Posted 01 February 2024
Interview by Nicole Fan
Mention Anthony Ray Caballero

“The trick is knowing your brand”: Anthony Ray Caballero on standing out in the film industry

Behind every great film lies a whole crew of people: from the directors who run the show to the editors stitching the scenes together; all work in tandem to bring it to the silver screen. Yet, it’s the development team who are there from its very inception – and that’s exactly what Anthony Ray Caballero loves about his role at Working Title Films, the studio responsible for Emma, Ticket To Paradise and Matilda the Musical. As a development assistant, he’s ever on the lookout for new movie ideas and has even started a production company on the side to take his own stories to the big screen. Here, he shares what helped him find his footing, why a job rejection was a blessing in disguise and how he landed an internship with NBCUniversal with his own unique spin on its application.

Anthony Ray Caballero

Anthony Ray Caballero

Job Title

Feature Film Development Assistant, Working Title Films



Previous Employment

TV Development Intern, NBCUniversal, 2020-2021
Intern, Pathé, 2019–2020

Place of Study

BA English with Creative Writing, Brunel University, 2016-2019

Social Media


What I do

How would you describe what you do?
I currently work as a feature film development assistant at Working Title Films. It’s an exciting role! Development is the very beginning of the filmmaking process: it’s the hunt for new movie ideas to bring to cinema screens. Once an idea is discovered, the development team then nurtures it into a full-length feature film that’s ready to be pitched to production companies. As an assistant, it’s my job to look out for new ideas, track talent, set meetings and provide feedback on script submissions.

Outside of work, I also write my own scripts, make short films and collaborate with other creatives — two of which I even run a production company with. Started in 2020, Three Kingdoms is a collaboration between Judah Meade, Kaylen Francis and I. It’s allowed us to work with larger production companies as well as create our own projects.

“Development is the very beginning of the filmmaking process: it’s the hunt for new ideas to bring to cinema screens.”

What are the main influences and inspirations behind your work?
All of my work stems from my love of stories. I grew up being an avid reader and was fascinated by how limitless the imagination could be. My interest in film came soon after, as I discovered that a good screenplay essentially consolidates all that imagination coherently onto paper. Realising how accurately movies can translate words into moving visuals, and how powerfully they can evoke feelings within their viewers, was what then inspired me to pursue a film career.

I’m most interested in stories with unexpected twists, thought-provoking concepts and rich worlds. My favourite kind of films are those that take on a new meaning with every rewatch — such as Inception, which is a great example of that. When it comes to writing, psychological thrillers and sci-fi stories are my favourite to write alongside comedy.

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Poster for ‘Kolaja’, a sci-fi short that Anthony is working on

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Poster for ’Twenty Seven’, a thriller by Three Kingdoms

Would you say you need any specific training for what you do? If not, what skills or traits are most essential to the role?
Working in development requires an unorthodox type of training. To my knowledge, there aren’t really courses that prepare you for the role, besides getting direct work experience through internships.

Development is as subjective as it is objective because you’re deciding which projects to work on from a pile of thousands of ideas. You have to know why you’re fond of that particular idea, but you also have to think beyond your own interests and question if others will see merit in it as well. Plus, you have to be incredibly patient – the gestation of a film is a long one and it can take years before it’s ready to be delivered to the world.

You will do best in the role if you read a lot, watch a lot and can easily articulate why you like or dislike something. It also helps to be organised because there are a lot of projects and tasks to balance! My journey so far has included all of this and I’m fortunate enough to be continuously learning from seasoned executives who have been in the industry for years.

“You will do best in the role if you read a lot, watch a lot and can easily articulate why you like or dislike something.”

