Using your vehicle for work: are you covered?

FB job ads frequently specify “own vehicle”.  These are most common for junior roles such as runners, because most senior freelancers either have their own transport because they’re providing their own kit, or it’s expected that a hire car will be provided.  

So what’s the problem?  

The problem is that not having the right insurance is likely to mean that in the event that you have an accident (even if it’s not your fault) or simply get stopped by the police you will be deemed to be driving without insurance, and that’s a criminal offence.

I’ve been in touch with Hencilla Canworth, a firm of insurance intermediaries who specialise in insurance for the arts and media, to find out best practice and how you can be absolutely sure that you’re covered if you want to use your own car for business.

Most ordinary car insurance covers you for leisure and domestic use, including commuting to work.  That means that the insurer expects you to use a car to travel to work but not to use your car for business purposes.  The insurer is also relying on the declaration you made about your work – an office worker in a 9-5 job with a guaranteed parking space carries far less risk than a tired runner working 14 hours on a film set.   The difference is reflected in the premium they charge, which is why a lot of people are tempted to lie (or not quite declare the truth…).  

What constitutes “business use”?  

Pretty much anything which your employer asks you to do which involves using your car is “business use”.  That could be doing a quick run to the local sandwich shop to get lunches, picking up the camera assistant because she lives just round the corner from you, ferrying the actors from location to the studio, or loading the boot up with the DOP’s prized prime lenses.   Driving yourself there (alone) is probably fine as long as your job declaration fits.

Do be aware that “business use” may well exclude some specific tasks, top of which would be ferrying actors around.  That’s because the claims on insurance if an actor is injured can be sky high, particularly if a film needs to be rescheduled or, god forbid, reshot entirely.   However you do not need “hire and reward” cover, which is for taxis and minicabs.  

What should I call myself?

Most new entrants have a whole bunch of temp jobs which they fit around freelance media work.  And if you mostly work as a temp receptionist, in a retail job or in a call centre then that’s probably what you’ve declared as your work.  My very helpful informant says that in most cases you can declare a secondary job, and it’s really important that you do that before you even think about using your car for media work.  If the drop down list doesn’t have a suitable category then you need to phone your broker.  

Using comparison sites

The problem with comparison sites is that they cherry pick the low risk jobs/vehicles/drivers, so you may well find that they exclude any media-type work.   There are specialists, like Hencilla Canworth, but it will be more expensive and you will need to check the extent of your cover – for instance, you might find that you’re excluded from ferrying actors (because of the “value” of super stars if they get damaged, I guess).   Please, please don’t cut corners on insurance:  a criminal prosecution (and civil damages) would be absolutely devastating for anyone, but particularly when you’re just starting out. 

In most cases your employer is responsible for ensuring that you’re properly covered when you’re working for them, but using your own car is an exception.  That’s why we remind recruiters who use our FB groups to advertise their jobs that they need to check that anyone they employ who will be using their own vehicle is properly insured.  

Runners’ pay – what should you ask for and should you ask for more?

Here’s a thing about pay.

Runners are often concerned about how to respond if they are asking what their pay rate is, or wonder if they can negotiate for a better rate than is being offered.

The issue is that employers in TV do not generally talk about pay until interview/offering the job. It’s been that way for around 25 years now and is unlikely ever to change as there is nothing in the employers’ interests to change it.

The way it works is that Line Producers/PMs work to a budget which has individual lines for each grade of staff they want to employ. There is a wee bit of wiggle room in there but generally speaking the biggest wiggle goes to the most desirable team members (eg the editor, a really capable PD, camera people). That leaves very little wiggle for runners, simple reason being that a lot of people can be a pretty decent runner so there is a lot of competition for every job and Line Producers know they can just pick up the next person in the queue and get them at the offered rate.

Generally speaking then, as a runner you aren’t going to get significantly above minimum wage. You can argue the toss and try to get a little more but really, you won’t get much more that what’s offered. So it’s best to regard being a runner as a loss leader, a starter job which allows you to get a better (and better remunerated) one. If you bank on getting minimum wage, anything else is then a bonus, and If you can’t work for roughly the minimum wage at the start of your career, you probably won’t make it in the business.

The best way to get paid more? (Don’t tell any PM/LP I told you this). Push for a higher rate of pay only once you’re in the door and you’ve done one show for a company/PM and you’re being offered a second gig. Once they know how good you are and you’ve shown what you have to offer, you have a tad more leverage.

