More Advice for Work Experience & Runners in Television.

We continue the theme of advice for those looking for and starting their first job in television.

Chris Wise, Managing Director of Mandrill Television, is one fabulous, creative successful television executive. He learnt his craft, set up his own production company and makes wonderful television that broadcasters pay for. He also has a great sense of humour and gets straight to the point. Listen up!

“CVs that go straight in the bin start…”Dear Sir or Madam I want to be a researcher”. Start by researching who you are writing too!

Closely followed into the trash goes “Dear Mr Wise, I am keen to get into tv drama and…”. One look at our website would reveal we don’t do and have never done drama.

Pet hates include “I am willing to make the tea…” I am not senile yet and perfectly capable of making my own tea. Or…”I have experience of directing, producing, floor managing, sound recording, camera work and acting at university and would like to work with your company to find out which of these roles would suit me best in a professional environment.” Not bloody likely! Decide what your passion is then at least I know if I know what I’m dealing with and whether I have a vacancy. Never impressed by “I am multi-skilled…”. No you’re not. You’ve had several roles on Uni projects in an environment with unreal deadlines and no commercial pressures. Be realistic about what you’ve done… Prove you have a passion and a particular talent… Then we might have something to talk about.

And NEVER send me a short film on someone who sells the Big Issue sellers. Ever!”

That’s clear advice from someone who is really great to work with!

Another senior producer who has worked on some the BBC’s popular factual programmes says: “The main thing is they need to be energetic, smiley and alert. Don’t forget first impressions count. If they are team players and think laterally they will move up quickly.”

Next up is Kirsty. Kirsty was someone I first met when she was a runner. Her enthusiasm and personal skills as well as common sense meant she moved up to researcher, assistant producer and is now an experienced and valued producer. This is what she has to say:

“I loved being a runner as it was so exciting to be involved in such an interesting industry (what beats making Richard and Judy’s tea, eh) so I always respond well to runners who seem to be enjoying the job. We all know it’s not the most glamorous (sorting the post, making tea, carrying kit bags etc) but you get back what you put into it. The more you throw yourself into it wholeheartedly – treat it seriously even if the tasks seem little, work hard, be keen to help and friendly to everyone around you – the more you get out of it. I can’t stand it when you get people who think the tasks they’re asked to do are somehow ‘beneath’ them. I still make people a lot of tea and am more than happy to do so! So, more succinctly, my advice would be – smile. Both to those around you and inwardly to yourself.. it should be fun!”

And from the Sound Supervisor some useful tips for when you are in that first job:

“Don’t upset the sound supervisor by losing your talkback set! And don’t bring uncleared music to the sound booth to be played into the programme!”

It doesn’t do to upset any member of the technical crew so this is excellent advice for those working on studio shows. Same advice goes to those taking music to the edit suite. If it ain’t cleared to use it ain’t useable!! But that’s another article altogether….

So there you have it – a few very common themes. My advice is pretty much the same:

As a runner my advice is make yourself indispensable, be friendly, always be willing to do a job, however menial and offer to help anyone who looks busy. Don’t wait to be asked. Busy people love it when someone takes the initiative to do something to help out. Networking is very important (must do a blog post on that soon!) – if any of the production team are going out for a drink after work, go with them – don’t overdo it but show an interest in their role on the production, ask how they got into it and ask their advice on what you should do to go further. Be nice to the production manager – they are usually the ones who will employ you again!  But anyone of the team could be in another job later on and recommend you. Social skills are as important as practical ones – you need to get on with everyone however pressurised it gets. Really work to be a team member. Be confident and don’t be afraid to put your hand up to offer ideas or help.

And attitude is everything – make sure you’ve got the right one!

And don’t forget to check out this site:

This article is one in a series, if you’ve missed the others go check ‘em out for the full picture and if you have any questions, let us know and we’ll find an answer.


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