TV Expert Gordon Ramsey
So you may be a television presenter with a passion or someone with an area of expertise that you’d like share on television. You could be a TV ‘expert’ but how do you get yourself noticed?
The good news is that over the past few years it’s become easier for TV experts to get on screen than it is for general reporters and presenters. You can blame/thank the rise and rise of lifestyle television for that. And you can probably blame the likes of ITV’s long-running daytime series, ‘This Morning’ for the development of lifestyle programming.
Once upon a time lifestyle formats – cooking, gardening, property, self-help – were seen strictly as daytime fodder, not the sort of thing you’d put in a peak time schedule. Magazine shows like ‘This Morning’ presented strands (a series of short films) on just those subjects and provided on-screen jobs for both general reporters and eventually for the experts. A cookery strand needed a cook; gardening a gardener and so on.
At first we’d usually hire an expert and a reporter to ask the expert the questions. But why hire two people if you could do the job with one? So eventually the TV expert was born and rose to take over many of the jobs the reporters had been doing. They presented their strands – and eventually full-length shows – on their own. They were good on-screen, had all the information at their fingers tips and learnt how to present that information to the viewers without help from a presenter or reporter. There have always been famous TV chefs and cooks but now gardeners, agony aunts, estate agents, interior designers and even psychics and regression experts came into their own.
Many a daytime strand inspired a peak time format and many a daytime TV expert became a prime time face. And some experts even managed to make to leap into general presenting – Alan Titchmarsh being an obvious example.
The explosion of new channels in the digital age has also presented more opportunities for both reporters, presenters and experts but, without scientific evidence to back me up, I’m going to suggest you still have a better chance of getting on screen if you can present some kind of expertise. Life coaches, wedding planners, cosmetic surgeons, nutritionists, whatever your skill there’s bound to be a TV programme in it somewhere.
However it is not enough to be good at something or have that area of expertise, you have to be able to present as well. See previous articles on this subject (http://wanttoworkintelevision/category/presenting-on-television/).
Television producers don’t just want someone who knows what they are doing, they want a personality to go with it; they want someone who will light up the screen, engage the audience, do the homework and present facts accurately. The latter point is important. No producer wants to be fending off a stack of complaints when an expert gets his or her facts wrong on screen. This is more crucial in certain subject areas than others – you can’t risk getting subjects like health, psychiatry and cosmetic surgery wrong. You can ruin a viewer’s life or even kill them with the wrong advice.
Never underestimate the power of your words on television and never forget the responsibility you hold as an expert or a producer to the people watching and believing what you are putting on the screen. (But I digress – we will have articles on the responsibility TV production and presenters have to their viewers another time).
So you’re an expert in something and you want to be on the television. How are you going to get that elusive on-screen role?
- Get yourself on video doing what you do best. Get a mate who has a digital camera and ideally knows their way around Windows Movie Maker or similar. Look at showreels of other experts on-line and see what they do in their video. Make it short, lively and informative. Post it on YouTube then all you need to do is send a link to producers and agents. A monologue to your webcam won’t be enough.
- Write up a biography/press release on yourself and what you do. Make it light, short (preferably no longer than one side of A4) and sell yourself. It is a pitch document not an essay on your life. Highlight what you offer and how it may differ from what everyone else may be offering. Include your professional qualifications and anything else that TV producer may find relevant – events you’ve contributed to, interesting case studies you’ve worked with, prizes you may have won.
- Get your curriculum vitae in good order, outlining your qualifications and your experience.
- Get a good, well-lit photograph of yourself which you can send with your biog to potential producers and agents.
- Think of idea for a television show that would use your talents. It’s a long shot and it’s very hard getting ideas accepted (see previous articles on this subject (http://wanttoworkintelevision/how-to-present-ideas/) but it shows a level of commitment and passion for both television and your expert subject and helps to provide a ‘calling card’ when asking to see producers and agents. It doesn’t matter so much if they don’t like the idea as long as they like you!
- Get feedback. If you know anyone who knows anyone in television or an agent or just someone who is unfailingly honest, then ask them for feedback on your video or biog or your work. Listen and use constructive feedback to improve the way you are promoting yourself (but use your instinct to work out what is constructive advice and what isn’t – not everyone gives good feedback!).
- Use contacts. Any contacts! Do you have clients who have a connection to the media world? Get them to vouch for you, provide a glowing testimonial or better still arrange a meeting for you with someone in the business.
- Get yourself ‘out there’. Get your videos onYouTube, approach your local newspaper to do a feature with you, offer to do a free informational phone-in on your local radio station, start a blog, streak across Wimbledon Centre Court if you must (unless you are hoping to be taken seriously in your on-screen role in which case this approach is to be avoided!). The more your name is used in public the more chance of you coming to the notice of producers and agents.
- Get an agent. That’s not easy either. That’s a topic for another article. Best you subscribe now so you don’t miss it.
- If you really think you are ready and have the skills you could take membership of websites like www.findatvexpert.com. It’s worth checking it out anyway to see what sort of experts are already selling themselves. It costs to join so be sure you are being realistic before you sign up – unless you can afford to spend the money.
- Be passionate abut your subject. True passion shines through the TV camera lens. You need to really believe in what you are doing and have a genuine desire to pas that on.
If you are looking to get professional help with writing a biography, making a showreel and developing ideas then we could help: http://wanttoworkintelevision.com/media-training/