So you want to be a television presenter and you’re wondering how to go about it. Well everyone has a different path to their goal in television, some smoother than others (check out Diary of a Thwarted TV Host elsewhere on this site) but hearing how others did it is always useful.
Carys Dayne is a presenter and a voiceover artist – which is good because having two skills is always better than one in the television business! Here’s how she did it.
Tell us about your presenting work.
I work with several indies, presenting for them and developing new TV programmes. My style is very “real” with warmth and likability. I don’t patronise my audience, I make sure they are included in the programme and on the journey with me rather than feeling like they are on the outside looking in on something they cannot relate to.
It’s important for me to be 100% passionate about what I’m presenting too, if I’m excited about it or emotionally attached to the subject in some way then I think the viewer has a better chance of being too.
How did you get into television?
I always wanted to work in the industry but wasn’t sure what area I wanted to focus on. There was so much about it that fascinated me. I studied Media Production at college and university which gave me insight and knowledge in many areas. It was a very hands-on course which I found a better way to learn than a more academic kind. I figured the best way to learn about putting programmes together was to make them rather than read about it in a book! When we made productions that needed a presenter it was always me that was put forward for it and I loved it!
I landed a job with ITV straight out of uni as an Edit Assistant in post production. I worked mainly in the children’s department and one of the shows I worked on won a BAFTA. It was a great opportunity to learn the whole production process and meet producers and valuable contacts. Working in TV just made me more hungry to be in front of the camera but I was never naive about how hard it would be.
It’s all well and good your friends telling you how good you are, I needed to know what industry people thought and if they believed I had the talent to do it. Being at ITV put me in the perfect place to get a showreel together, show it to colleagues and do a mail-shot to other TV people. The feedback was fantastic! It gave me the confidence to keep going.
At the time there weren’t many TV opportunities around for new talent but I wanted experience and it was important for me to lay down some foundations, to learn and build on my CV. One of the editors I worked with suggested I got in touch with radio stations and not to rule that avenue out. Taking onboard his advice and understanding that the live broadcast experience could be invaluable, that’s what I did.
I started broadcasting traffic & travel updates for most of the commercial & BBC radio stations in the North. It was a split shift which was painful to say the least but a fantastic learning curve! Within a year I was presenting a local breakfast show in Manchester and the audience doubled in 6 months! I did breakfast radio for several years; increased listeners at several stations, won awards, interviewed so many celebs and was lucky enough to work with most kids TV presenters from the days of the broom cupboard including Toby Anstis, Andy Crane & Pat Sharp!
I’m back in the world of TV presenting now and loving every minute!
How do you go about finding voiceover work?
The best thing to do, particularly if you have little experience, is to contact local video production companies as quite often they need voiceovers for corporate projects.
If they like you and your style there’s every chance they will recommend you to other people. The social networking sites are good for finding out about job opportunities too, so it never hurts to follow companies on Twitter and introduce yourself to them.
There are many web sites out there that claim to find you “inside” jobs; personally I’m a little wary of that promise particularly if there is a fee involved. I have a voiceover agent so I work with her to track down opportunities but I never stop approaching people myself just so they know I’m around and hopefully they will want to hear my demo!
Which is better paid – the TV presenting or the voiceover work?
That depends on the project really. If you’re talented you can earn a decent amount of money doing either. It’s all relative – if you’re lucky enough to land a presenting or voiceover job with the big broadcasters then you’ll be rewarded nicely. If you are working for a small indie on a corporate or online project then the pay will be less.
It the same as with any profession; even the big players are cutting back though and there are less and less over inflated contracts on offer.
Do you need a distinctive voice to get voiceover work?
It certainly helps! I thank my Dad for encouraging me to answer the phone in his office from a very young age! Learning how to speak to his clients helped me form a good telephone manner and that was excellent grounding.
It’s important to be able to speak clearly, with a good voice and also you need to be able to take direction. If you can do accents, impersonations or characters then this is a good skill to have for more specialist projects.
How involved do you get in the production of a programme you are presenting? Do you simply rock up and deliver the lines?
It depends on what company you are presenting for. Some just want you to do the job you’re paid to do and let everyone else get on with theirs. I personally think it’s vital to understand the whole production process as that helps you be a better presenter, to be more professional and your main focus should always be the end programme being the best it can possibly be.
You are working as part of a team and should be a good team player. These days the industry is very different to what it was 10 or 20 years ago. The budgets are less, everyone is expected to multi task and employers generally want a lot more for their money.
What are the challenges you face finding more work after a project is finished?
It’s always tough when you complete a project and part of the roller coaster of being self employed is wondering where your next work is coming from. You have to be pretty good with money to ensure you can still eat during the down times. I have to try to be organised and be one step ahead of the game, if that’s ever possible!
Keep communicating with your contacts and clients so they always know your availability. It’s always helpful to be able to do something else – it could be something that relates to your industry job or not, but having another option to earn some money is a good safety net.
Do you have an agent? If so how much do you do to find your own work?
I don’t have an agent for my TV work at the moment. However, I am at the point in my career where I think it would be good to work with someone who has the contacts that I don’t. It should always be about working with that person representing you, communicating with them and it should be a partnership where you both work hard to get the right jobs for you.
An agent isn’t there to do the donkey work alone and they need a very clear picture on what type of jobs you are looking for. The more open you are with them the better chance they have of pitching you to the right companies and nailing you that gig. I’m ambitious and keen to take the next step up so I may need help to do that.
What advice would you give anyone trying to break into television presenting or voiceover work?
I occasionally do some media mentoring / coaching to college and university students. I like having the opportunity to give something back and help arm young people with every tool, resource and bit of knowledge to nail that job. Especially with media courses growing in popularity and jobs at the other end becoming harder to come by.
The industry is a lot of fun and comes with many highs. I’d describe my experience as a roller coaster ride, plenty of highs but some lows too. It’s not glamorous as you are led to believe, it’s hard work and highly competitive, but when you’re so passionate about it that doesn’t matter. I think these qualities help if you want to succeed.
Confidence not cockiness or arrogance, people skills, ambition – it’s what drives you and keeps you going on the bad days, determination and knowledge of your field. Nothing is ever handed to you on a plate it requires hard work. You need to start contacting industry bods as soon as possible. The earlier you can show you’re interested the better. It shows you’re passionate, committed and serious about wanting to work in the industry.
Offer to work for free, offer to come in and watch the professional’s work (known as shadowing). Offer to make the tea! Gather as much work experience as you possibly can, it’s invaluable on your CV. Most industry people will be happy to talk to you and offer help and advice.
Research, research, research. It’s vital to know as much as you can about the company your going to meet. What programmes they make, watch or listen to the output, make notes, note any questions you have to ask.
The first job you get might not be in the area of television production you end up in. I started as an Edit Assistant but it put me in the right place to become a presenter. So remember to be flexible in order to work your way up to where you want to be. I believe if you are talented, believe in yourself, want it enough and your determined to succeed you can achieve anything.
Go for it, one thing is for sure if you don’t try – you’ll never know!
You can see Carys on her website: www.carysgdayne.co.uk.