Want to work in TV and thinking of going to University first?

If so, and you’re looking at TV/Film/Media courses, here are the 12 questions you should be asking on Open Day:

1. What is the kit like (shooting, editing, sound, studios etc) and can you easily get your hands on it?

2. What opportunities for work experience are there? Do they lay it on, have contacts in the industry and is it “meaningful” (ie relevant and practical).

3. Do the lecturers have recent experience in the industry? (You need to know they know what they’re talking about).

4. Do they get in guest speakers from the industry to give talks?  

5. What is the careers advice like? Do they give you individual guidance and who is giving it (again, do they have industry experience or access to good sources?).

6. Where do recent graduates go? And alumni after 3-5 years, how many are in the industry and at what level? (Remember alumni are ready made contacts of the course team and are a valuable asset when looking for work experience and a first job)

7. Does the course have accreditation e.g Screen Skills?

8. What is the largest group taught in for practical modules? Some will need to have lots of people (eg studio sessions) but some work better the fewer students there are (eg editing).

9. How is group work managed and assessed? Will you be doing work which will benefit others who might put in no effort? Group work to learn how to work in a team is important but being assessed on other people’s (lack of) contribution can be a real irritant to conscientious students.

10. What is the balance of theory and practice and what sort of theory is taught? Theory has its place of course but the amount and quality of the practical experience you get is the real value .

11. Does the curriculum meet your specific needs, does it allow you to specialise at the end of the course in a genre or role? Or does everyone have to produce/direct? Is it broad enough to introduce you to things you’ve never thought of?

11. What software is used for editing, sound, production management (if they teach those areas)? Does the course offer extras like ProTools or Avid accreditation for example.

12. What extra course costs are there? Cost for final projects (locations, actor expenses, copyright for music?). Does the uni cover these or is there a cap on how much you can spend to stop those who can afford it spending loads and having a better project just because they have more money?

Make sure you get satisfactory answers to all these (feel free to print this off as a list and take it with you). And remember, you are the customer – they have to impress you NOT the other way round!

National Youth Film Academy (NYFA)

Are you considering paying a fee to attend an audition/interview for one of the National Youth Film Academy’s £1200 (+ costs) “Set Ready” courses?

If so it is worth bearing the following reviews in mind. Every single one of these is from individuals who have paid to go to auditions or been on the courses themselves (and is just a small representative sample of many others):

“I only did the interview and then realised that it was way too much money for what it was offering”.

“I did an online 9 hour course (spread over 3 weeks) and learned more in those 9 hours than I did in 2 weeks”

“I would not recommend the NYFA to anyone who is looking to improve their skill set in the film industry”

“I attended their Summer Course and found it to be extremely unprofessional – all the work and organisation for the course was loaded onto young apprentices who had no idea what they were doing!

“The main gripe really is that we paid a lot of money for very little return”

“I went to their ‘breakthrough courses’ and the staff were awful, rude and disrespectful to their students, the guest speakers were good but the nyfa demanded full ownership and copyright of our films, meaning they have never been entered into festivals or viewed again by an audience, they gave all students a member status on their website but it is worthless and has led to no new opportunities”

“For the money paid, it was atrocious”

“The course itself was very bare bones; Not only were the course tutors not that experienced (at 18 years old, I’m much more qualified than most of them), but I hardly learnt anything! The most interesting workshop for me was for screenwriting, but even then, I actually learnt very little”

I felt it was a waste of my time”

“I was put into a group with 8 other actors, a director, an AD and a writer. My group were missing a producer, editor and cinematographer. Other groups had 5 actors and a ‘full’ team, again when I point out the unfairness of this, I was told they would sort this. They did not”

“The amount of money for this course is dramatically out proportion for the experience received”

“In my opinion, the NYFA was a waste of money. I have not benefited in any way from being on this Course and could not recommend it to others”

“Fairly badly organised and overpriced”

“I would not recommend the course if people have any other way to network, and that instead they could spend half the cost of the course and produce a well funded short with a similarly sized group. Talking with friends from this course, they feel similarly”

“I personally wouldn’t recommend it as it certainly isn’t worth the money and the only thing my daughter got out of the course was to make new friends with like minded young people”

**UPDATE**

And if you have just arrived on this page after reading the scintillating reviews of this company’s offerings on Trust Pilot, you may want to reflect on the fact that, for some reason, fully 50 people within 72 hours decided to leave their first ever review on that site and all spontaneously decided to make it about their experience on these courses. And would you know – every single one decided, entirely independently, to express overwhelming satisfaction!!

