New BBC Series
There are still some places available on a one day Camera / TV Directing course in Cambridge on Feb 15th - info below.
Please let Course Tutor Julian Dismore know if you're interested by e mailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Also please feel free to forward this info on to anyone you know who might like to come along.
Friday February 15th 10.30am – 5pm Cambridge
ADVANCED SHOOTING AND DIRECTING SKILLS
For people who want to be able to shoot and direct – an essential skill for TV runners, researchers, associate producers and directors
Demonstrations and hands on experience with broadcast quality camera and sound kit. How to shoot interviews, pieces to camera, actuality etc to a broadcast standard. No previous experience required. Includes filming a real project and learning how to direct a variety of set ups. Great for the cv and mentioning in interviews! £90 for the day. To confirm your place on a course just e mail email@example.com.
Julian Dismore TV Series Producer / Shooting Director
e mail firstname.lastname@example.org
TV & the Creative Industries Careers Talk
Getting In and Getting On!
Friday February 1st 3pm
Mill Lane Lecture Room 7, Cambridge
A talk by Julian Dismore
TV and Web Video Producer
Author of ‘TV: An Insider’s Guide’
Julian is an award winning TV director and web video producer. He’s travelled the world, making TV shows and web videos for BBC 1, ITV, Channel 4, Five, Animal Planet, Sky, Nat Geographic and Discovery.
He’s directed a wide variety of programmes, including ‘Skin Deep’ for Discovery, ‘O’Shea’s Dangerous Reptiles’ for Channel 4, ‘Jimmy’s’ for ITV, ‘Britain’s Psychic Challenge’ for Five, ‘Holidays from Hell’ for ITV, ‘Medics’ for National Geographic and ‘Mr Right’ for ITV.
Julian’s series produced prime time ITV series ‘Crash Scene Investigators’, ‘Missing Mums: Lorraine Kelly Investigates’ for Sky, The Sheriffs Are Coming’ for BBC1 and he was post production producer on ‘Animal ER’ for Discovery, ‘Cowboy Trap’ for BBC1 and ‘Big Body Squad’ for Five.
Julian will reveal some amazing death defying stories from his TV career. He will divulge showbiz gossip about some of the stars he’s directed. And he will give you insider’s secrets about how to get into TV and the creative industries.
His talk includes ‘must know’ tips and essential advice to avoid you wasting years writing doomed applications and attending unsuccessful interviews.
And it will show you how to excel in creative industries once you have your foot in the door…
Work Ex Opportunity in Norwich
Work Ex Position: I need two people to assist on a corporate I'm filming in Norwich next Tuesday and Wednesday, 20th and 21st March. If you're interested please e mail your cv to email@example.com ASAP
Q and A with Ross Barnwell 3.04.11
How would you rate your role as producer compared to your other experiences in different job areas?
You can’t really compare being a TV producer with jobs in the “real world”. When I was a student I worked as a barman, waiter, market researcher, filing clerk etc. They are all very different to working in showbiz (!) – although I would say that working as a barman helped me learn how to talk to anyone, and that is a very valuable skill in TV. As far as other jobs in TV are concerned, being a producer is one of the toughest roles, especially if you are running a big team and trying to keep them happy and motivated on a tight schedule with only a small budget. Plus you have the responsibility of actually delivering the programme, which can be very stressful!
How reliant are you purely on yourself in terms of your workload?
When I’m making web videos and corporate DVDs through my company I’m reliant on myself entirely – because I do it all myself! If I research it myself, film it myself and edit it myself I don’t need to pay anyone else, which boosts my profits. If I’m making a show for broadcast then I’m working with a team, but I still tend to work very very hard. It’s just my nature – bit of a control freak I guess!
As producer (rather than producer/director etc.) are you constrained purely to your role or can you assist and play an influential part in the directing?
Well I am a producer / director, so I do the directing as well. That is the norm in Factual TV these days. There isn’t the budget to have separate producers and directors. In fact when there was the money in the “good old days” to have separate producers and directors they would often spend a lot of their time arguing because there was so much overlap between the roles. It is better to have one person doing that job – one vision for how the programme should turn out.
