You betcha! Not only are writing skills useful in many aspects of TV work but they may help you to get TV work in the first place A badly written CV and covering email could finish your chances of even getting on the first rung.
When Ollie Scarth got in touch to offer a blog post and explained he had secure a series of articles/blogs for Broadcast Now (the online version of the UK broadcast TV trade magazine) I figured he may have some hints and tips for anyone trying to get their name noticed in the world of TV work. Ollie is now an Assistant Producer working in London. His contributions to Broadcast Now are basically a ‘What’s it like to work in TV’ diary/blog.
Not only is Ollie now indulging his love of writing but more importantly he is getting his name in the UK main trade magazine for TV people which has got to be helpful when looking for work!
Over to Ollie for his story to give you an idea on how to make your mark with your writing skills:
How did you get into TV and what are you working on now or most recently worked on?
I did a Broadcasting degree at the University of Leeds. It was very practical and taught us over three years how to shoot on Z7s (I underestimated the value of this at the time), how to make documentaries, write research briefs, direct and produce studio shows etc. I loved it.
In my first year a lecturer terrified me by saying that unless we got work experience we had no chance. I immediately set out to get some and did a few placements that year. I started running in my first summer and by my third year had started researching on a new ITV factual entertainment show being made in Leeds. I’d started as work experience there a year or so before, then they offered me a runner job before finally giving me my first researcher role. I was really lucky and it paid off to be able to do all this at Uni when I had a student loan and cheap living (and a bar job) to help supplement the free work. Trying to do this in London post-degree is extremely difficult.
I’m currently working on a Channel 4 programme about criminals. I’m responsible for the casting, so finding the criminals, victims and police involved in crimes and getting them to take part in filming. I’m now moving into a new job in Development ….
Tell us how you got into writing about your experiences working in TV?
I’d always liked writing but found that, aside from contributor biogs, emails and the occasional treatment, working as a Researcher and AP in TV didn’t really offer many opportunities to write creatively. That’s not to say there aren’t opportunities within TV to do that though.
I decided on a train journey home from a recce to Durham to start writing down what it was like to be a Researcher on location. Pretty soon I’d created a fictitious show and was detailing what a standard 16 hour location day was like.
When it was finished I sent it round to some of my TV friends to see what they thought. They enjoyed it and urged me to send it to Broadcast Now.
Did you send your writing to any other publications (other than Broadcast Now)? If so which ones and what was the reaction?
I initially only thought about sending it to Broadcast as they are industry specific and seemed the most likely to take on and publish the piece I’d written.
As the subject matter is pretty specific and only really relevant to TV people I’ve only sent it out tentatively to a couple of other publications, such as ‘The Guide’ – but as of yet have heard nothing back from them. I send them weekly emails with different ideas though.
Did you have a name or personal contact with Broadcast Now? If not how did you go about finding the correct person to write to?
I didn’t know anybody at Broadcast so I went onto their contact page and got the email for Lisa Campbell, the Editor, and Chris Curtis, the online editor. I sent them an email with my piece attached explaining who I was and asking whether they may be interested in publishing it.
I received a reply that day saying they’d have a look and someone would get back to me. I didn’t hear anything for a couple of weeks so I sent it again asking if they’d had a chance to look at it.
I received a reply the next day saying that they liked it and would probably use it next week – which was great! Predictably though, I didn’t hear anything else. A couple of weeks later I wrote to them again and they assured me that it would appear the following week online.
On the Tuesday of that week I received an email from a Producer I know congratulating me on getting it published – that’s how I found out it had gone out!
Do you get paid to write?
Not initially. But the first piece had a good reaction. The Editor got in touch saying that she’d like me to write a weekly blog.
As I work full time in TV I asked to be paid for any further contributions and they were more than happy to arrange a fee per post.
There are many people now blogging about getting into and working in TV. What did you do to set yourself apart from the rest?
Initially I wanted to write about TV because I’d read a lot of serious blogs about how tough it was, how draining it was and how difficult it was. Whilst I agree with all that I wanted to attempt to make the same point but in a more light hearted way that shows that whilst it may be difficult, a lot of people love working in TV too.
How do you think your writing will help you in your TV work?
I am just starting a new job in development which is one of the places in TV where you have write a lot. I think writing on a regular basis and thinking creatively will help immensely when writing pitches and treatments as well as scripts.
Any advice for others wanting to write or develop their writing skills?
Write a lot and write about what you know! Send what you write to friends and family that you can trust to give you honest feed back…this has helped me tremendously. I send everything I write to 5 – 10 different people who I can trust to tell me if it’s rubbish or if something needs changing!