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