What would be an average day's work in a producer’s life amidst the making of a programme?
How long is a piece of string?! Working hours vary enormously on different productions. On a series I did called ‘Crash Scene Investigators’ the team was so small I had to do a lot of multiskilling. I was getting up at 6am to digitise the rushes, going out to do a full day’s filming at 9am, then coming back and editing rough cuts in the evening. Then I’d go to bed with the “mobile phone of death” next to my pillow and if it rang I’d have to go out with the production team and film the police collision officers investigating a fatal crash. So I might film all night if there was lots to cover. A 24 hour shift like that is quite unusual, but it does happen. I’ve also done some very late nights in the edit suite when you’re racing to get a programme finished. You tend not to notice the clock though – you’re so focussed on getting the job done. If you’re a clock watcher TV might not be for you!
Is the pathway to becoming a producer generally seen as runner-researcher-production manager etc? Or are there plenty of alternative ways?
I’d take out production manager from that list. In factual programmes the usual pathway goes runner, researcher, associate producer, producer/director. Then maybe series producer if you’re lucky (or unlucky, depending on which way you look at it – series producer is the toughest job in TV, lots of pressure!) There are always alternative ways though – some people might miss out one of those stages if they are very talented or very lucky – or both!
Following that question, what was your route to producing/executive producing?
I was never a runner, but I did the rest. I joined YTV in 1988 as a researcher in the Science Department. I was very lucky to get a paid job first up, in a prestigious department in a famous TV company. It’s a real shame that the YTV Factual Department hardly exists now.
Fast/Cheap/High Quality - would it be fair to assume that to make a successful programme you must only pick two of these?
That’s a very good question. And you could add a fourth category – “A happy team”. ‘Fast’, ‘cheap’, ‘high quality’ and ‘a happy team’ can be mutually exclusive in my experience. As schedules get shorter and budgets get tighter it makes it harder and harder to make a show with high production values. But producers still try their hardest, and that can mean driving their team so hard they stop enjoying it, which is always a shame.
I'm sure it is safe to assume that the role of producer is a very sought after profession. Do you ever feel as though someone could take your place at anytime or is it far more relaxed?
There is nothing relaxing about working in TV in my experience. It is a very sought after profession because being a TV producer is a fantastic job, despite the fallbacks I outlined above. You get to go to amazing places, meet fascinating people and hear their remarkable stories. Despite all the stresses and strains I wouldn’t swap my last twenty odd years in TV for the world. I’ve travelled extensively and met some wonderful people, and made lifelong friends. Plus I have more anecdotes than you can shake a Philippino stick at (that’s a long story...)
Although as producer you are assumedly the top of the programme (bar the exec. prod.) and therefore have the main idea for the programme, do you often have to make compromises to your original concept in order to appease others?
There are always compromises. As producer/director you are never totally in charge of the programme. The customer is always right – and that is the broadcaster who is paying for the programme. So they have viewings where they watch what you have done and make changes. Remember they are conscious of their customers, the viewers, and ratings are very important. Also, producers often don’t have the original idea for the programme. A development team will come up with an idea, write a proposal then if they are very lucky get it commissioned. At that stage the production team, including the producer, is usually brought on board. Also remember there are different kinds of producers. There is usually a series producer who oversees all the producers, and a couple of executive producers, one from the production company which has been commissioned to make the programme and one at the broadcaster. On really big shows there may be more execs than that! The original concept always changes – usually for the better. It might not always seem like it in the heat of the moment, but the execs tend to know what they’re talking about, and the programme gets much better for their input.
