits, including Chloe (BBC), Invasion (Apple TV+), Willow (Disney+), Sanditon (ITV), Am I Being Unreasonable? (BBC) and The Baby (HBO/Sky).

She says: “The ‘hands-on’ part of the course was invaluable. We had great training from experienced key grips David Holliday and David Cadwallader.

“Dave Holliday put me in touch with another female grip who passed me on to a job for two days on a commercial just after I finished my course and I’ve been working in the industry ever since.”

Nele Wöhlk.

Matt Jas, 36, who took part in the CoSE:Y Lighting Technician course last year, has also worked on The Railway Children Return and TV dramas Gentleman Jack, The Confessions of Frannie Langton, Wedding Season (Disney+) and Funny Girl.

CoSE:Y launched in partnership with the National Film and Television School to build a greater skilled workforce outside of London and the South East.

No previous film or TV experience is necessary for trainees, and CoSE:Y tries to address under-representation within the screen industries by encouraging people to apply whatever their background.

Prospective trainees should visit for full application details. The deadline has passed for the previously advertised Production Assistant course but is open until March 14 for all the others.

ScreenSkills is the the skills body for the UK’s screen industries, which founded Centre of Screen Excellence: Yorkshire, supported by the BFI (British Film Institute) with National Lottery funding.

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