And what to say if you are asked your rate? Well you could suggest what is on the BECTU rate card but a better option might be to say “I’m happy to accept whatever you think is fair”. Generally speaking you will probably then get whatever they have in the budget, which is far better than pitching for a bit more, missing and then not getting the job…

How to move your TV job application to the top of the pile…

There you are. Sitting in your house/flat/yurt (delete where applicable) wondering if it is worth even bothering to apply for another TV job when, despite hundreds of applications, you haven’t even made it to interview stage in the whole year you’ve been applying.

What’s wrong with me? Where am I going wrong? Why are my applications getting me nowhere? (NB this is not me asking, I’m talking as you now).

The good news is – here are the answers! A top employer on the Facebook Runner’s group has come up with some golden advice to help you move your application up that list, from being a candidate for the bin to being a top of the pile prospect.

This is her advice…

I recently posted a vacancy here in the group and wanted to give some feedback. We are a kit hire facility, not production, so our viewpoint is slightly different to most of the posters here. Our vacancy was for a permanent position and it remained open to applications for a while, not the usual few hours for production runner positions.

We had an amazing response and received over 70 CVs. Sadly, the majority of these ended up in our no pile because they were unable to demonstrate that they possessed the key skills we needed despite the posting being pretty specific.

We read every single CV.

We interviewed just 6 people.

Of the 6 people we interviewed, 5 of them came from this group.

But most importantly, the person we have offered the job to, came from this group and starts with us in a couple of weeks.

This is a ridiculously competitive industry, but it is hugely rewarding and those of us lucky enough to work in it understand what you guys are up against when you’re starting out. We are part of this group not just because it gives us access to job seekers, but because we don’t just want to employ someone’s friend, daughter, nephew, etc. Diversity is what makes this industry great.

It can be really tough getting an interview, and if you’re lucky enough to get one you still have to prove you’re the person for the job. So here’s some constructive feedback for you all from someone of the other side.

  • Read the listing, it will likely give an indication of what the employer is looking for and it may even be explicit in its requirements. If there are specific requirements listed, then you need to demonstrate that you tick those boxes. State this in your application email, especially if it isn’t listed on your CV. If an employer cannot easily find that information they will put you straight in the no pile. If you are required to be within a specific location (or within a specific distance to it) say so, how else will a prospective employer know if your address isn’t liste
  • If a particular skill is an absolute necessity, it’s a good idea if you not only say you have that skill but also demonstrate that you have experience in it ‘I am able to ……’ ‘and I have been ….. for 3 years’. If we can’t find this information we will assume you are unable, so we’ll put you in the no pile.
  • Be a relevant applicant; if a vacancy is in production, or crew, etc don’t state in your CV and letter that you want to be in animation. Straight to the no pile, because you’re not going to be committed to this position.
  • Attach the correct CV – rookie error. As employers we understand and accept that applicants will have multiple CVs for different roles they’d like. Send the correct one for the role you are applying for. If you cannot get this basic step right, guess what – straight to the no pile.
  • Similarly with the application email. Address it correctly, get the person’s name right if you have it, make sure the subject title is correct. They will be receiving many applications as well as their regular emails and if they can’t easily identify yours it will be missed. …and how would you feel if you were called Dave, when your name is actually John? The no pile awaits I’m afraid.
  • And lastly, if you are applying for a junior position then I’m sorry but your showreel is irrelevant. Don’t overfill your application letters and CVs with unnecessary information, we need to be able to pull out the relevant skills easily, that way we can put you in the yes pile!

I posted these notes a few weeks ago, so some of you may have already seen them. With so many of you graduating recently I thought it useful to repost them.

And here’s a couple of additional points to the above which came up during our interview process.

  • This industry is fairly notorious for nepotism, it’s very acceptable for a common contact to make in an introduction on your behalf, but it’s not always a good thing to get your parent to enquire about a vacancy / potential vacancy / progress of an application. Whilst it’s understandable that parents want to help, you’re grown ups now.
  • If you are invited for interview turn up on time. Don’t arrive too early, and definitely don’t arrive late. If you’re really early, find somewhere to kill some time rather than waiting in the employer’s office for 40 mins. They won’t appreciate it and it will definitely stress you out. You won’t be at your best for the interview, find a coffee shop, go for a short walk.
  • Be engaged in the conversation, that means talk! Interviewees should expect to do 80% of the talking, interviewers just 20%. If the interviewer is talking more than you, it’s probably not going well. Make eye contact, sit up straight and be aware of your body language, remember we’re looking at what you don’t say as much as what you do say. We understand you’re nervous, guess what, you’re interviewer might not be the cool character they outwardly appear to be either.
  • When the interview is finished, shake their hand (please no limp wrists!) and thank them for their time. It’s a small thing, but it makes you memorable and shows maturity.

Sorry for the long post guys, but hopefully a few of you can pluck out some useful info! Good luck

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