Lee Lester, class of 2006

Lee_lester_150wHaving studied a degree in Media Production at Lincoln in 2006, I moved back to London and since then I’d say my progression in TV has been an equal mix of luck and persistence.

I wangled my first running job in the industry when a friend of the family put me in contact with the owner of ZigZag Productions for some work experience, and quickly found that there are always two groups of work experience people – those there because they thought it would be fun and those who can’t imagine doing anything else. I worked my ass off, took on more responsibility than was required and went out of my way to appear part of the team (going out for drinks with them and taking part in charity days etc), and they offered me a job after a few days.

After being shown the ropes in most production areas at Zigzag the job ended after 6 months and I struggled to find another job for 4/5 months – the winter is a very difficult time for TV. So I paid for an inside info service (very expensive, not sure I recommend it!) and started phoning production managers of programmes I knew were about to start crewing up. This landed me a running job on ITV’s Daily Cooks, which involved 4.30am starts every day to commute to Wandsworth for 6am – sleep is not something you generally get a lot of in TV! When the next series started there was an opening and I was promoted to researcher – the only real way of moving up the ladder at first is promotion since a company is unlikely to hire a runner as a researcher with no experience.

I got on really well with my producer at Daily Cooks, so that when my time on that show ended she recommended I go to an interview for Big Brother’s Big Mouth, which her boyfriend was hiring for. Talked about all the strangely and frankly disturbing shows I’d worked on in the past and got the job!

When my time on BBBM ended, I again experienced the difficulty of working in one of the most competitive industries in the UK, and after a few running stints on shows such as Britain’s Best Dish and the revived Generation Game, used the skills I’d learnt at Lincoln to diversify into shooting, editing and animating independent projects (including the official online video for UK Singer-Songwriter Newton Faulkner’s single “Gone In The Morning”) whilst searching for my next production job.

Since April 2009 I have been heading a new Corporate Video department within Hertfordshire-based Graphic Design company Magicbox Creative, and recently developed, shot and edited our first major commission of a promotional video for the Met. Police.

Although the world’s minor fracas with its economy has thus far prevented me from re-entering the industry, my long-term goal is to re-enter Broadcast Production whilst maintaining the other skills I’ve learnt on the side.

In terms of general advice I’d offer the following:

  • Phone employers when looking for jobs wherever possible because they’ll be more likely remember you and be more impressed that you can sell yourself confidently in person as well as on paper or in an email.
  • Try not to move ‘down’ the ladder when moving from job to job except in exceptional circumstances – always move across or up.
  • In interviews get the right balance between confidence and arrogance – it’s incredibly important not to look like you think you know it all.
  • Once you have the job, always give 100% – ask to do things, don’t stand around hands in pockets waiting to be asked (but know when to back off – that’s really important!!). If you see a chair needs moving, move it without being asked.
  • Make yourself indispensible…and make people want to have you as part of their team.
  • One of the things it took me a while to learn is that in this industry you have to be ok with the fact that you can work really hard on something for it to be discarded just like that – even though it’s easy to get p****d off it’s just the way it is and you have to accept it with good grace – don’t make the employer think you have an attitude problem! Same goes for working early / late with no extra pay – it’s the price you pay for doing a job you love.

Good luck!

Contact Details

Email: LeePLester@gmail.com

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