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Things you REALLY need to know about being a Runner in TV

If you are a runner or entry-level then we have FIVE FREE TICKETS to our fund-raising evening of TV Gossip, Comedy and Networking on the evening of June 12 in Soho, London. See below for details and a special discount for runners and entry-level.

 

making teaWho’d be a runner in TV?

 

Yes, I know lots of you – and you don’t need telling that it’s a tough job to get and tougher still to survive on the runner’s wage, especially when contracts can be so short. I bumped into Julia on Twitter, as you do, who was expounding on the financial hardships of a runner’s life in London – so naturally I asked her to answer some questions and share her story with you.

 

And here it is. First the short bio from Julia:

Julia Bond – Runner, Logger, Clips researcher. Lives in London. Has a passion for television especially that including food, space and baby chickens. Self-confessed coffee snob who works in telly trying to make the big leap up to junior researcher.

 

 

  • Getting a foot in the door of a television job is notoriously hard.  What do you find are the biggest barriers to finding work in TV?

Not being able to drive can be a massive hindrance – I am comfortable driving smaller cars but vans and larger cars terrify me and this is something I am working on to make myself more employable. You will lose many jobs if you can’t drive so get your licence as soon as you possibly can.

 

Age, sadly as many under 25’s reading this you will be ruled out of multiple jobs as it is cheaper to insure those who are 25 for an entry level role such as a runner or driver and junior researcher which at 18, 21, 23 can be a bit of a kick in the teeth – however if employers really like you they may be willing to pay a bit more to get you on insurance. I have taken my age off my CV because of this and I recommend you to do the same – however if a post you are applying for says you have to be a certain age – don’t apply you will just annoy them and ultimately waste their and your time.

 

Where you live can stand against you in the TV job hunt. If you live in London, Cardiff, Manchester or Bristol or nearby you will have access to multiple television production companies. There are other production companies dotted around the country but due to the lack of television ‘saturation’ for want of a better word in other areas of the UK these companies can be harder to get into, which leaves you with two choices – move or be very persistent.

 

TV is a hard business to get into so you shouldn’t expect to just walk into a job straight away; you have to show some kind of persistence. Getting a job in TV is about 80% persistence and about 20% being in the right place at the right time. I sent out over 200 letters asking for work experience I got five replies, one with a placement – the other two work experience placements I got through applying to online schemes. For my first job I sent out about the same amount of CV’s – persistence is key.

 

 

  • What resources have you found – if any – to be most useful in learning about the business and finding work?

Aside from NaSTA and Student television work experience working at ITV, Channel 4 and at Maverick proved to be the most valuable experience that set me up for understanding live pitches to commissioners, the rigorous process for new shows, the audition process, how much planning and coordinating behind the scenes takes place, the importance of tea and coffee (and what constitutes a good one) and lastly the importance of a receipt – and remembering always to get a receipt!

 

In terms of finding a job I have to say the Facebook Runners Group and People Who are Available in TV can be a bit hit and miss, however the group ‘People who know people in TV’ is a very good place for finding employment. You have to be quick on your toes and typing skills as jobs in entry level positions can go in under an hour and I’ve seen posts disappear in minutes. The Unit List, TV Teams, Talent Manager can also be useful places to search for employment in addition to Mandy – but that can be a bit hit and miss. ITV, BBC and other production companies have their own careers websites and I try and visit their pages once a week just to see what’s going on. Entry level positions don’t come up that often but it’s good to keep an eye out.

 

 

·      What is the reality for runners – especially based in London – of living on a freelance runner’s wage?

You will be broke. This is a fact. I have managed to find two jobs in TV currently that don’t interfere with each other and I work 6 days a week to make ends meet and on my day off every other week I do some freelance transcribing from home to pay for little extras here and there – what can I say I have an expensive taste in shoes! Always ask about the rate that you are offered and try and raise it a bit – and ask if your rate includes holiday pay and overtime.

 

If you are moving to London and have not worked here before, or got a telly job yet I would recommend having at least a month’s worth of rent and expenses money to cover yourself for a period. It may take a little while to get known, for people to realise that you are available and for you to get recommendations. Try not to get despondent and remain proactive. I once finished a job at 6pm with no idea where my next job would come from and by 10pm that night I had a job lined up for the next three weeks.

 

Also, living in London means you are surrounded by free opportunities so make the most of these – people need hair models so you can get your hair cut for free, there are free talks, museums, libraries, galleries, self-guided walking tours you can print off the internet – there are ways to survive in London you just have to be a bit ‘savy’ with your spending and with the way you shop.

 

 

·      What training have you had in media and have you found is of practical use when working or looking for a job?

I wouldn’t say I have had any specific training (Julia studied English Literature with Creative writing at Northumbria university) but I would say that the proactive approach that I adopt to life in general has helped me massively, plus a bit of common sense and being able to use social media to your advantage helps also.

 

I am always looking for what is coming up next, especially when a job is ending. I work out how long I have left in the contract and set myself a target number of companies to contact each day, or sites to search or old friends to update on my situation.