Such an outpouring of effusive joy, it’s almost like a miracle.

*UPDATE 2** 

And now it transpires that course attendees have been paid to leave reviews on Trustpilot – which does also help explain the enthusiasm on show! You’ll struggle to find mention of this salient fact in the reviews themselves though, which is not only against Trustpilot’s rules but a little shady to say the least…

Why Runners should keep to the one page CV rule.

It is often suggested that Runners should keep their CVs down to one page. Here are 5  reasons why this is a good rule to follow:

1. Employers will spend maybe 5-10 seconds taking a first look at your CV. One page will force them to focus on your best content in that time.

2.  If you don’t put a limit on the amount of information contained in your CV, you will tend to put unnecessary detail. Sticking to one page makes you focus on the strongest material to include, expressed in the most concise form. How many times do you want to say you made tea and coffee or did the lunch runs on this or that show? Does that Cycling Proficiency qualification really add anything? Or that student film which you loved making but won’t mean a hill of beans to a TV industry Line Producer?

3.  Employers are often not in the first flush of youth.  If they print out your CV (which many of the old dears do because that’s the world they know) you are forcing them into the hell of staples and paperclips. You really don’t want to confuse them any more than they might already be. 

4.  It is not uncommon for more experienced TV professionals to stick to one page. If they can, so should you.

5. If your CV is jam packed with brilliant shows and you have to add another page, you should ask yourself – shouldn’t I be moving on and up by now?

Sticking to one page isn’t an immutable rule but if you are going to break it, consider whether the reasons for doing so are good enough – they rarely are. 

What Employers really think about runners

This website shares admins with the huge Facebook Runners Group https://www.facebook.com/groups/tv.runners/

We created the group to try to widen access to a more diverse range of new entrants as an alternative to just using word of mouth and taking the last person someone else employed. Many aspiring runners never get their chance, and many still won’t, but the wider the net can be cast the better off the industry will be in the long run.

We were very conscious that employers would be cautious about posting to such a large group, wary of being drowned under the weight of nonsensical or utterly inappropriate applications, so we put in place (and actively police) a set of rules such as ‘only apply for jobs where you meet the criteria precisely’, ‘don’t contact employers about other jobs’, ‘no friend requests or private messages’ and so on.

Gradually more and more employers began to offer more opportunities and confidence has grown over the years, so a few weeks ago we ran a survey to understand what employers and runners thought about it all. It’s worth reading, especially if you’re an employer and you’ve never considered (or have been nervous about) using the group to find new entrants. And it’s worth reading if you’re a runner and looking for a way into this industry.

The survey results are here, feel free to leave your comments below.

Cold emailing for work: The dos and don’ts.

Cold emailing is when you approach a production company you have not worked with before with the aim to make a connection and hopefully secure future work. It’s not the most enjoyable task but one that when it pays off, it can make all the hours of searching and emailing worthwhile. Most production companies receive cold emails on a daily basis and while some may have an automated response, many won’t reply simply due to the volume of CVs they receive. The best things to do after sending a cold email are to forget about it and try not to let it play on your mind. If there’s a job coming up for which you could be suitable, the company will be in touch. If there isn’t such an opportunity, there’s nothing more you can do.

There are, however, things you can do to make your email stand out and better your chances of consideration for future employment.

  • Include a clear, concise subject in the email. E.G, Josie Smith – London based Runner.
  • Don’t write in capital letters and never state ‘urgent’ or ‘important’ in the subject.
  • Be brief but give all the relevant information. Start with a direct opening line which includes your name, job role and why you’re emailing them. Follow up with couple of sentences about your experience, interest in their work and availability. Then politely sign off the emailing saying your CV is attached and you hope to hear from them should a suitable opportunity arise.
  • Personalise your email to make it relevant to the company or person you’re contacting. Be sure to include (and spell correctly) the person or company’s name. Explain why you’re emailing them in particular; perhaps you enjoyed their recent documentary on Ch4 or have a passion for period dramas such as the ones they produce, etc.
  • Be courteous and complimentary if you wish, but don’t suck up. Whilst it’s absolutely fine to say how much you enjoy their work, don’t go too far or you’ll appear disingenuous.
  • Do your research. If you are going to mention their previous work, ensure you have the correct information. It would be very embarrassing to compliment a company on a production they didn’t make!
  • Don’t offer to pop into the office to introduce yourself or ask to meet for a coffee. In this instance, when you don’t have a personal connection, it would be inappropriate. If they want to meet you, they will invite you at a time that suits them.
  • With the recent change in General Data Protection Regulations, you must state that you’re happy for your details to be kept on file and distributed for employment purposes.

