From a Sunderland lecture theatre to Downton Abbey: Rebecca’s on a roll

Rebecca Heathcote

Published on 30 September 2019

With the new Downton Abbey film making millions at the cinema, a University of Sunderland graduate who helped make the hit TV series today revealed the secret of her success.

Rebecca Heathcote, 26, graduated from the University in 2014 and has since gone on to be involved in some of the biggest TV series’ and films of recent years.

Along with a team of others, Rebecca was nominated for an Emmy for her work on Watership Down in the ‘Outstanding Sound Editing for an Animated Programme’ category.

It was during her time as a student at the University that Rebecca’s career first took off when the crew from ITV’s Downton Abbey TV series came north to film at Alnwick Castle.

Rebecca, who studied Media Production at the University, said: “During Season 5 the film crews came to the Castle for the Christmas Special. They were looking for local crew to help and got in touch with the University who got in touch with me.

“I came on as a runner, and worked for the whole Alnwick shoot, before getting asked to work down in London for the remainder of the shoot.”

 “As a runner and assistant director I worked on Close to the Enemy, Broadchurch, River, Hetty Feather, and Wolfblood, along with several feature films.

“My career since then has changed considerably. I am now a Foley Artist working at Pinewood Studios Group within the Pinewood Creative Audio team on a whole range of TV, Films and Video Games including Radioactive, which has just premiered at TIFF and Watership Down, for which I was nominated for an Emmy earlier this year.”

A foley artist helps reproduce sound effects that are then added to films, videos, and other media in post-production to enhance audio quality. These reproduced sounds can be anything from the swishing of clothing and footsteps to squeaky doors and breaking glass.

 

Rebecca added: “Every day is different and exciting. I could be working on a 18th Century period drama with huge skirts and horse and carts one day, and a futuristic robot based video game the next.

“The job of a foley artist is hugely creative and performance based, so I get to connect creatively and emotionally with every project I work on, which is a real joy. Also my job is really fun.

“The other brilliant part of my job is getting to work collaboratively with some of the most talented, hardworking people in the industry. I get to learn from and work with two of the best foley artists in the industry- Pete Burgis and Zoe Freed, and there is a hugely talented team of foley mixers and editors I have the pleasure of working alongside too.” 

So, how did Rebecca, who now lives in London, find her programme at the University of Sunderland?

She said: “The course gave me a good grounding in general production and helped me to focus my area of study to find out which part of the film industry I was most interested in.

“The best part about studying were the opportunities to work on local films and TV shows. I worked on Bypass (2014), Electricity (2014), Vera, Harriets Army, Hyena (2014) and Downton Abbey, all whilst studying, and that all came about by doing lots of work experience and volunteering my time on as many professional projects as I could.”

“My advice to students hoping to get into the industry would be to turn up, try your best. Keep talking to people at the University who can get you those work experience placements and runner jobs, and once you get on set be the best, most enthusiastic runner they've ever had.”