Q and A about TV
a) What was your first job in television? A researcher in the science department at YTV in Leeds.
b) How did you get the job? I was very lucky, happening to wander into the University Careers Office minutes after YTV called asking for applicants. I applied for the job, got an interview, wrote down the wrong address so I was late, as a result I thought I’d blown it and was very relaxed, and this is probably what got me the job (I guess everyone else was too tense!)
c) When was it? 1988
d) How long was it for? 15 years.
a) What career moves did you make after this? I was lucky enough to go up the ranks at YTV, researcher, associate producer, producer / director, series producer. I was also lucky enough to move into the most interesting and exciting departments, documentaries and international factual.
b) What is the best method of making an upwards move? Work hard and be lucky.
c) Who are the best people to make contacts with in order to move up the career ladder? Make contacts with everyone. And I mean everyone.
a) What is the best job role you've been in? Researcher is good because you get to go to all the exciting places, meet the fascinating people and hear their captivating stories without the mindblowing pressure of actually having to deliver a top quality programme on time and on budget (that’s down to the producers) Being a series producer is good when you help people progress, and creating your own programme is always satisfying – but it can be quite stressful!
b) Is there a job you've done that you regret? I try to get something out of everything I do – in terms of learning new skills, different ways of filming, fresh editing techniques, new contacts and most importantly new friends. I have made mistakes – and when a programme goes out there are always things you’d like to change, but that’s life I guess.
a) How long, after entering the industry, did it take you to get your ideal job? It depends what you mean by ideal job. My most enjoyable job has been filming DVDs and web videos for IPL teams. Cricket, money, India, partying… it doesn’t get much better than that. Except when terrorists try to blow you up like they did in Mumbai when I went out to film the Champions League…
b) Do you think it's important to have a lot of experience in the industry before you get a high up position? I think it is a good idea. It means you understand the trials and tribulations of programme making when you are viewing shows and feeding back comments.
a) As a producer what are you actually in charge of? It varies depending on the production and the way the company organises it. As series producer you are usually in charge of (or responsible for) picking a top team, recruiting them, delivering the programme on budget, delivering on schedule, delivering a programme the execs are so happy with they will recommission, delivering a programme that gets good viewing figures and good reviews, doing a good speech at the end of series party and throughout the production maintaining morale amongst the troops. Those things can be mutually exclusive – which makes it a stressful role!
b) What is the best part? Helping people progress and learn more skills, making new friends, delivering a good programme.
c) What is the worst part? The fact achieving the whole list above can be unattainable, especially the morale part on a long tough shoot.
6) What qualities should a person have to be a producer? The ability to deliver the above list – so being a miracle worker helps!
7) If you could go back to the start of your career what piece of advice would you give yourself and thus others entering the industry? Don’t be overambitious and in a rush. Acquire the skills to be good at each stage – then look to move up. Be nice to everyone. And remember it’s only telly – not life and death. Unless your programme is about euthanasia.
a) How has the industry changed over time? When I was in Mumbai under hotel arrest because of the terrorists I filmed interviews in my room with cricketers, I edited them on my laptop and I uploaded them to YouTube that night. When I first started at YTV in 1988 it would have taken a whole building to film, edit and broadcast a programme (and a government license, there were only four channels) Plus you weren’t allowed to be that multiskilled. People had clearly defined roles and stuck to them. Plus there was only one computer in the office, no mobile phones, no sat navs, no e mails… how on earth we made programmes I’ll never know!
b) Do you think it's now easier or more difficult to get to your position than it has been in the past?
Both. There are more channels and more opportunities. But there are also more people wanting to get in thanks to all the media courses and the fact it is such a great job. If you try hard enough for long enough and you have the right attitude and skills you should still make it though. The key is not giving up – and making your own luck.
9) Is being multi-skilled important in getting your first job and if so why? No. But it is now.
a) What would be your dream programme to make? Please include budget, schedule, locations and what production roles would be on your team. I’ve already done it – in terms of pure enjoyment the cricket filming was the tops, in terms of achieving something worthwhile the undercover investigation into sex tourism in the far east which helped get the law changed, and in terms of proving something to myself delivering 26 half hours of TV in a year in my first series producer role was rewarding. Looking forward every producer would like a massive budget, a long schedule, glamorous foreign locations and to be in charge – so you can mould the programme the way you want to make it without too much interference. But that aint gonna happen these days!
b) How is this different from the reality? Very different. With programmes that are high stakes (and programmes that aren’t) there is scrutiny and intervention at every stage. Execs are also under a lot of pressure – and the customer is always right!