What’s been your favourite project to work on from the past year, and why?
My favourite project to work on so far has been Kolaja, a sci-fi short co-written by two of my closest friends and fellow filmmakers, Kaylen Francis and Judah Meade. It’s about a young boy who discovers a humanoid alien girl in his garden and embarks on a mission to get her home, but realises along the way that he needs to rekindle his fractured relationship with his own family too. I took the role of development producer on this project and got to apply some of the skills I’ve learnt in my day job to the creation of the short, which is set to release later this year.

Another great project to work on was Twenty Seven, which was produced by Fully Focused and funded by Netflix. Judah had pitched the short based on the infamous 27 Club, the list of celebrities who all happened to pass away at the age of 27, and the film was about what that conspiracy would look like in the UK rap scene. We were granted £7000 and I wrote the script while Judah and Kaylen directed it – so it was a really surreal moment for all of us when we saw it screened at an Everyman Cinema in Islington.

Both of these films have taught us invaluable lessons on filmmaking, which we’re excited to apply to further projects!

Three Kingdoms at a Q&A after the screening of ‘Twenty Seven’

How I got here

What was your journey like when you were first starting out?
It all started in my second year of university: I was doing a BA English with Creative Writing and one of my modules was screenwriting. Fascinated by the simplicity of the format, I decided that I wanted to break into the industry and realised that I had to go beyond my degree.

I started networking outside of university and met various creatives who welcomed me onto their projects. Hugely influential at the start of my exploration into this field was Kashif Boothe, an independent producer who was filming his web series Nate & Jamie. Kashif got me into his writers’ rooms and onto his sets, and the experience was invaluable to my journey.

When I later worked in the locations department on several TV shows and met more budding filmmakers, I would offer to edit the scripts for their web series and shorts to get more experience. I also did as much general research as I could into all script-related roles within the industry – and it took almost two years of networking, but that was how I eventually landed my first internship at Pathe Films.

Still from ‘Kolaja’

How did you go about landing your first few roles?
A couple of hours before I graduated from university, I received a call from Pierre Godson-Amamoo, founder of film platform Your Cinema Films. He told me that he liked my work and wanted to take me on as a writer for the website. I was to write about upcoming talent within the UK film industry, focusing mainly on black actors, directors, writers and more – and having spent two years networking to get a foot in the door, this was a great role for me. I learnt so much under Pierre’s wing and I’m still in touch with many of the people I’d met through writing articles and conducting interviews.

During this time, I also landed an internship at Pathe Productions through a scheme called Head Start. It was run by a charity organisation known as The h.Club Foundation, which is sadly no longer around, and it was aimed at helping underrepresented talent get into the industry. The experience I gained at Pathe paved the way for me to apply for a year-long internship at NBCUniversal, which was where I then worked afterwards.

In every job application, I always put an original spin on my CV or cover letter so that it would stand out from the rest. For example, my application to NBCUniversal was written in screenplay format, which ensured that the hiring team would get a little sense of my personality and creativity.

“In every job application, I always put an original spin on my CV or cover letter so that it would stand out from the rest.”

What has been your biggest challenge along the way?
My biggest challenge came in the stretch of time before landing my internship at NBCUniversal. For almost a year, I was working freelance while trying to land a full-time role in a company and I started to lose confidence that I was even capable of getting my CV read – let alone securing a job.

At the time, there were very few opportunities available for someone with my experience and I didn't know where to turn. I applied to many roles but, in truth, I wasn’t passionate about most of them. I just wanted to get paid somehow. I found myself getting desperate, taking interviews for jobs that were completely outside of the film industry.

I even remember getting into the final stages of an interview with an editorial company, only for the interviewer to eventually tell me, “I can clearly see your passion lies more in film. This job is boring in comparison; don’t give up on it.” That was the wake-up call I needed and I went back to putting all my focus into applying for the roles I wanted, which is what’s led me here.

At the ‘Ticket to Paradise’ premiere with Working Title

How important would you say social media and self-promotion are to your work?
Social media is a vital tool for what I do. My Instagram and Twitter accounts are industry-focused and I use them mainly for business. It helps me keep in the loop with what’s trending, as well as quickly connect with actors, writers, directors, cinematographers and more. Last year we launched a Kickstarter page to crowdfund for Kolaja and over 100 people have pledged donations so far, most of whom had watched the promotional videos and resonated with the project.

