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How a TV Runner made it to TV Researcher

Back by popular demand – Louise McNamara, author of one of our most popular posts, The Real Life of a TV Runner, with an update!

Louise wrote very frankly about the reality of life as a TV runner and many people identified with her struggle to find work and a reasonable income as a recent entrant to the world of television production. Many people have also been asking what happened next? So here she is – the TV runner who successfully made that climb to the next rung of the TV ladder:

(You can find the original article here: http://wanttoworkintelevision.com/2011/03/the-real-life-of-a-television-runner)

Louise McNamara

“It was earlier this year that the lovely Shu asked me would I write a contribution to, what was then, her new blog. She was looking for someone to highlight the harsh realities in the life of a television runner, and given my track record, I could have written a whole book on the topic!

The feedback I got from that blog was amazing, not only from people in the industry, but also from people who are not, who I hope appreciated the realisation that television is not this glamorous world people perceive it to be. Having recently read the blog back (I hadn’t read it since writing it), I think perhaps I might have been a little harsh. When writing that blog, I was a little fed up with it all, and perhaps focused too harshly on the negatives. What I never mentioned was I could write a hundred blogs on the positives. I think my main ambition for my first blog was to show people who are thinking of getting into the industry that it is not a walk in the park. It is hard work. But if you have the passion and desire, then it is worth it.

When I left you all last time, I had some light at the end of the tunnel. After nearly three years of running I had finally been given a promotion to production secretary. It had not exactly been the promotion I was looking for, but the immense feeling of relief when I had finally been given that step up was indescribable. Finally, I was thought of as something other than a runner.

The role had been for a pilot show for ITV 1. It was big studio show, so I was in my element. I worked hard, and learned a lot. So after the six-week contract finished I decided, ‘right I will give this production route a go’ and started applying for jobs. All of this was pointless however, as within two weeks of finishing we got the nod that we had been recommissioned for a series of eight episodes, and I was kindly invited back as production secretary for a nice long six month contract.

The show was a big entertainment billing for ITV 1 called ‘Penn & Teller: Fool Us’ – it was a prime time Saturday night feature to air in the summer of 2011. The premise of the show was to have everyday magicians come and perform a trick in front of magic superstars Penn and Teller. If the trick they performed managed to successfully fool the duo, then they would win an all expenses paid trip to Las Vegas to perform in their show.

For such a big show we had a very small team, because of this, there was ample opportunity for me to get involved and help out with the casting process. Not only did I get involved with the casting, but I also had the opportunity to take on jobs that I wanted to do such as, setting up and assisting on VT shoots, editing small sequences, shooting auditions, and much more.

The sole reason I was allowed do this was that I had a wonderful production manager who knew and accepted where my interests lay. I never said to her that production wasn’t my route of choice, but she knew and really gave me the freedom to take the jobs that she could tell I had an interest in. Not that I abandoned my production secretarial duties entirely, but we also had two brilliant co-ordinators who and had everything in control, that they didn’t really have a need for me.

Not only did I have a great production manager, but I also had a great producer and executive producer who again trusted me with a great deal of responsibility and gave me tasks that anywhere else I wouldn’t have the opportunity to do.

One day my executive producer called me aside. I think it’s only a natural human reaction that you automatically think the worse. He started the conversation by saying “Louise, I feel really embarrassed” I was slightly perplexed. “I feel embarrassed, because it was only yesterday I found out what your actual role on this project is. I feel that that role doesn’t warrant the amount of work that you have done, so I am going to change it.”

And that was it. I don’t know why, or how, but as simple as that sentence was said, I was given the title that I had been wanting for so long. Most of the team finished in the week after studio, but because I had been initially hired as production secretary I had been contracted to stay another couple of months. Those couple of months were again, a fantastic learning experience. I was responsible for clearing all the music, all the archive, all the stills, I got to sit in the edit, and help submit all the postproduction paper work. I got to see the project through full circle. I don’t know when I will ever see a project through from the very beginning until the very end again – and even though I don’t want to see any magic again for a very long, long time, what I learned from that show is invaluable.

The real test came though after finishing that project. I needed to capitalise on that experience, and with such a high profiled show headlining my CV, I instantly started getting researcher interviews – something that a year previous seemed like a distant dream away! After a couple of interviews I randomly stumbled across a project I really wanted to work on. I was fortunate enough to be offered the position, and its what has been keeping me busy for the past few months. I finish in a couple of weeks, and it’s silly to calculate, but even if I didn’t work for the rest of the year, I will still have had my best working year since starting in TV. When in comparison to this time last year, I was unemployed and had been so for nearly three months. I was trying to figure out if there was a way for me to take an extended trip back to Ireland for Christmas without it interfering with the benefits I was on at the time.

I wish I could tell you how it happened, but I really don’t know! But it did, miraculously! I said at the beginning of my first blog, that my career to date has been one of those back country roads you think is a short cut, but in fact doubles the length of your journey but you keep on going in the bitter hope of making it to the motorway. I think (I hope!) that after the most backward journey, I have finally made it onto the motorway. No doubt there will be plenty more road works and tollbooths along the way, but with those country roads behind me, I can hopefully handle the obstacles this journey has to offer”.

Thank you, Lou, and very well done. Lou is on the freelance treadmill but she now has valuable TV credits and experience to back her up. I can certainly vouch for her so if anyone is looking for an efficient, friendly, hard-working, fabulous researcher with a great sense of humour – Lou’s your girl!  

Can’t wait for the next exciting instalment, Louise….. 

 

6 comments

  • Miss P says:

    It’s nice to hear that your hard work has paid off- Well Done!

    I’m at a bit of a cross roads at the moment and can’t decide what I want to do, (career wise.) I graduated in film studies over a year ago and am still looking for a position remotely associated with film.

    I studied Media at college so was thinking about exploring a career in television. I understand that you have to start at the bottom and work your way up only the positions that I seem to find always ask for experience. I only have the knowledge of what I have learnt via my course so unfortunately can’t apply.

    I’m starting to believe in that saying – it’s not what you know it’s who you know…

    Do you have any advice with how best to gain experience/apply for entry level jobs?

    • Shu says:

      Have you read these articles? http://wanttoworkintelevision.com/category/first-jobs-in-tv/

      You maybe need to try and get some work experience to get the ball rolling. Any small job related to the media an help towards build up experience. Have you highlighted your practical skills on your CV? You should also apply to BBC and ITV internships. Check out the useful links page as well.

      Assume you are checking the free job sites such as theunitlist.com, combinedmind.com etc?

  • Lou Gallagher says:

    Hoorah – what a great update! Well done Louise!

  • Viki Carter says:

    As the production manager mentioned I really want to say that Louise made her own luck by being indespensible to the whole team and doing anything and everything asked of her and more with enthusiasm.

  • Jeffrey Miller says:

    I am completely inspired by this! I’m an American in Manchester trying to start at the bottom with runner work, but have yet to find anything! I’ve had work experience at the BBC, but it was in Media Management. I stalk theunitlist.com daily for anything to come up in Manchester, but that is far and few between. Reading your blog is really helping alleviate the stress of all this! I hope, through hard work and my skills, to achieve the same as you!

    • Shu says:

      Thanks, Jeffrey. It is a hard slog getting that first job. Have you read what you can about getting the CV into shape and finding production companies outside of London? Funnily enough I’ve just completed an ebook about the necessary steps to applying for those entry-level media jobs (plug plug!) and it’s got very detailed advice about the CV and covering letter. .

      Good luck and let us know how you get on.

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