You may be more familiar with the term cold calling rather than cold emailing. Before the days of email, this would’ve been the way to get in touch with people to tout for work. These days people, especially busy production people, would generally choose an email over a phone call from someone they don’t know. This is particularly relevant when looking for work, where a phone call is often redundant, as the employer will tell you to email your CV anyway. They don’t have time to listen to your skills and experience, they’d much rather read it on a nice PDF attachment. And if you’re calling to ask who to send it to, you can find those details on the company’s website. You might wish to email an individual but the website only has a jobs@ email address. If that’s the case, its likely to be because the company procedure is for CVs to go through the jobs@ email and you should respect this.

A further example of this, and one we advise against, is turning up at an office with a hard copy of your CV. It might seem like a way of standing out or putting in more effort, but more often than not it’s a waste of time. It sounds harsh, but more often than not a hard copy will be left on someone’s desk or put in the bin. Databases and contacts are stored digitally, so while its easy for someone to save your CV or add it to a database, a hard copy is more cumbersome. When someone has already received multiple CVs that week by email, they’re very unlikely to go to the effort of scanning and saving your hard copy.

There are lots of brilliant production companies across the UK and the best way to find them is to start Googling, keeping a particular eye out for companies in your region. You could start with the TV Watercooler Job Sites Database which has details various production company job pages, as well as links to job boards and crew agencies.

Good luck

A guide to careers in Television

If you’re thinking “hey, I’d like to work in telly” but don’t really know how the whole career thing works, then wonder no more.

Creative Skillset have put together two documents to tell you all you need to know about what jobs there are, the genres and the routes into the business.

TV Career Job Map – Craft & Technical studio roles

TV Career Job Map – Editorial, Development, Production Management, Talent Management

LOOKING FOR RESOURCES OR FURTHER ADVICE?

BAFTA

BBC Academy

BFI

Creative Skillset

Hiive

Royal Television Society

You can find lots of information and resources about careers in screen industries online. Start with these sites and check their social media for more.

Follow us on Twitter @wearehiive @skillsetSSC

Top Tips for finding work experience in the TV industry

Shona Galloway wants to share with Watercooler users her experiences looking for work experience in TV as a new starter. Here’s what she has to say, and if you’d like to write an article yourself  about your own experiences, you can send it via the contact page…

A quick guide to securing a work experience placement in the TV sector. All from the perspective of someone who has been through it and come out the other side, after gaining experience working with BBC1, CBBC, and Channel 5.

1. Do Your Research
When looking at companies to get work experience from, research the type of programmes each company makes in order to tailor your CV and covering letter accordingly. For example, Boomerang mainly produces factual entertainment documentaries. Knowing this, you can brush up on your knowledge on what type of content comes under the ‘factual entertainment’ category, and what that specific company has just finished making.
It is important to try and find work experience with a variety of TV production companies, who each produce different styles of television. An employer looking at a CV from someone with work experience in Live TV, Dramas, and Documentaries is more likely to employ you than someone who just has experience in TV News.

2. Be Persistent
It happens to everyone – rejection. You could contact 30+ production companies and have one response back. However, it only takes one yes to make it worth it. That work experience ‘yes’ could lead to your first job, or it could provide you with skills to put onto your CV that you wouldn’t be able to learn outside of industry.
There is also nothing wrong with a follow up email on a work experience query. If you still haven’t heard back from anyone a month after contacting them, a follow up email to the right person at the right time could not only secure you the work experience, but would show them that you are determined and focused on securing the work experience.

3. Your CV
TV Production Companies receive hundreds of CVs from people wanting to do work experience, which means your CV needs to make them want you to come in. Most employers will tell you that they only really read the first page of your CV. This is why it is vital that the first piece of paper they pick up clearly shows what skills you already have, what previous experience you have in TV or in work in general, and who exactly it is YOU are. It also goes without saying that your email address and contact number need to be correct and clear at the top of the page. If you are at university, make sure you don’t use your university email as employers could get in touch with you in the future after you have graduated. By that time, you may not have checked your email in weeks (or even at all.)
Name the document your CV is as ‘[YOUR NAME] CV for [NAME OF PRODUCTION COMPANY]. This way they can find your CV quickly and easily amongst other work experience CVs that are just literally named ‘CV’.

