So you want to be a television presenter and jet around the world interviewing A-list celebrities, being invited to the nations’ biggest music and showbiz events, and appearing regularly on the screen? Then you want to be Sam Mann – presenter, journalist, showbiz expert and all-round glamorous broadcast personality!
Sam Mann has appeared regularly on ITV’s ‘This Morning’, Sky 1’s ‘Angela & Friends’, hosted Wedding TV’s flagship programme, ‘The Wedding Show’ , written her own column in the Daily Mirror and contributed to a whole host of magazines, such as Glamour and Cosmopolitan.
For six years Sam was Celebrity Entertainment Specialist and Entertainment Editor for London’s 95.8 Capital FM, and hosted her own networked show Entertainment Weekly. She has hosted Capital’s Party in The Park in Hyde Park and Big Screen Host at the O2 Wireless festival. She regularly presents movie and première news to US channel E! Entertainment. An avid poker fan Sam was the only female to reach the semi final stage of Celebrity Poker on Challenge TV in 2006.
Sam very kindly agreed to answer a few questions about her life in the media in case it may provide some useful tips for others, so here goes:
How did you get into the television business?
I completed a post grad diploma in broadcast journalism and was lucky enough to gain a bursary from Central News. I worked super hard during my 6 weeks work placement, sometimes leaving the studios at 10pm. At the end of the 6 weeks my Editor offered me a job. I set about learning as many different skills as possible including forward planning, production coordinating, studio running, editing and presenting all of which I still do.
If someone wanted to get your job, what qualifications or skills would they need?
They’d certainly need a hard work ethic, determination and be prepared to put in lots of hours for little pay especially at the beginning. Media qualifications do help but are useless without the above mentioned.
What do producers want from you on screen? How do you make their job easier?
An opinion and fantastic subject knowledge is important if you are an expert. If you know your stuff you will never be caught out and will come across confidently on screen. Producers are there to provide presenters with background info etc but a presenter/expert shouldn’t be lazy. Do your own research and work with the producer. If you know your stuff and you’re easy to work with you’re more likely to get rebooked.
(Editor’s Note: Sam very wisely learnt all aspects of her trade. It is not enough to present yourself as the person who will ask the questions on screen. You need to do a lot of your own background work in on-screen roles, as well as being able to direct your own films if necessary. Sam is adept at researching, directing and producing not just presenting and that is what makes her valuable to producers. And most importantly we can trust her. We need to be sure that she has her facts right and doesn’t land the production with a libel case!)
Is there any part of your job you don’t like or find frustrating?
Working as a freelancer in the media industry requires you to be flexible. Work often comes in at the last minute and you can bet your life that a call will come in just as you’ve booked your summer holiday. I once cancelled a trip to Miami that was all paid for when I was offered a presenting slot on Capital Radio – I was there for 6 years so it was well worth it.
On the other hand unpredictability can also keep the work exciting.
What do you find most rewarding about your work?
There is nothing better than seeing something transmitted that you have worked your socks off on and receiving an email from the editor to congratulate you on your work. The projects that take the most planning and time usually have the most rewarding outcome which is important to remember when you are pulling your hair out in front of your PC at midnight.
(Editor’s Note: Another salutary lesson for producers and executives – don’t forget to thank the talent for a job well done!)
What’s the worst situation you’ve ever been in in your TV work?
The first time I was on live TV the main presenter asked me a question which didn’t seem to make sense. For a second or two I sat there desperately trying to work out what I’d been asked, at the same time a little voice inside of me was telling me to run off set and hide. Luckily I didn’t run and I cobbled together an answer to the nearest question to what I thought I’d been asked. It felt like I had sat there for ages before I worked out what to do. When I watched it back the main presenter had in fact not made any sense whatsoever and I had only paused for a couple of seconds. I was really pleased with how I’d got myself out of what could have been an embarrassing situation. I now try and watch everything I do back, critique my performance and make mental notes to do better next time.
And the funniest?
I was interviewing Madonna backstage at the Brit awards when she began cracking jokes about nuns and STDs it was a funny and bizarre scenario. Also when working for ITV’s ‘This Morning’ I find myself getting A listers to do crazy things and of course I join in too.
How do you generally find work?
I find enough work tends to come my way although sometimes I can have too much work on and at other times I can be twiddling my thumbs. Thankfully I learnt early on to enjoy the quiet times and not feel guilty as I’ll soon be dashing around without so much as a coffee break.
Do you think an agent is essential if you want to be on TV?
No. An agent can help with sourcing work but you could always keep abreast of what’s going on yourself. I’m currently without an agent because I am busy enough without one and my work tends to be with shows/producers I have worked with before. Once you have an agent it is important that you work with them and don’t rely on them completely.
How do you find an agent?
I have always found my agents through recommendation. Another tip is to find someone’s work/career path you admire and find out who represents them. Its no good contacting an agent who specializes in something completely different to what you’d like to do.
Thank you, Sam! We will be featuring advice from a couple of television agents in the next few weeks so subscribe to this blog now to be sure you don’t miss it. And if you have any questions, or comments, please do leave them below and we’ll do what we can to find you answers.
And finally – have a look at Sam’s show-reel to get an idea of of what she does and how well she does it!
Sam Mann show-reel: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FhznFe_5YJ0