We asked Harry from the Pace production team to delve into his wealth of experience and dig out some golden nuggets of advice for those aspiring to make it in the TV production industry. Here are his sage words….
There’s a reason why the television industry is so oversubscribed – it offers a variety of challenging, creative, and above all, enjoyable jobs. After all, you get to see the fruits of your labour air in front of millions of people – it’s a feeling you just can’t quite describe.
But getting a leg up to that first big job can often seem like a daunting task. No matter how many Cvs you send out, or how many pleading letters you write, or who you might know who might be able to get you that first interview, it can still be a long and drawn out process that makes you feel lost and unwanted. Unfortunately there’s no one magic answer to how to land that dream job but here’s a few helpful tips I have learnt from my experience that will help give you that edge.
Firstly, you should be aware that University isn’t everything. Don’t get me wrong, spending three years truly immersed in a subject is one of the best ways to ensure you have a fresh up-to-date set of skills and work that will look attractive to a potential employer. But it’s not always completely necessary. There’s a lot to be said for starting at the bottom and working your way up. The word ‘runner’ may forever carry a stigma as the lowliest job on the shoot. However, you can learn a lot from simply being there on a project as it progresses – and you’d be surprised how willing companies are to bring on people at a low level. Yes, you might have to work for a low wage, or even free for a while, but the experience you will have to show for it at the end will be invaluable.
Another great way of gaining experience is to work on student projects – whilst these will almost certainly be unpaid, most universities will have access to equipment for no cost whatsoever, and they’ll appreciate a helping hand, no matter what you have to offer. Keep an eye out on social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter (tumblr is a good one too) – students will often advertise opportunities through these. Have a search on Facebook for groups called ‘People who work in film who know people who work in film’ and ‘People who work in TV who know people who work in TV’ – you’ll have to be approved, but the job posts are constant.
A great website designed in a similar vein is myfirstjobinfilm.com – it has a subscription fee (if memory serves, it’s £60 a year), but if you’re still skeptical, give the free trial a go. These are industry jobs aimed squarely at young professionals. That said, it doesn’t have many exclusive postings, but it’s a good start.
Like in most areas of business when looking for a job in this industry networking should be a priority. Start close to home, simply talk to your friends about your situation – how many friends on Facebook can you count that you still connect with? What if that one friend you just lost touch with started working at your dream company and they were looking to recruit? Also never underestimate the power of a phone call. Make a list of the companies you’d like to work for, research them, and call them up! Given the amount of emails they receive this will be a welcome change for employers and more likely for them to remember you. Remember, research is key. If you can chat to someone casually about their recent work, it’ll make them feel comfortable speaking to you. And even if they aren’t looking to hire at the moment, they’ll normally be more than happy to keep your CV on file, or recommend places that are hiring, or even just give general advice.
Keeping your showreel up to date is also essential. Even if you don’t have much to put on it, employers will value a look at your work. Avoid making it too long, or showing too many similar projects – try and show a range of work that demonstrates how varied your skill-set is.
When I left University, for me, applying directly to companies didn’t seem like the natural step forward. So I started a small freelance company with a colleague, as a way of best showing off our skills. We started out on small jobs such as working as assistant cameramen at the 2012 Olympics as part of a scheme through our Uni. When we moved on from there to filming school plays it felt like a massive step back but this eventually led to interest from parents who wanted corporate work done and soon we were doing regular work for a number of clients.
From there I got a job as a runner for an advertising agency, The Specialist Works, through a friend of mine. Again, it seemed like a step back, but working on something that would end up on television was too good to pass up. They seemed to like the work I did, which led to me being hired again. Fast forward a year, and I’m now working here full time as a production manager, somewhat of a dream job. And the best thing is, I’m still learning new skills.
So I guess the moral of my experience in the TV industry is when things aren’t going your way, stick at it and don’t be afraid to accept the small jobs. It won’t happen overnight, but if you keep at it long enough it will eventually pay off.
And always remember, you’re never too big to make a coffee for someone.
[check out some of the ads Harry and our production team have produced HERE]
[If you have any questions for Harry comment below or contact us through twitter @pace_media]