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From musician to video production manager: Opera North’s James Islip on the benefits of a varied career

  • reporter 

Students at Leeds Trinity University were today urged not to be discouraged from changing career paths.

 James Islip is a video production manager and previous director at Lumen Studios, and he is currently working at the Opera North Company managing their media online.

Speaking at Leeds Trinity University as part of Journalism and Media Week, he told students: “You shouldn’t define yourself by the job pays you.”

He said that this had given him the flexibility to be a drummer, a video production manager or even a plasterer.

James Islip got his start editing videos for his band That F**king Tank.

Islip said: “You have to create your own opportunities. You have to say yes to things.”

Islip recalled taking a job at a small museum and having that opportunity opened doors for him.

Since then he’s moved between careers. “If you’re unsure about what you want to do or having doubts about your chosen career path, I think a good way of exploring that is to try working in different mediums, different jobs.

“You’ll find there are parts that you really like and parts that you don’t. You’ll narrow it down.”

Islip works as a film projectionist at Hyde Park Cinema in Leeds and has been doing so for the last 10 years.

“You learn a lot of technical aspects such as aspect ratio, and also just by watching a lot of movies you pick up on different ways to film and edit,” he said.

Moving from filming a punk band to working for Opera North is not as different as it might seem, according to Islip. “There’s not much difference between filming different types of music. What’s similar between every project is that you have to find the right tone and the right message for each audience.”

In terms of a changing industry, James Islip praised the new technologies and software which make things easier, such as YouTube.

“YouTube is a great place for media production; my daughter watches this show on there and it’s terrible in terms of lighting and framing and such, but it gets millions of views!”

Many predict that the industry will continue to grow as online content becomes the main choice of media consumption for younger people.

James Islip has changed careers many times in his life and he is not alone; according to a survey by IBM, more than a quarter of employees were planning to change employers in 2021.

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