4. Your Cover Letter
This is where your research comes in. In your cover letter, talk to them about which programme they’ve recently made that you’ve enjoyed. Make sure you actually watch the programme you talk about to avoid any awkward situations in an interview.

It’s also important to talk about what can you do for them as oppose to what can they do for you. They will like that you are taking the initiative to stand out from the usual crowd of work experience cover letters, and they will certainly be more likely to take you on. Always try and identify who to address the cover letter to. It looks a lot more professional and personal for the receiver to see their name after ‘To’, rather than the name of the production company.

5. Think Outside the Box
Try and think of other non-conventional ways to get in contact about work experience opportunities. Networking events are a great way to meet people in the TV industry. RTS Futures hold an annual event for young people who want to kick- start their careers in TV in locations all over England. Dozens of representatives from production companies are on hand to give advice, exchange contact details and to promote themselves.
Don’t be afraid to contact an individual from a production company, express an interest in what they do, and ask to go for a coffee to talk about their job. If the meeting goes well, it effectively sets you up with a contact in that company for future reference. Having that contact will make it much easier to attain work experience, as they would have already met you and will already like you. [* but don’t make a nuisance of yourself or be surprised if you get no reply. The Cooler]

6. Call Don’t Email
Work experience emails can undoubtedly get lost in the daily burst of work related emails. Calling the production company will instantly make you memorable. It also shows to them that you are confident on the phone, and they will normally pass you on the email address of the most relevant person to help you.

By Shona Galloway

Thank you Shona. For further advice on preparing your CV take a look at our post CV Writing Tips

Runner Etiquette.

In some ways TV people can seem quite laid back compared to professionals in other industries. We invite people for a chat rather than an interview, our work clothes are very casual and we advertise jobs on Facebook.

But that’s just because those things make it easier for us to do our jobs. Regardless of whether you’ve seen a job advertised on Facebook or been asked to come in for a chat; you should still approach it with the utmost level of professionalism and in a polite manner. This includes when applying for a job and being on the job itself.

Here are some guidelines for Runner etiquette and trust us; going against them will seriously hinder your changes of getting work.

Etiquette when applying for a job.

  • Always address the employer by their name. Jobs are pretty much always posted with an email address, which usually includes the employer’s name, or on a Facebook post, which makes knowing their name even easier. Not bothering to include their name makes you look lazy. Gone are the days or “Sir / Madam” or “To Whom It May Concern.”
  • Spell their name correctly. Spell it wrong you give the impression that you lack attention to detail or don’t care enough to double check.
  • Don’t add employers on Facebook. It’s unnecessary and unprofessional.
  • Always include a subject heading and if the employer stated a particular one to use, make sure you use it. Fail to do this and you fail to demonstrate that you listen to instructions.
  • Always include a brief cover email. Writing nothing and just attaching your CV is, yet again, lazy and unprofessional.
  • Don’t mark your CV as important. This is arrogant and annoys employers.
  • Don’t follow up emails asking if they’ve received your original email or send your CV more than once. It’s pretty much guaranteed they’ve got it and if they haven’t replied, they just haven’t had time yet.
  • Research the company and personalise your cover letter. This shows you have taken some time to look into what they do and have a genuine interest. However…
  • Don’t go over the top with praising the company. Stating that you are in awe of their incredible life-changing productions is way too much, especially if the production company happens to make commercials. (True story).
  • If you’ve seen a job post on Facebook, don’t take it any less seriously as if you’d come across it by any other means. Make sure your email is polite, professional and completely free of spelling and grammatical errors.
  • If you don’t get the job, move on and don’t ask for specific feedback. The employer doesn’t have time to do this and if you didn’t get a call, its very likely you did one of the things listed above and subsequently ended up in the trash pile.

Etiquette on set.

  • A Runner should be seen but not heard. Always be on standby ready to help, but don’t get in the way or distract the cast and crew.
  • Have a positive attitude and approachable demeanor. No-one wants to work with a Runner who looks miserable or thinks they’re above making someone a cup of tea.
  • Make an effort to learn and remember people’s names, even if they don’t know yours.
  • Don’t sit on equipment or move kit. For some reason people love sitting on apple boxes and the grip department hate this.
  • Always have your phone on silent. You really don’t want to be the person who ruined the shot because their phone started ringing.
  • Don’t take photos on set and share them on social media.
  • Be polite and respectful to everyone on set. You’ll be spending a lot of hours together and its important to get along. Besides, you never know who someone might be. The guy wearing shorts and a cap could be a fellow Runner but he could also be the Executive Producer.

