Getting into TV is one thing, staying there and working your way up the ladder is another! A successful TV producer tells us how she did it. Christina Schultz is a producer specialising in food programmes with 11 years experience. She has worked with many broadcasters and independent production companies.
Her credits include Saturday Kitchen, Heston Blumenthal: In Search of Perfection, Britain’s Best Dish and Grand Designs Live.
Here’s Christina’s story:
“I left Bristol University with a Geography degree in 2000 with no idea what I wanted to do. Like many others, the milk rounds of banks, management consultancies and law firms positively turned me off. My godmother was a documentary director for the BBC at the time and she made the industry sound appealing and a rewarding career. In her day though, I hasten to add you could go straight in as a producer…!
Once I’d decided that television was for me, I downloaded every production company contact I could find, roughly 200 in total. I rang every single one and got the name of the person I should send my CV to. Then I emailed and posted my CV to every single one. The following week I got three calls for interviews. One was as a runner for a quiz show at the BBC. Needless to say, I took it. As soon as I started I was determined to absorb as much as possible and tried to help out with everything. Due to a small budget, the researchers were overworked and I was encouraged to help out and as a result got my first taste of researching.
Television is often being in the right place at the right time and often meeting pivotal people who help you up the ladder. My AP was that person. She took me with her to Weakest Link as a researcher where I stayed for two years.
Getting credits after this was hard work and involved more CV- sending, as I only had two shows on my CV. Eventually they added up and after 3 years I was offered an AP role. My first few AP roles were on shows that didn’t have the budget to pay an experienced AP and so they took on an enthusiastic researcher instead. In my experience this is common up the career ladder.
Several AP credits later I realised that game shows and reality wasn’t really my thing and I desperately wanted to work on food programmes. Again, another round of CV bombarding took place. I wrote down every food programme I liked, found the production companies and started, phoning, emailing and CV sending. This was possibly very annoying for these companies, but persistence paid off and I got an AP job on Saturday Kitchen.
Again, I met a pivotal person in my career, this time my Executive Producer. She saw some potential and took me on as a producer. I got a couple of producer credits at the same company but again it was hard work adding to them. After a year of producing I went freelance which, financially, was a good move at that stage for me.
This was six years ago. I am now working on BBC History programmes and the work now comes more easily, although there are still the inevitable weeks of unemployment every year. Since then I have met other pivotal people who have helped me further my career.
I love working in television but it’s a rollercoaster of a career that can give you the best highs, but the lows can be very dispiriting. You need to be emotionally tough, financially savvy and doggedly persistent”.
Thank you, Christina!