SAE Glasgow grad Miles Trotter finds freelance success with drone operation work

06 Jan 2020

Miles Trotter studied Digital Film Production at SAE Glasgow, and since graduating in 2018 has successfully launched his own company - MT Films - and has worked with a wide range of outlets such as the BBC, Netflix, History Channel, Starz, and STV. 

We spoke to Miles about some of the things he’s been working on in the last two years. 

What have you been up to since you finished studying at SAE in 2018? 

Since finishing my studies I have been continuing my freelance career as a camera/drone operator and working with clients old and new. At the beginning of 2019 I moved from my home in Troon to Glasgow with another former SAE student. Since then I have been kept busy with a variety of work in my chosen fields. I have worked for the BBC, Netflix, History Channel, Starz, STV and many more. My calendar went from having only a couple of jobs a month while at SAE to having about 2-3 jobs a week. I also worked for a five week term at Cut Media as a camera op/editor to cover for an employee on leave. 

What have been some of the challenges of setting up your own film company MT Films and how have you overcome them?

The main challenge with regards to setting up my business was simply getting my name out there and networking with production companies that would be willing to take me on and give me work. The way I tackled this problem in the beginning was simply making as much of my own content as possible to showcase my skill-set. In terms of drone operating, I trained to get my permissions early on so that I was certified and could therefore get work in that field too. The most important thing I did however was continuing to contact people I wanted to work with. I would ask them for work or any advice they would have about where I should look for work and what I could do to get more. If you keep doing it, you will eventually get somewhere with it. 

What attracted you to going out on your own, and have you encountered any difficulties working as a freelancer? 

The attraction with working freelance was mainly getting to work on loads of different projects with a variety of people. I like getting to travel to new places every job and not being stuck in an office/studio for too long. It’s also nice not being fixed to office hours too. Being constrained to only having weekends off terrifies me. Being freelance however can be scary sometimes - it’s not regular pay, no sick pay, you have to keep track of everything, you need to make sure there’s work coming in. This is what makes it a fun challenge I find though. I’ve always enjoyed keeping myself organised and it’s exciting not knowing what you’ll be working on the next month. 

What made you want to become a certified drone operator, and how easy was this to do?

I have always had a strong interest in camera movement and have always been interested in all things aeronautical so it made perfect sense. It was an industry in its infancy too with options to work in different sectors other than film (such as photo, inspection, agriculture etc.). I was lucky in the sense that my Dad was an air traffic controller and the company he works for was running one of the only courses at the time for getting the credentials. It’s not exactly hard to become a certified operator, but the costs to get up and running are high.

Droning in Poole from MTFilms on Vimeo.

What are some of the brands or products that you’ve worked on projects for, that you can tell us a bit about? 

Over the past year I’ve worked for a lot of bike brands as that’s my big passion (Redbull, Endura, Cervelo, Santa Cruz, Radon, Adidas and more). I’ve also worked on a few features, documentaries and TV shows too. I’ve also had a good deal of work on the inspection side too working for another drone company - Northern Exposure. 

What advice would you give to current SAE students about securing work within the film industry? 

Don’t give up. It can be easy to get down about not finding work when you’re just starting out. You’ve just gotta keep looking for work and it will eventually come. Don’t turn work experiences away just because it’s a ‘short film’. Take on all the shadowing you can get and ask questions to people working in your preferred roles. Be persistent with getting work and make your own stuff too. Make stuff with other students in the class. This industry is built on collaborations, that’s what makes it so fun. You never know, someone in your class might be the next Christopher Nolan or Wes Anderson. 

What are your long term career goals and how do you hope to realise them? 

As I progress over the years I would like to become more of the head creative on bigger productions. I believe this will happen through natural progression of working on more and more jobs and taking on bigger challenges with other like-minded people. This progression will happen alongside others who I collaborate with who are also progression to higher roles in their chosen departments. 

Check out Miles’ work on Vimeo, YouTube, and Facebook, follow him on Twitter and connect on LinkedIn.