Bear with me if your reading this; the last time I posted on here was ages ago – I had just left LSM and was training to be a 3D camera assistant, but it’s funny how things can change… I found that I was way better at dealing with people and I wanted to do something more creative, but working in 3D did give an enormous amount of technical knowledge… So I left and I now work in the TV Industry and have been given my first promotion from runner to researcher (yes, I’m going in the editorial direction of things!) so I thought I might as well plaster a couple of experiences I’ve had as a runner to help out people in need of direction.
A lot of people who work in TV often refer to having ‘done their time’… this refers less to being thrown in prison after a drug stoked, alcohol fuelled wrap party and more directly to being a runner for the industry. It’s definitely not the pretty side of TV but 99% of people who work in TV have started as a runner and slogged it up the ladder.
I was lucky enough to get a job starting out as Endemol‘s in house runner. This was largely because of doing a couple of weeks work experience at Endemol 2 years ago whilst I was at LSM, and also being on the UNIT LIST group on Facebook – I CANNOT STRESS ENOUGH HOW IMPORTANT IT IS TO BE ON THAT GROUP!
I had 2 rounds of interviews and I was fortunate enough to land the job (I later found out 180 people applied for this position – talk about a competitive industry?!). This role was great – I got to work with the Production Execs daily, and I had the opportunity to do days over at Elstree to work on Big Brother. When certain production teams were stretched I worked on Total Wipeout, Dating in The Dark, The Million Pound Drop, Gok’s Fashion Fix, The Sex Education Show, Supersize vs Superskinny, Deal or No Deal and Restoration Home. So I met a lot of production managers (the people that give out all the jobs on the shows) and had the chance to impress – only if it was for a couple of hours. Lesson here is to do the best job possible, even if it’s sweeping a floor or adding paperwork to a folder… it shows you really care about being there and it will show. I’ve worked with other runners who don’t really care about what they’re doing and they’re still running after 3 years.
This job involved photocopying, doing lunch runs for the execs, arranging tapes to go into archive and retrieving them, sorting through the mail and dealing with correspondence (more than often were nutters and people wanting break into development, showing Endemol their brilliant ideas which had to be sent back), arranging couriers, answering phones on reception, making folders, doing tea runs.. a lot of it comes from people telling you what to do but another lesson; a good runner will do what you say and do it quickly. A great runner will pre-empt what you’re going to ask for and will have it ready (but DOES NOT assume) and goes that tiny bit more (for example, grabbing some salt sachets with the lunches).
What I learnt is that there are a couple of routes you can go down in TV; editorial and production.
Editorial (Directly affecting the output by impacting the creative side)
RUNNER > RESEARCHER > ASSISTANT PRODUCER > PRODUCER > SERIES PRODUCER > EXECUTIVE PRODUCER
Production (Logistics, budget, clearance and staff)
RUNNER > PRODUCTION SECRETARY > PRODUCTION CO-ORDINATOR > PRODUCTION MANAGER > UNIT MANAGER > PRODUCTION EXECUTIVE
The further down these routes you go, the harder it is (though not impossible) to cross over onto the other side.
My next job came from helping out at an audition day in London for Deal or No Deal. I tried to get involved as much as possible. For the day, my task involved around calling people’s names out in the big room (think X Factor holding area) then taking that person and getting them ready for a chat to one of contestant researchers, so just having a light conversation with them to relax often did the job. Whilst I did this, I would mark a sheet of paper if I thought they would work on the show or not so I could provide feedback to researchers. By 12pm on that first day I had been offered a job for 6 months on Deal or No Deal (NB: The average contract in TV tends to be 2 – 3 months, so 6 is pretty rare)
So I moved to Bristol and started work on Deal (strange as I never thought I would leave London for more TV work). I worked with 8 other runners and learnt everything about the show. When not in the studio, we were responsible for booking in the audiences for each day – unbelievably tedious. But when we were in the studio we got to work in various roles – gallery runner (make sure the gallery has tea and coffee), office runner (runs around the city picking up props, contestants and lunch for the team), studio runner (makes game notes and makes Noel and Player drinks) and audience runner (looks after the audience and ensures they are in the studio for when the floor manager has requested it).
Next job came from a friend of a friends house party in Bristol where I randomly met the production secretary for Casualty who told me to send her my CV who then showed it to her production manager who sorted me out with a couple of weeks on the drama, so I took some time off from Deal to allow this to happen
Toward the end of Deal, I saw a job going on the Unit List Facebook group, mentioning that Love Productions required a runner for a cookery programme, so I applied and got work on The Great British Bake Off for 2 1/2 months. This was a good experience to have, but every week new runners were coming and going – be it a new job offer for them, or dropping out because of the work more manic than most shows… either way I was the only runner to see the whole series through. As a result, the series director would ask for me to sort things out for him so this would sometimes mean delegating to make sure things got done. As it turned out, this same director also worked on The Apprentice and at the end of The Great British Bake Off, I was offered a contract on that show (one of my ultimate shows to work on!). HOWEVER, I had also been asked to go back to Deal as a junior researcher in September which would have conflicted…. Combined with this, when I got the call for an interview for The Apprentice I had just accepted a job with Gallowgate (Ant and Dec’s TV company) to work on a hidden camera comedy show as a runner. I got this by advertising myself for free on www.tvwatercooler.org.
Again I applied the same rules to the way of working as a runner at Gallowgate being, friendly, helpful, engaging people in conversation, showing passion about being involved and getting things done. Then after a few weeks, my line producer told me one of the current researchers was leaving to be an assistant producer for another show and as a result I was going to be bumped up to researcher. This promotion meant a lot.
Everyone who has a creative interest in TV wants to contribute to the format of a show, be it the story, a new idea, dealing with contributors, writing, wanting to direct or produce, so the fact I’m on this path is great. Next role after researcher (tends to be) assistant producer, then producer – on larger shows, there are live producers, food producer, edit producers, contestant producers, line producers – and loads more, depending on the show.
As a runner, learn as much as you can and work across as many genres as possible to work out what show you want to work on. You’ve got less responsibility on the programme than anyone else so try to enjoy all the experiences you get given.
I’ll let you know when I’m an Assistant Producer!