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So You Want to be a TV Producer?

Christina Schultz, TV Producer

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! 

2 comments

  • Scott Elliott says:

    Hi Christina,

    After reading this article I had to you a line in the hope that you read it. I’m desperately seeking some guidance or advice. I graduated with a BA(Hons) TV Production, I have gained great experience through means of internships at the BBC and at a CBS affiliate in America. I left both temporary roles with glowing letters of recommendation, I received a very high 1st for my dissertation. After well in excess of two hundred applications to jobs, cold calls, introductory letters…..I still can not get as much as a runner job.
    Reading your story today, I had to sit back in amazement that you have achieved so much and with a degree that has nothing to do with TV production. I don’t know if it’s because I’m 32 and people think I suddenly now want to be in TV, I always have. It wasn’t feasible for me to go to University before, four ago after saving enough money I went to Southampton. I even worked over 25 hours a week in a part-time job at the same time. At the moment, I don’t know what else I can do. I thought I would be a very attractive candidate for any production company, I’ve done everything and more that’s been asked of me but still without any success of employment. I have never been left so dispirited in my life.
    If you could lend me a nugget of advice that would help me, I would be forever grateful.
    Kind Regards,
    Scott Elliott (scottkelliott@me.com)

    • Shu says:

      Hi Scott
      Just in case Christina doesn’t see your comment figured I’d step in. We have discussed this very subject here before and if you go to here and start at the post at the bottom of the list and work your way up you’ll see what others have said on the question of media degrees versus other degrees: http://wanttoworkintelevision.com/category/qualifications-tv-media-studies/page/2/.

      There’s a bit of overlap on the topics but you should also check out articles here: http://wanttoworkintelevision.com/category/first-jobs-in-tv.

      It can be difficult getting a job in one country when your main experience comes from another – simply because often the language is different and employers here don’t recognise the credits. It means you may have to do a bit of adapting on your CV. I’ll email you on that subject.

      Thanks so much for leaving your comment. There are plenty of people in similar situations who will appreciate you raising the subject!
      Shu

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