During my Media Production Degree, I applied for work experience at a Birmingham based Production Company, Maverick Television. When I got the placement, I was extremely grateful for the opportunity, one that I believe I may not have had without the encouragement and support from my lecturers at the University of Lincoln School of Film & Media. It was a great few weeks, and I worked hard, making sure I networked with who ever I possibly could. It was exciting; I was working on the hit Channel 4 Series, ‘10 Years Younger.’ This is where I got to see how a Production worked. My role involved various admin duties in the office, helping with shoot prep (prop buying etc.) and also being able to go out on the shoot and see first hand how it all worked!
Following the work placement, I went back to University to finish my degree, graduating in 2007 with a 2.1. I then moved to Manchester where I knew there were plenty of TV opportunities, and also because, well, I wasn’t quite ready for the big smoke that is London! It was hard to begin with, I sent many, many, emails and letters, applying for Runner work. It was hard, there was a lot of competition, I had no employment history in the industry, only my work experience and my degree. Whilst I was looking, I signed up to a Recruitment agency, I didn’t really want to do anything other than TV work, but I had my rent to pay and I was no longer living on student loans!
TIP NUMBER 1: Would definitely be keep your options open and don’t be disheartened if a TV job doesn’t land in your lap straight away! Working in various temp roles as a Receptionist, it gave me the opportunity to focus on what I really wanted and that was to be in TV production. I’d finish my 9 – 5 job, but return home to still be searching the Internet to find more TV companies to approach. Often it did feel relentless but I knew I had to keep trying. My first paid TV job came 6 months after Graduating. It was at a company called Scarlet Television where I worked as a Location Assistant/ Runner on a show called ‘The Making of a Monster.” It was only a couple of weeks work but there is no better feeling than your first paid job after University. In that first year after Graduating I had a variety of jobs, these included Broadcast Assistant for a local Radio Station, a Runner for a film company, and a Location Scout for North West Vision and Media Virgin Shorts.
TIP NUMBER 2: Give it a go! I knew I didn’t want to end up working in Radio for example, but what harm is a few weeks work, and you never know who will you meet and what you could learn. I then got a call from Maverick Television offering me a job as a ‘Location Runner’ on the show that I had previously done my work experience on whilst at University. I was delighted! I then commuted from Manchester (where I was living) to Birmingham, almost every day, as the role meant so much to me. This paid off for me as after a year, they offered me my first Researcher job.
TIP NUMBER 3: Keep in contact with previous employers/people you have met! They could be the ones who offer you your next job! The role of a Researcher can be really varied; one day you might be fact-finding to help with Voice Over, the next you are writing Casting Biogs. You work as part of a team with other Researchers, Assistant Producers and Producers. These team sizes always vary depending on the production you are working on.
TIP NUMBER 4: Be inquisitive in your interview find out about your role and how big the team will be etc. Remember you are there to choose if you want to work for them as well. I worked as a Researcher for 4 years within Factual Entertainment and also Observational Documentary. Some of my credits include ‘Coach Trip’ (Channel 4) ‘Undercover Boss’ (Channel 4) ‘Come Dine With Me’ (Channel 4) and ‘Big Brother (Channel 5).
Having moved down to London for more opportunities, I started working as an Assistant Producer. This role is to support your Producer in the making of the programme, but also to support the Runners and Researchers with you. As an Assistant Producer I realised it was Casting that I wanted to focus on. I contacted my previous employers and asked to go back on the shows I had done as a Researcher but as an Assistant Producer. I was able to do this on a number of shows, which was really good for my CV. It always looks good to return to a show for another series.
As an Assistant Producer you can do anything from background checks on potential contributors, shooting recces and cutting casting tapes on Final Cut Pro. Credits included; Don’t tell The Bride (BBC3), The Nightmare Neighbour Next Door (Channel 5), The Chase (ITV), and Pop Up Start Up (CNBC). These roles have taken me on Casting Tours all over the UK, Europe, Thailand and Australia.
I received my first Producer credit in 2016, this is 9 years after Graduating, I’d say that’s quite a long time BUT for me I just wanted to learn as much as possible, learn about the different roles I was doing, and the different Genres of Television. Since being a Producer I have had the experience of leading my own teams to cast shows, such as E4’s ‘Celebs Go Dating,’ working in Development creating new formats, and more recently working as an Edit Producer on a new MTV series.
One thing I have learnt since starting in the industry, is that everybody’s route to make it to where they want to be, is so different. Some people work as Researchers for 4 or 5 years before being an Assistant Producer some people will make it after only a year. I believe it is all about opportunity, and timing. I have always been a perfectionist to be honest, so I didn’t want to rush things. I wanted to be the best Runner I could be before becoming a Researcher, I then wanted to be the best Researcher I could be, before becoming an Assistant Producer etc. This meant I didn’t get where I wanted to very quickly … but I did get there.
There have been a number of occasions where I have been worried about finding the next job, some jobs might only last a week, and others can last 2 years. You have to be open to opportunities that you might not have initially thought you’d want to do and ultimately network and make friends! Nearly all of my jobs have come from my previous job, this would be from either someone I worked with taking me on to their next show, or them recommending me to someone they know. Employers want and need people they trust.
My degree helped me develop skills, both practically and theoretically, and encouraged me to push myself and have the confidence to find the career that I wanted. I wish everyone the best of luck after graduating and in the future, and ultimately find careers that make you happy.