We feature a number of stories from people in the TV business – some trying to get in and others already in and sharing their experiences. Louise Gallagher was one of the early contributors to this site explaining how desperate she was to change careers and move into television. Could she change stream from working as an administrator and manager in the charity sector to television production management?
Yes she could, was my reply if she had determination and the necessary skills. Lou had both. A slight tweak to her CV highlighted the skills and experience she had that are also required in TV production coordination and management.
Lou’s perseverance and determination in the face of initial rejections paid off. We like nothing better than a success story so here is Lou’s – in her own words:
“Just a few months ago I started on a journey to transfer my management and coordination skills from the not-for-profit sector to that of media. I was at square one and without a contact in the world.
I discovered a phenomenal website, managed by Television Executive and advice giver extraordinaire Siubhan Richmond, called ‘So, You Want to Work in Television?’ and this really was what gave me hope that my quest was not just possible, but manageable.
I was privileged to be asked to write a piece for the website, and now here I am, back for round 2 with my update!
So, in answer to the question, ‘So, you want to work in television?’ I replied a great big yes!
How did I start my quest? I signed up to lots of TV job sites – most of which were trying to charge extortionate amounts of cash, and didn’t even have many adverts – then finally, I stumbled across ‘The Unit List’ (absolutely fabulous website managed by Production Manager Jude Winstanley, which advertises television jobs, with no membership fee), began writing to as many people as I could source contact details for and started applying for jobs.
Until I made this sector change I had never not been invited to interview (or offered the job) in my working career! Honestly, I was incredibly fortunate. It was, therefore, very tough when I excitedly opened an email from a production company I had applied to, to see a great big rejection… the first of several! I had joined the ‘poor hundreds’ I had heard of – desperate for that elusive media career!
It was soul crushing to be rejected for entry roles for being ‘too experienced’ yet equally rejected from more senior roles for ‘not having the right experience’!
I refused to let it bring me down – although, I confess, I did let it break my (then) pre holiday ‘no alcohol diet’!
Then my luck changed! I was offered, late at night the evening before the job commenced, a pre production role on an international documentary. I am not ashamed to admit that I was so excited I almost burst into tears! The ‘lucky break’ I had been yearning for.
I went in, worked hard and tried to ensure I proved myself. It seems I did: I was given a secondary role from the original job, and then commenced working as Pre Production Manager for the shoot! I stayed on with the company and worked on several commercials as Production Manager – which I absolutely loved. I will definitely be re-visiting commercials.
Since then, due to my success in the role and some great recommendations, I have undertaken a variety of freelance projects as a Production Manager/Coordinator/Assistant, and have – after been thrown in at the deep end – developed strong and broad skills across: documentary, commercial, viral and entertainment shoots.
A large portion of what the production role does is common sense, and many areas were identical to things I had done in the charity sector: hiring staff (or ‘crewing up’!), booking travel and accommodation, arranging contracts/permits and sourcing locations and facilities. The area that was new to me was kit. I swotted up, through myself in at the deep end and asked a lot of questions.
In September I commenced a three month contract as Production Coordinator at one of the largest indie companies in the UK and I am currently working on a prime time factual series for Channel 4. The wealth of experience I have gained in such a short period of time is mind blowing, and I can say with absolute honesty, that this feels like what I was always meant to do.
My knowledge has snowballed and I feel confident that my abilities match those of my peers. Yes, I did struggle with some terminology at first, but I have made myself live, breath, sleep production nonstop since I commenced my TV journey – and now, if you need advice on camera filters, lighting, mics, etc I am your (wo)man!
I love my current role but already I am experiencing the only (thus far) downside to TV: I am freelance. I am already starting to think about what will come up next, and the likelihood of finding a role that will take me on in December. It is scary. The bills do not stop coming just because you are not earning. I feel confident though that my efforts here will pay off – and already a senior exec has promised to ‘put me in touch’ with other productions.
I often get asked what I love and what I don’t love about the change… to be honest, I love it all. I feel like I am doing what I was always meant to. Yes, the pay cut (huge) was a shock to the system, and the hours are long; but I have always worked long hours and money is just that, isn’t it? As long as I can pay the bills, eat and have the odd glass of vino, I am content!
So… I really do want to work in the media/television sector and I can honestly say the roles I have had to date have left me feeling absolutely fulfilled. I am still at an early stage of my journey – but I am confident I am going to end up on a positive one. I am already being ‘pimped out’ for Production Management roles, and I can see a bright future ahead. At last!
As a sideline I have also been providing CV advice to followers on Twitter and so far, have booked two on my current production and six others have landed their first role. Exciting times! I thoroughly enjoy sharing the advice I have taken myself and thus continuing the good luck chain.
Just three short months ago I wrote my first piece for Shu and now, voila, here I am. Lou Gallagher, Production Heaven! My advice to you, the person trying to break in… keep trying! It is worth it!”
Thanks, Louise, and may that give encouragement to anyone else out there struggling to get into the business or changing careers.
If you haven’t already read Lou’s first article, you can find it here: http://wanttoworkintelevision.com/?p=715
The Unit List: http://www.theunitlist.com
And if you have a story you’d like to share then please do Contact Me: http://wanttoworkintelevision.com/?page_id=34
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