Who would like a career in TV? What does that mean? How do you get into it? Carry on reading if you'd like the answers.
The UK TV industry consists of free-to-air, free-to-view and subscription services as the way we consume TV is changing rapidly, with an accelerating trend to TV on demand, streamed via tablets and phones.
Although TV is diversifying across many platforms, it is still made largely by production companies, many of them based in the UK.
What does the TV industry cover?
According to an article in the Times there are more than 60 large-scale productions either shooting or in pre–production in the UK. There has been a back log owing to Covid-19 lockdowns but now the industry is experiencing a boom time with record numbers of studios being built in the UK.
Independent production companies are now finding it hard to recruit runners and production assistants. According to Pinewood Studios the challenge is to attract more crew and train them in order to bridge an increasing skills gap. It might be fair to say that film is experiencing a higher growth rate than TV. But high-end drama productions for TV are also being produced, creating more job opportunities than anticipated in 2020.
Two main areas
- Drama - including high-end productions, such as The Crown and Game of Thrones
- Unscripted - documentaries, reality TV shows like the X Factor and Grand Designs.
Production companies specialise in one or the other with little overlap. This has career implications when it comes to networking or recommending colleagues to other companies. It is unlikely that those in unscripted will have contacts in drama.
What job roles are available in TV?
There are a wide variety of roles available within TV and the following links give details of them.
The Royal Television Society provides an overview and information about the many jobs available in the TV industry.
A helpful guide to the jobs available within editorial and TV production is available from ScreenSkills. ScreenSkills also has careers information on the job roles available in film and TV drama and unscripted TV.
How do I get into the sector?
Having some administrative experience can be very helpful as can hospitality experience which are useful for evidencing transferable skills. Professionals in the industry suggest applying for entry level jobs such as the following:
A production runner, office runner, floor runner, PA or a location runner. Those applying for drama production can apply for daily roles. Register your interest on the websites in the ‘Where to find opportunities’ section.
Runner posts can last anything from a day to four months. As many posts advertised are for short periods of time, many runners build up experience whilst being a student or having a job.
In these entry- level positions, you’ll be expected to be flexible and attentive with tasks. Hours can be long for example, 10 hour days. However if you show enthusiasm and engage with the job and your colleagues you can build networks, and potentially find your next role. Short term contracts and freelance work are the norm.
Production accountants has a skills shortage within the TV industry. Qualifications are not a prerequisite, although you’ll need to be numerate and able to use Excel spreadsheets.
It can be slightly easier to get into unscripted TV as there may be more roles. Many graduates seek research roles as they believe that they can apply their skills from their degree, but these roles are not academic but more pragmatic. Research roles require about 6 months to a year experience.
Anecdotally, those who stand out during their first position as being motivated and reliable may be hired by the same company or recommended for other positions.
What qualifications and skills do I need?
Success in getting a job in TV depends more on your skills, enthusiasm, experience and commitment than the subject you have studied. Advertisements for production assistants often ask for excellent attention to detail, editing skills and good interpersonal skills for dealing with people e.g. guests on a show. Being well organised is helpful.
Certain roles may require specific qualifications or training, so explore the job profiles that interest you on the ScreenSkills website.
How do I gain experience?
Trainee schemes do exist, but are very competitive and may apply specific diversity criteria. Examples include BBC production trainee scheme, Channel 4, and ITV. Check ScreenSkills and the BBC for details of current schemes.
ScreenSkills currently offer a training scheme twice a year with placements in high end TV and children’s productions. Channel 4 also offer a trainee scheme. Creative Access also offer internships within the creative industries and includes ones within TV.
The Production Guild run short courses for runner and admin staff which are very popular. Future Learn, The Royal Television Society and ScreenSkills provide online courses to familiarise you with different aspects of the industry. Many other websites listed in our ‘Where to find jobs’ section also have information on news and events including courses, which could potentially give you the opportunity to network.
*Links to these scheme can be found below in 'Where do I find opportunities?'
Where do I find opportunities?
Jobs (including entry level opportunities)
Some organisations ask you to pay them to access job vacancies. This is not necessary as the information is generally freely available. Useful advice on this can be found on the TV Watercooler website.
Jobs in TV - TV Water Cooler have an extensive list of website links where TV jobs are listed.
Many jobs are not advertised, so you also need to make speculative applications and network with people in the industry.
The Knowledge can be a good way to find details and emails of all organisations involved in the world of TV. Job vacancies are no longer just based in London and companies receive incentives to relocate to other regions including Leeds, Manchester and Cardiff.
- RTS has links to entry level jobs and trainee opportunities
- Creative Access – have entry level vacancies and internships across the creative industries, many of which are aimed at applicants who are under-represented in the industry.