If you could pick three things that you’ve found useful to your work or career, what would they be and why?
As a large part of film development involves reading books to decide if they’re worth an adaptation, I turn to Audible quite often so that I can keep up with a story if I’m commuting, in the gym or driving. Having a pocket-sized Kindle is also super useful as I can read scripts and assess submissions on-the-go or at home with ease.

It may sound simple, but planning what I do in a day has also been crucial. I keep a diary on all my devices and plan ahead every Sunday, dividing my tasks for the week into scheduled meetings, time for reading, breaks for leisure and more. Along with that, I also have a notebook and a reliable notes app so that I can keep track of any ideas or tasks that spring to mind.

Perhaps the most important thing that’s helped me in my work are my close friends, business partners and peers. I regularly check-in with Kaylen and Judah to plan future projects for Three Kingdoms, which has kept me inspired and motivated. They are highly talented individuals and we all push each other towards our goals. Along the way, I’ve also met other people who I can’t wait to work with later on in my career: producer Kashif Boothe, script connoisseur Aida Abdul-Raheem, my partner in crime Sangeetha Veluru, and all those at Working Title and NBCUniversal.

Working on shorts with a crew as a script supervisor

Have there been any courses, programmes, initiatives or access schemes you would recommend to get into your sector?
The NBCUniversal internship opens annually and it’s where I got my start, so they are always top of the list for me! I generally feel that internships are the best ways to work with large media companies and, compared to when I was starting out, there are now many more companies who do yearly internships.

For upcoming talent out there, Your Cinema Films and Fully Focused are fantastic platforms to reach out to. Fully Focused takes pitches for new short film ideas and occasionally partners with other companies to get them made.

Facebook groups are also an underrated but amazing resource – people post freelance opportunities in there all the time! Apart from that, Creative Access, Black Films Matter and The Dots feature great job opportunities too.

What have been your greatest learnings with making money and supporting yourself as a creative?
Branding, networking and word-of-mouth are by far the most important ways to get into the industry. The trick is standing out and knowing your brand. What helped me was working with mutual connections and friends-of-friends. That way, you can move among similar circles of people, who are more likely to trust you if you’ve been recommended by someone they know. I also took a unique approach when designing my business card: similar to my NBCU application, it’s styled in screenplay format.

“Branding, networking and word-of-mouth are by far the most important ways to get into the industry. The trick is standing out and knowing your brand.”

Anthony’s business card

My advice

What’s the best career-related advice you’ve ever received?
Chris Kam, my old line manager at NBCUniversal, cautioned me on the realities of burnout. He is an advocate of safeguarding your overall wellbeing and keeping a healthy work-life balance – especially because the risk of burnout is more common than not in such a competitive and fast-paced industry. I aim to get a good night’s rest as often as possible, remain active and have days where I take breaks from doing anything career-related.

What advice would you give someone looking to get into a similar role?
Go to as many networking events as you can – and if you’re looking to get into writing or development, try to attend ones where you know that there might be someone from a scripted department there. You could also have someone reach out on your behalf as I find that people are much more willing to take meetings when someone they know has recommended them.

When it comes to building up your knowledge, read and research as much as you can into the role. It’s vital that you know what industry-grade script coverage looks like – and even better if you can write it! Have a commercial mindset too: keep track of films or TV shows that are currently popular, while also thinking about what they might lack.

Most importantly… be you (cheesy, I know). Development teams work well because they are small units of people with their own tastes and opinions. Don’t be afraid to challenge other people’s perspectives and even question your own. Make sure that you can bring unique traits to the team, because that might be just what they’re missing.

Interview by Nicole Fan
Mention Anthony Ray Caballero