Natasha Jarvis wants to work in television and having recently graduated she is going all out to get that coveted first job. Like so many others aiming for a career in the media she has been concentrating on supplementing her academic qualifications with practical work experience. Even finding work experience – basically doing work for free – can be hard, especially finding a placement in a company that will provide exposure to the media.
Natasha’s experience is common to many people leaving education and trying to get a foot in the door. So her story could well help both others on the same path and help those of us already in the business to understand what graduates and young job-seekers have to get through to get their break.
It was in October 2010 that I decided Documentaries was the career path that I wanted to follow after graduating this summer. Documentaries ability to find a connection with the rest of humanity, to connect with another person’s life and to trigger social change is what inspires me to achieve my ultimate career goal of becoming a documentary director. I am always astounded by the ability of documentaries to focus on the, often unexplored, banal or exceptional aspects of life and highlight both the similarities and differences in human nature.
In order to pursue my new found dream, in my last year of studying Human Geography at the University of Sheffield I joined the Sheffield University Documentary society, visited the Sheffield Documentary film festival’s DocDay, attended a masterclass with Albert Maysales and started to research documentary production. In addition, I also organised two work experience placements for this summer. The first, two weeks with Surrey Community Film Unit, a social enterprise which provides short films for local organisations in order to promote local achievements, social issues and businesses.
The second, three days a week throughout July and August working for Pablo Navarrete, the director of ‘Inside the revolution: A journey into the heart of Venezuela’ and founder of Alborada, an independent organisation that aims to uncover the truth about Latin America through studying the related issues of the media, culture and politics.
Working with Surrey Community Film Unit was a brilliant experience. They are a young, creative and enterprising organisation with a relaxed and friendly atmosphere in the office. With only 5 employees ever in the office, which is situated above a youth centre, it has a relaxed and friendly atmosphere that you would not find in larger corporate businesses. They all took time to explain to me how to use their cameras, edit on final cut pro, interview documentary subjects in a professional manner, work with clients and off course I developed my expertise in making cups of tea!
I have now begun my work experience with Alborada, I have only worked their 3 days so far, however I have enjoyed working on the subtitles of their recent film ‘Colombia Uncovered’ in final cut pro. Whilst working at Alborada this summer, I also hope to make a few short 5 minute documentaries myself, the first I hope to shoot in August and will give an insight into the unique self-supporting, non-profit making organisation ‘Horse Rangers’, whose aim is to teach its members horsemanship.
Finding those work placements is hard so how did Natasha go about it?
With regard to the Surrey community film unit placement, I was on Facebook and noticed that a boy I used to go to school with was pictured holding a camera in his profile picture. I clicked on his profile and it stated that he worked at Surrey Community Film unit. I then typed the company name into Google and emailed the contact email address.
As for the Alborada placement, I went to watch a documentary about Venezuela at the Independent showroom in Sheffield in 2009. They had a Q&A with the director, and after that I approached him, got his email address and we have stayed in touch since. So when I decided I wanted to get into documentaries I emailed him and asked for work experience.
(The personal approach is by far the most effective. It may take a bit of courage but most people will respond favourably to a polite request. Never miss an opportunity to collar a media professional and ask for advice, contacts or work! Ed.)
And Natasha’s advice on requesting work experience/internships?
Firstly, outline why you want to work for that company
Second, outline what makes you passionate about the work they do (eg, TV/Film etc)
Third, what skills/knowledge you would bring to the company, and give examples of where you have shown you have those skills.
My advice to any other graduates in my position is to get work experience at smaller organisations first. Smaller organisations are easier to get work experience from and are more likely to have the time to teach you the essential skills specific to that industry. In addition, these organisations can provide you with a good knowledge of the industry so that if you are lucky enough to get work experience with institutions such as ITV, BBC, Channel 4 etc, later on you will be able to impress them by showing greater initiative and knowledge. My second piece of advice is that when taking part in a work experience placements, employers are mostly looking for you to show enthusiasm, people skills and initiative.
Having graduated from Sheffield University with a first class honours in Human Geography, I am now on the lookout for work experience/paid work in TV, film or ideally documentaries. I would appreciate it if anyone has any opportunities or advice which could be of some benefit to me. My email address is Natasha.Jvs@gmail.com.
Thank you, Natasha. And having met Natasha personally I can vouch for the fact that she is a charming, personable, intelligent and very capable person who would be a great asset to a production team. Grab her now!
More advice for work experiences and runners in TV coming very soon. Subscribe now if you don’t want to miss it.