11) In recent years budgets and schedules have been cut. How has this affected making television?
It can be frustrating when your mum says “why isn’t your programme as good as Life on Earth!” People don’t really understand that if you have less money and less time it is hard to make it as impressive as a multimillion dollar project. You can still innovate and make it as good as it can possibly be though, and that can be rewarding. Sometimes you can have the most fun making a silk purse out of a sow’s ear!
Getting into TV: Top Tips
Julian Dismore, an award winning TV series director & author of ‘TV: An Insider’s Guide’ understands just how difficult it is to secure that all-important first job in TV. So here he shares his top tips (plus handy insider tips) designed to help you leap-frog the competition and land one of the best jobs in the world!
TIP 1: Make some contacts
Contacts can help you get your first job and help you get better jobs after that. Join all the relevant University/College societies and do everything you can to gain work experience during vacations and weekends.
Insider’s Tip: Watch the credits on the programmes you like. Look out for the following people; the producer, the series producer and the production manager as these are all potential contacts. Watch out for the name of the production company at the end of the credits so you can track them down using the internet.
TIP 2: Be brave and email all your contacts
Your introductory email should be short and to the point. A busy TV producer wants you to be productive from day one, so your email needs to establish that you already have some useful skills.
Insider’s Tip: Guess email addresses. The email address of a potential contact is probably firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com Try all the permutations, one should get through.
TIP 3: Try to get “face time”
In your email don’t forget to include the line “If you’re not looking for someone at the moment please can I still come and ask your advice on how to get into TV?” It’s all about meeting people face to face. Once you’re in the building and they see what a wonderful human being you are, you’d be surprised how often something crops up.
Insider’s Tip: Use “forwarding” to your advantage and request that your email is sent on to someone else who might be interested in you. TV people love to forward emails to other TV people to deal with. You never know, the other person may be looking for someone just like you!
TIP 4: Don’t be shy
Follow up with a phone call; sending out an email or two isn’t enough. It’s highly likely your email has been deleted or put into a folder Indiana Jones would struggle to locate.
Insider’s Tip: Send hundreds of emails; the more seeds you sow the more chance you’ve got of one arriving in an inbox at just the right moment.
Tip 5: Organise your contacts list
Keep track of your contacts’ email addresses and phone numbers and make sure you back them up. Have groups of contacts in your email library.
Insider’s Tip: Email your message enquiring about work experience to yourself and bcc your list. Your contacts will feel special as they can’t see that you are sending the email to hundreds of other people.
Tip 6: If you get a work experience opportunity do a great job and network
If you secure a coveted work experience position, work hard, do a brilliant job and make more contacts. Go for drinks after work, make cups of tea for everyone and pick people’s brains at meal breaks.
Insider’s Tip: Leave on a good note. I recall one work experience person sending an email to the whole company on her last day. “Thanks for all your help, there’s a big box of chocolates in reception.” Shrewd move; her email address was in everyone’s inbox and on a subliminal level they associated her with chocolate. Nice.
Tip 7: Have a ‘kick ass’ CV!
Your CV is a selling document and needs to be geared to the buyer; that means legible font and appropriate detail.
Insider’s Tip. At the top of your CV do have: your name, email address (a sensible one including your first name), mobile phone number (with a space in the middle for ease of reading), and what the role is you are applying for (runner).
Tip 8: Make sure your CV content is relevant
The reader wants to know you’re genuinely interested in TV and your CV must back that up. Include relevant information.
Insider’s Tip: “Finesse” your CV. If you’ve produced one article for the university newspaper, put down student journalism. If you’ve completed one intern day for a TV company, put down work experience and the company. Don’t flag up it was just for one day. That’s what I call “finessing the truth”, but beware, if you invent things you will get caught out.