Etiquette after a job.

  • It’s perfectly ok to email an employer after a job to tell them you enjoyed working with them and hope they will bear you in mind in the future. However…
  • Don’t bombard them with emails. One email immediately after the job is fine, more than one is annoying, one email every week is incredibly annoying and will likely get your email address blocked.
  • If some time later – let’s say 6 weeks – you’re available for work again and would like to get in touch with your previous employers to let them know, then that again is fine as long as you stick to the ‘one email at a time’ rule.
  • If you have any queries over pay, for example if you don’t think you were paid overtime as you should have been or your mileage hasn’t been reimbursed, get in touch with the employer as soon as possible. Don’t wait a few weeks and then ask about it. They may already be on another job by then and it could be a long, arduous process to sort it out.

With so many people applying for Runner positions, you simply have to make your job application stand out as one of the good ones. Failing to do so will, time and time again, hinder your likelihood of getting work. Similarly, once you get a foot in the door you should do everything you can to keep it there and make a good reputation. First impressions and good reputations are vital to a successful career in the film and TV industry.

Runner CVs – The No Nos.

Your CV is your first chance to impress an employer and as a Runner its vital you make this first impression count, as this industry doesn’t allow for second chances. Employers receive tons of CVs for every job ad and plenty of them do not meet the mark and are immediately thrown in the trash pile, or rather, dropped into the trash folder.

Some of the things that will make an employer dismiss your CV (and by association dismiss you) include:

A lengthy, over written CV.

Runner CVs should be one page long. Don’t feel as though you have to pad it with unnecessary information, such as which subjects you studied at GCSE and a detailed description as your part time job.

Not stating the key information upfront.

The first things on your CV should be your contact details, where you’re based, if you drive, if you have a car with business insurance and a brief opening line about your experience. 

Poor Formatting.

If your CV is scatty and all over the place, the employer will assume the same applies to you. Make sure your CV looks tidy on the page and doesn’t have any unnecessary gaps. Avoid funky layouts and photos of yourself, as it doesn’t look professional.

Spelling and grammatical errors.

There is simply no excuse for this. You should check and double-check your CV every time you update it and make sure there are absolutely no errors. You need to demonstrate a level of professionalism and eye for detail if you want employers to take your CV seriously.

A lack of concise information.

Your CV needs to be concise if it is going to fit on one page and keep hold of the employer’s very short attention span. Don’t over explain the information; keep it short and relevant.

Confusing or misleading job titles.

If you have technical or photographic experience, you might be tempted to call yourself a Cinematographer / Filmmaker / Runner. Well, don’t. This is confusing, misleading and makes it look like you don’t really understand the industry. By all means include your technical knowledge and experience in your personal profile but don’t call yourself a Cinematographer or DOP.

Not including transferable skills.

If you don’t have much or any experience in the industry, it’s vital to include your transferable skills. Now you may not think you have any, but trust us you do! For example; working in a pub shows that you’re used to working unsociable hours and in a busy environment. If you’ve worked in retail that you’ve demonstrated you can handle cash and work well as part of a team. Baristas and waiters are experienced in taking complicated orders and being on their feet all day. There are plenty of transferable skills for almost any job out there and you just have to pick them out.

Avoid these CV annoyances and employers will give your CV their full attention. And if you can grab their attention, hold on to it and impress them, your chances for getting the job are substantially increased.

Worked as a Runner on Britain’s Got Talent or The X Factor?

Have you ever worked as a Day Runner on Britain’s Got Talent or X Factor? If so you may well be due holiday pay for the work you did on these two shows.

Thames are now aware that many people will have been promised holiday pay and never received it as they should have. Dean Jones (Director of Production) has said that anyone who now wants to receive this pay should write to the company with details of the work they did and Thames will address this for them (email address: dean.jones@thames.tv). There is also a firm commitment from the company that no-one will be penalised as a result of asking for this holiday pay as it is their legal entitlement.

The company has also committed to pay holiday pay to every runner who works for the company in the future and has also committed to endeavour to treat people fairly on these productions in the future.

This message has been approved by the company at the highest level.

Any questions, ask Mark on derrywatson@gmail.com.