 

My proactive approach also applies to working in studio or in a production office. For example, on a shoot generally a certain number of items need to be done – tea runs, bins out, talent need to be checked on etc and there will always be events that you cannot plan for, I always try and divvy up standard jobs with other runners to try and create maximum efficiency and will continually communicate with them the progress and priority of these tasks and try to get all tasks done as quickly and effectively as possible.

 

 

 

  • Did you get practical advice on finding work in the media while at University?

To be honest I found the resources at my university careers service quite limited in regards to getting into media, it seemed like there was a bubble almost surrounding the whole industry and no one really knew how to get into it. My careers adviser suggested I broaden my skillset – so I created a week long showcase to promote creative talent within the city which was a remarkable success with so many people turning up that on the last night we ran out of seating and standing room.

 

The most practical advice I found while at University was through joining my University Television Station where I was able to research, create stories, run around with cameras, interview people and generally make a nuisance of myself. The experience and knowledge I gained in these two years to me proved to be invaluable and provided me with the opportunity to attend a NaSTA conference (The National Student Television Station Awards) and I later went on to run my university television station and became a regional development officer for NaSTA and now I help organise events for its alumni association PaSTA.

 

NaSTA allowed me to hear talks from TV professionals to get advice to how to create a CV how to target your cover letter correctly and what people look for in potential entry level employees. Secondly, NaSTA and student television showed me that you don’t need a fancy camera or a boom they do help, but all you really need is an iphone a good idea and people that want to try and create something.

 

 

  • What message would you like to pass on to others in your situation?

Get as much work experience as you can while you are still in education, it will prove invaluable and will make you stand out in a very competitive work market.

 

Learn to edit, how to shoot on a camera and make your own youtube shows – it will make you appreciate what goes into each stage of making a programme.

 

Get involved with student television, get involved with NaSTA (National Student Television Awards) and watch lots of telly (great stuff hey!) but – asses it, criticise it, look at its structure how does it work and why it works and identify what excites you about it. If you know that you’re already there.

 

Talk to everyone and anyone in telly – find out about what they did at university, why they wanted to get into television, what their role entails and how they take their coffee and or tea – a good warm beverage will get you remembered.

 

At networking events don’t get too smashed – you don’t want to be remembered as the one who puked over the exec or fell down the stairs you need to make a good impression you are your own marketing tool and never forget that – try to make yourself invaluable.

 

Know when to say no. You should not be cleaning up any bodily fluids that are not your own – remember that it will come in useful – trust me. But, as a runner you need to do many less glamorous jobs to aid in smooth running of the production live or otherwise. So, bins need to go out, tea needs to be made and surfaces need to be cleaned – it’s not great fun, but suck it up you won’t be doing it forever.

 

Television is notorious for its long hours and they do happen, but make sure you don’t get taken advantage of. Any rate of under £350 a week (a 5 day week) turn down it’s not enough to survive on and is really just super cheeky by any production company to offer you that as a rate.

 

Furthermore, note down how many hours you have worked in a week especially when you are working on production shoots. I had a friend who worked out in a 6 day week they had worked so many hours that their wage worked out to be £3.81 per hour (pre tax). At the time they were too worried about losing their job to speak out and being so physically exhausted by the hours they worked were ill for two weeks after the show ended. In situations like that you should speak up and always remember that you have rights, many runners do feel intimidated and almost dispensable – which sadly to an extent is true, but take someone to the side that you feel you can trust and show them the hours you have worked and hopefully something will change to help the situation. (Ed’s note: For further information about avoiding exploitation read this article: TV Work Experience v Exploitation)

 

Thank you, Julia, some excellent advice there.

Shu

If you are a runner or entry-level then we have FIVE FREE TICKETS to our fund-raising evening of TV Gossip, Comedy and Networking on the evening of June 12 in Soho, London. 

 

The evening is all about raising money for The Genesis Research Trust that supports the health of babies and mothers, but knowing how tough it can be for those starting off in TV we’re giving away free tickets to the first five people who email me at shu@wanttoworkintelevision.com. Please attach your CV as proof you are runner or entry-level.

 

NB: Few glitches with new website. If the above email doesn’t work please email me at shurichmond@aol.com instead.

 

If you don’t manage to get a free ticket you can use the promotional code RUNNER2014 to get a 50% discount on the tickets.You can get details of the evening and buy tickets by following this link.

 

https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/drag-queens-daytime-tv-producers-tickets-11384869451

 

 

2 comments

  • Your blog was excellent. I would only add that when I started as a PA (entry level production assistant in the U.S.) I watched and listened closely to the producers. I tried to figure out what they were going to need and I tried to get it done before they asked for it so that I could say, “Done. It will be on set in 1 minute.” It really helped me move along quickly by making me invaluable to crew on a higher level than me. I have had very few PA’s on my own jobs that use this tactic. Most talk too much to try to make friends with the upper levels which is extremely distracting. I will not re-hire a chatty PA. I have owned my production company for almost 20 years now, and write, produce or direct all our content. It’s been a great life.

  • Chris says:

    Great blog Julia! Some hard truths in this. I’ve actually just taken over my company’s twitter account to relay the hardships of being a TV runner with a comical edge! For anyone who wants an insider’s view with a twist you should check it out:
    https://twitter.com/ChiefTV
    Thanks

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