Tip 9: Prepare for the interview
There are some questions you’ll almost certainly be asked. “What can you bring to this job?”, “Which of our programmes have you seen?”, “Talk me though your CV.” Jot down your answers so you’re prepared.
Insider’s Tip: Research the company; it’s essential you know something about the company’s productions, key staff and latest commissions. Research the interviewer; look into their career so you can talk about how much you enjoyed a show they’ve made.
Tip 10: During the interview sound professional
When talking about programmes use terms which sound professional; “Nicely paced”, “Good choice of music”, “Real sense of jeopardy”, etc. This also applies to introductory emails. If you say “I love your programmes” you sound about eight years old.
Insider’s Tip: Include answers that make you look good.Perhaps you want to name drop the companies you’ve worked for? There’s nothing worse than leaving an interview and thinking “I wish I’d said that”.
Tip 11: Give the impression you’re in demand
Always give the impression you have a few ‘irons in the fire’, that way your desirability increases. If your interviewer thinks you’re about to get snaffled up by someone else, they’ll realise they need to move fast to secure you!
Insider’s Tip: Make sure you have some sensible questions for the end of the interview. Don’t ask “What is the pay?” or “Can I leave early on Wednesdays?” Do ask “When will you let me know?”
Tip 12: After the interview find out the state of play ASAP
After a few days, call and ask if there’s any news. You could politely point out another job you’re applying for needs a reply.
Insider’s Tip: Charm the interviewer’s PA who may give you an indication of your chances of success even if nothing’s official yet; this tactic helped me get my first job. I almost became a market researcher because I was strapped for cash, but the Head of Department’s PA told me off the record that I’d got the job. I held out for the TV job and it was the best decision I ever made.
Direct TV Training
If you are serious about working in the TV industry, and for loads more invaluable advice, pick up a copy of ‘TV: An Insider’s Guide’ - published by the Hot Hive priced £11.99. Available directly from the Hot Hive www.thehothive.com, and all good book stores.
About the author: Julian Dismore is an award winning TV series director. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Web: www.tvtheinsidersguide.com and www.directtvtraining.com for more info.
To obtain review copies, or for media enquiries, please contact Louise Claire-Pardoe, HotHive Books, 01386 760405 or email@example.com
Advice from another TV Producer
I sent my Grad Link article to a good friend of mine who is a senior producer at a top ITV company. He suggested some additions (below) Many of his suggestions are tongue in cheek, some are controversial and they all give food for thought. I'd be interested to hear your thoughts on what he has written. For obvious reasons I'm keeping his identity a secret!
A senior producer (not me!) writes...
"I’d add that, as a producer, I’m really not interested in the rubbish film they made for their dissertation about the ‘important issues of homelessness in Wolverhampton” – If I want a director I’ll hire an experienced director, not a student with a Spielberg complex – if I’m looking for a researcher I need to know they can talk to people, aren’t afraid of the phone, can cast a few people and know the difference between researching and googling…
Also – tell them to make tea – they don’t do it enough – I have one work experience a week and I only ever remember the names of the ones who bother to make me tea – nobody has ever felt upset that they’re being offered too much tea – plus it gives you face time with the whole team. I’ve a lad who’s working for me at the moment who makes tons of tea and I’ll definitely employ him in the future – any researcher can write a bad brief but only a few can make a good cuppa.
Also – I’m not interested in their opinions about my programme unless they’re positive. I had a numpty in last week who spent ten minutes telling me what was wrong with my show – he’s not getting any work from me anytime soon. If I want their opinions, I’ll tell them what they are – I’m not interested in a 20 year old emo’s thoughts.
Oh - and never say you want to be on camera – if I get a whiff that the person who’s sent me their CV wants to be a reporter / presenter, I immediately file their CV in the round filing cabinet – this goes for anyone with a photo on their CV."
Julian Dismore is an award winning TV series director and web video producer. He’s also an international TV format consultant and experienced media skills trainer.