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The eyes of a director with Michael James Gallivan

"Being the best version of yourself, doesn’t mean being tired, rundown, vulnerable, moody and depressed.

A little bit of self-care is so important."

Michael Gallivan has been working in the industry for decades and strived for every single step he took in his career. He's known for being incredibly personable, funny, straight-forward, talented, and honest and he's been kind enough to give us a few minutes of his time to answer some questions for us.


Michael Gallivan



Career highlight thus far?

Directing 10 episodes of the kid show during a global pandemic. Big Fat Like 👍 CBeebies

Can you tell us about a difficultly you’ve faced in your career and how you managed to overcome it both literally and mentally?

Firstly, I think it’s important to indicate that every single day I am on a film set or in the Production Office doing my prep I learn. You learn something every day whether it’s pacific work techniques that you’ve never used before a CGI green screen or even social skills that you must adapt to. You do learn every day and it’s important that you do that.

Working in this industry can be amazing, but it can also be suffocating with lots of pressure. You are surrounded by a lot of people that you would never encounter. From an early age within my career, I always knew that I had to be myself as long, as I wasn't disrespecting anybody else and being true to myself. I always thought that was the best thing.

Learning to walk away from any toxic environment and understand that not everybody has the best interests for you. You can’t choose your family and sometimes you can’t choose the crew that you work with, but if you are respectful, that’s the best way. Be the best you

How long have you been doing what you do?

I’m getting on, so well over 20 years now

How did you start doing your job?

I know how difficult it is to get work experience due to insurance and all that jazz. My dad was helping doing some work for a show called The Royal and they were doing some filming caving, I had just come back from Italy, and I just finished university and didn't have a job and my dad said come and help, hand out some caving helmets and smile.

It was mental. There were so many people in the whole crew. It felt like a circus of people turned up. There’s lots of things going on and I was literally hooked.

After the three days they invited me to the studio to see what it was like in the studio, so I went for a week.

The Royal each block filming they get to go to Scarborough to do the location shoot and I made such an impression with my week in the studio. They asked whether I would go to Scarborough free without being paid. But I was given some allowance for the hotel and some money each day, so I was like "get in, winner".

We were filming a massive stunt and I was locking off on the first day, but I didn’t mind. The second day we were doing a stunt on a boat and the 3rd Assistant Director didn’t like being in the sea. She was seasick and so was the runner and so I was left on this boat with the camera and crew, very new and very green to everything, communicating into the main set because we were filming the boats from our boat and talking to a helicopter. On the speedboat back to the shore, I was with the Line Producer, and he was like "Are you enjoying yourself?" I said I was very grateful, and I was "really enjoying my experience, but as of today do you think I could start getting paid?" they said yes, and I stuck with ITV for the first part of my career.

How did you turn that job into a career?

I learnt very quickly not piss anybody off. It's not what you know, it's who you know. Likeability, and getting on with all sorts of different people is a great skill. My first ever job I worked with my friend Katie, and we are still friends now and she’s now a producer and we work together over the years.

Why do you do what you do?

I asked that question on very difficult days. Why do I do what I do? But then you quickly remember that every single day is different. You learn something new, like I’ve said before. You’re in a different location you’re in places that the general public never go to. You’re lucky to travel and go to places that you could only dream of.

You work on your favourite shows and meet the actors that you idolise, and sometimes it’s not that great when you meet your stars. I still get the buzz walking on set if it’s a Victorian snowy Christmas Carol situation. I know it’s all fake but it’s absolutely buzzing.

What is the most rewarding part of your job?

Sometimes the most rewarding is getting to the end of a project and wrapping. Filming can be mentally physically exhausting. But it’s a journey.

You get to meet so many different people, you become friends with people that you would never dream of. Personally, what I love to see is progression in someone’s career when you’ve seen them just starting off and then they reach the level of in Costume whether they become a designer or an actor that’s got their first Hollywood film under their belt. It’s just amazing to see that determination equals success, because you know how committed and dedicated, they where

What is the hardest part of your job?

Work life balance. I have missed so many weddings, birthdays, engagements and christenings. Your dedication to your work sometimes means you’re unavailable. Life goes on. If I’m on a long running gig for say six months you can safely say I don’t speak to many people, I’ve got better. But my friends will just write me off because I could never commit to anything. I do believe that is changing, but I remember when you get a cold you still go to work you feel unwell and you never had a day off. I sound like I was in the dark ages. It’s important to know when you need some time and reconnect with your family and friends because burning yourself out is not a good look at work. Being the best version of yourself, doesn’t it mean being tired, rundown, vulnerable, moody and depressed. A little bit of self-care is so important.

What would you say has made you so successful in your career?

Try never to burn bridges, be true to yourself, you’re only as good as your last job. Grit and determination.

