Most entry level applicants in TV will be looking for a runner’s job. There are a variety of different types of running jobs, most obviously those working in a studio, those working on location and those working in the office.
Ryan Flynn tells us what it’s like working in the Location Department of TV:
What do you do?
I am a Location Runner/Production Runner with experience on a variety of short and feature length films, documentaries, dramas and reality TV.
How did you get your first job in TV?
Before I got my first TV job I built up my experience on low budget feature and short films which I got through advertisements on the Shooting People website and Mandy.com.
With a strange stroke of luck my first actual TV job came via Twitter. Lou Gallagher, a great contributor to your website and to the TV industry, was looking for a Manchester based Runner for a property documentary.
With TV jobs being filled as quick as they’re being put up I was lucky to be around when the advert was announced and Lou chose to take me on.
That job was a great experience and it has been a great springboard for my subsequent roles.
How hard was it for you to find a job?
Being a proactive person I’m always busy with one project or another so looking back I don’t recall it being very hard for me to find a job.
At the time I was applying for my first Runners job I was organising music events and writing for a social action magazine so I was able to concentrate on something other than my applications so when a call came it was a very happy surprise.
I was however fortunate enough to secure the first three Runner positions I actually applied for. Coming from a Forensic Psychology background this enabled me to build up the experience and contacts quickly to help me carry on my progress.
What happens in the location department?
The Location Department consists of a variety of members that are enlisted during pre-production which include: Location Managers, Assistant Location Managers, Unit Managers, Location Scouts and Location Assistants.
During pre-production it is the Locations Teams responsibility to research and document suitable locations for filming that meet the script requirements and vision of the Production team.
If the script requires a country mansion with a big open garden the Location Manager will send out Location Scouts to find as many suitable mansions as possible, gain permission to film there before presenting their findings back to the Location Manager who will in turn present them to the Production Team.
Once the most suitable locations have been selected the Locations Department are responsible for building and maintaining relationships between local councils, emergency services, property owners, the public and the film crew as well as creating movement orders to direct the crew accurately to the location and parking facilities.
What sort of duties do you perform in your role as a location runner?
As a Location Runner it is my responsibility to be on set before, during and after filming to keep the location safe and tidy, report any hazards, deal with external noise, field complaints from neighbours or special requests from property owners.
Essentially being the link between the film crew and the outside world.
When filming is finished it is my job to tidy the location and make it look as if the film crew never arrived.
As a freelancer how hard do you find it when you are between jobs?
Whilst I am in between jobs it doesn’t feel as hard for me as it may do for others as I have three other jobs outside of the industry to keep my mind occupied and allow me to continuously improve my CV.
In between and alongside jobs I build websites for various companies, work a night job and volunteer on a Mental Health Helpline. These activities allow me to meet a number of personal, professional and developmental goals as well as helping others (in the case of the Helpline).
What is your goal?
Professionally, for 2012 my primary goals are to gain more experience on longer projects with more responsibility as a Location Assistant as well as experiencing the pre-production stage within a Locations team.
However there’s an enormous amount of the TV/Film industry that excites me and I want to be a part of it all so I am always open to the opportunity to work with great people within a Locations team, AD team or Research team.
It is important to me to set goals for myself in order to keep moving forward and monitor my progress yet keep it fluid and versatile enough to remain open to any opportunities that present themselves.
What are your tips for surviving the freelance runner’s market?
As Runners anybody with common sense can do our job so it is our additional expertise that can make all the difference when choosing one candidate over another.
So whether you’re waiting for your first job in the industry or your next one it’s important to use the time to develop your expertise and practise your skills in an environment more accessible than the TV industry, ideally focusing on something you have a real passion for.
Music has always been a passion for me, so in between projects I have organised live music events that brought together young musicians from the local community and provided them with a place to perform in public.
As well as being entertaining and fun this was a mutually beneficial for me and a local jazz café (a venue more accessible than a TV Studio) and exemplified the skills I would need for my next Location Assistant role. Such as: effective planning, organising and relationship building.
Considering your strengths, passions or talents against the skills needed for your next role. Are there any areas that overlap in a similar way? Could you incorporate the most important skills into an activity outside of the industry?
With your specialist interest in mind why not develop it even further by teaching it to others. What better way to learn something and become an expert at it than to teach it. You could create your own social groups and workshops in local cafes/community centre’s or libraries, provide your input within forums online or even produce your own blog.
Through organising those music events I met a music company owner in need of a new website. Despite having no experience I saw this as an excellent opportunity to learn new skills. I convinced him I was the right guy for the job and quickly learnt how to write HTML + CSS code and I was able to launch the website in a number of weeks.
Although in this situation I wasn’t an expert I was confident and open to the opportunity. I have since built more websites, taught creative workshops and expanded my network.
Becoming an expert and developing skills does take time and does take hard work but if you think outside the box and always be seeking to learn new skills.
Thank you Ryan. Some very good advice there and if you’d like another view from a runner who was more studio-based then make sure you read ‘The Real Life of a Runner’.