You must laugh if you’re not enjoying yourself. Stop it.

Since the start of your career, what changes have you noticed in the industry and how do you feel about them?

Diversity, which is more than welcome and needs more work. As a gay man, I remember when I was first starting off and it was very masculine and very male middle-class. There has been a massive shift in this. There is stronger sense of female directors and Heads of Departments and also people from different ethnicities and backgrounds. Which I do believe we can still do more. One thing I would like to say is though through my career I have worked with so many female directors, but that’s through choice as well. I do worry though, that people do jump on the bandwagon and sometimes make decisions just for ticking boxes, which I think doesn’t really work in situations or help. More input should be on the development and accessibility of resources, proper training and skills.

But it is most welcome.

What is your hope for the industry moving forward?

That we can still be creative but work in a safe environment. I think we forget that we’ve just worked through a global pandemic. It doesn’t matter if you’re working on a comedy, high-end TV drama, Marvel film or kids show. The machine doesn’t really change on any of these. But we can change the people. The working environment and offering support and safety nets for people's mental health. A pay increase would be good too.

If you could speak to your younger self at the start of your career, what advice would you give them?

This would be a very dangerous thing, it’s a really difficult question because the advice that I’d give myself would mean that I wouldn’t learn from any of my mistakes I’ve made. I think that’s crucial for you to be successful is by learning from everything. You’ve got to make yourself vulnerable and learn from your mistakes so giving that advice would make your little bit cockier. I think there is something quite humble about learning from your mistakes. You’ve got to have grit and determination, and you’ve got to do it for yourself, not anybody else.

Maybe I’d give myself a little bit of a pep-talk. I can admit to myself I self-sabotage myself, and I do worry too much. Get rid of those voices in your head. Am I worthy? Can I do this there’s other people that are better than me. And you’ve got to let go of it and move on if you don't get a job Easier said than done.

What would be your greatest advice to actors in general?

Most of Casting ‘s now are self-tapes.

I can safely say I’ve seen a lot. I’ve seen some extremely awful ones which are

embarrassing to watch, and I’ve seen some good ones. Self-tapes Are the key and the new art to get jobs. Don’t overcomplicate things, practice every day. Don’t go crazy with your lighting, but if you can, get a ring light.

If you can get somebody in the room to read the other lines, that’s a massive help. Quick introduction to the tape: that's it, no waffling. Please get it into your head that the director will be watching this, but they might be just about to get a flight and they got three minutes to look at five tapes. It’s lunchtime they have just had food and only got 10 minutes to watch a load of tapes. The reality is there doing loads of other things while watching these tapes so be bold and quick.

What would be your advice to actors trying to make an introduction with yourself or others in your field?

I think you’ve just got to be mindful of how many times people come up to you and ask the same question so if you’re going to be bold and brave to do that which I encourage because it gives you an ounce of self-belief. Be extremely clear what you're going to say and what you want from the conversation. Everybody blag's through life that’s a fact, but make sure you’ve got the facts behind you because it’s a small world out there and if you elaborate on a certain thing you going to get caught out. I’ve had loads of people say that they worked with me, or I have had them daily’s or they’ve had a little part in the show that I’ve been involved in and that’s not the case at all. I get phone calls and emails all the time. Do you know this person? What are they like and if I never heard of them, it’s just embarrassing. If you get a chance for a face-to-face meeting with Casting Director or Director or Producer, make sure you’ve IMDB them. You need to know exactly what they’ve been up to the last couple of years.

Please remember that it’s just not the director who has the final say they will get their favourite three, but it’s up to the channel executive producers, producers to confirm and sign off a certain artist. There are also the dates of whether the shoot works for the artist, recently casting happens the weekend before shooting. Sometimes it’s that quick that the favourite might be on a different job so then it suddenly is down to the third choice. Availability is one of the key facts now in Casting.

If you’re lucky to have an agent, please have a good working relationship with them, be honest and hopefully they will be best representing you sometimes agents do things that you’re not aware of.

What are the common mis-steps actors make when approaching you?

Just please be normal if you’re allowed to use that word. Don’t be fake. Be prepared have a CV have a showreel have everything to hand quickly so I transition can happen fast.

How can actors get in touch with you or find out more about you or what you do?

I don’t mind Instagram; I think that’s quite a good platform at the moment. Just be mindful of what you put on your Instagram though, because if I’m scrolling down, I will make judgement very quickly - it’s not as easy to get email addresses now due to data protection. It’s not that people are being funny but there’s laws and all that kind of stuff in productions our emails are hard to get.

Believe you me, I know if you send something you’re expecting a response half the time you’re not going to get one and it’s really frustrating but that’s life don’t give up but don’t pester. @mikejgall

Finally, what award would you like to win?

All of them

Would you prepare a speech?

No it would be terribly embarrassing, and awkward!

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