- Production Base - Jobs board (including runner/entry level) and news, events etc.
- Talent Bases - Currently not many jobs listed, but it lists employers across the sector which could be useful for making speculative applications.
- Talent Manager - Jobs board, including entry level. Also, news and courses linked to the industry.
- Unit List - Jobs board and news and events linked to the industry.
- Shooting People – A community of independent film-makers. Jobs board (but not many entry level). Additionally, competitions and resources aimed at film makers.
Increasingly, Facebook is being used to recruit runners. As well as the Facebook links below there are also Facebook groups around geographical locations like Birmingham, Bristol and Manchester, so if you are based in a specific location, it’s worth doing a search on Facebook for these groups.
- People in TV: Runners – Private Facebook group which advertises jobs for runners (this is already included in the TV Cooler website links list)
- UKTV Runners on Facebook - Private Facebook group for runners in the UK.
- Crew and Facilities - Filming in England – Opportunities outside London are advertised here as well as events and information for those interested in this sector. This organisation also offers a CV matching service and guidance on CV writing.
- Film Birmingham - Covers Birmingham and the Midlands. As well as job opportunities there are also events and training courses relevant to film/TV listed.
- Film London - Covers productions being filmed in London
- Endemolshine UK - 40 centrally funded, two week work experience placements per year on a rolling basis for those without contacts in the industry. They also offer a Brighbulb – Development Intern Scheme.
- Creative Access - entry level vacancies and internships across the creative industries, many of which are aimed at applicants who are under-represented in the industry.
Opportunities aimed at encouraging applicants under-represented in TV
- Creative Access – entry level vacancies and internships across the creative industries, many of which are aimed at applicants who are under-represented in the industry.
- Mama Youth Project - a diversity project called “What’s Up TV training” for 18-25 year-olds. No experience required. Three weeks free training followed by 10 weeks paid placements.
- The Network - work at the Edinburgh International TV festival for four days in September and then get 12 months of mentoring and access to job opportunities and events.
- Media Trust - Media charity offering volunteering opportunities, media mentoring and free masterclasses to young people and under-represented communities.
- Do-it.org - Putting key words such as TV / video may bring up opportunities to help charities with video production or similar.
What do I need to think about when I making my applications?
Make an appointment on MyCareer and get our advice on CVs and covering letters as the sector prefers a concise targeted CV and well researched letter. Evidence of your passion and commitment will be looked for and you may not need to list all of your customer based roles.
Top tips for TV CVs
- Make sure your CV is succinct and matches the criteria being asked for
- Don’t use colour or photos
- Use bullet points rather than blocks of text so your CV is easy to read
- Skills like driving and transferable skills gained via hospitality are often looked on favourably, so make sure you make these stand out in your CV/cover letter
- If you have skills that would be useful for that specific production, that is working with animals, children and so on, include that in your CV, but only if it is relevant
- Make it clear where you are based or can be based for locations (that is, can you stay at parents or friends if it’s where filming takes place?)
- In the footer of your CV, insert a GDPR statement such as: ‘GDPR Statement: This CV may be kept on file and distributed for employment purposes’. This will allow organisations to share your CV with others who may be interested
For further advice on targeting your CV to the television industry specifically, take a look at this helpful advice from The TV Watercooler website.
Crew and Facilities - Filming in England provides a service matching CVs to opportunities they have and will also give feedback and guidance on your CV.
At a recent RTS event, a talent manager offered the following guidelines.
- Address your letter of application to a named person, so do your research.
- Indicate where you saw the advert and state your availability
- If a speculative letter, specify the role you are seeking, for example, your first entrant role
- Confirm that you have a full UK driving license and can travel to the location. State why you would be interested in a particular role, and production and briefly outline your skills and experience.
- Sound confident and polite, make it concise.
- Only apply for roles which you are enthusiastic about. Evidence of motivation is key to success. Location roles are demanding so showing you can be resilient is important.
For further advice on targeting your cover letter to the television industry specifically, take a look at this helpful advice from The TV Watercooler website.
A recruiter for a TV production company offered the following tips:
- You need to be more than just passionate about TV, be able to prove it.
- If you are going for a role as a PA on for example, Gogglebox, you must know the characters and say which ones you like best and why.
- Do not say how much you enjoy presenting if applying for a PA role
- Talk about what content you have made at university. This does not have to be for TV.
- Give examples using STAR technique.
- Reflect on which directors you admire and why? Do your research.
- Think carefully about why to want to work in TV
- What impact has Covid-19 had on TV viewing and which type of programmes do viewers like?
- What was on TV last week? And what did you most enjoy and why? Any questions for us?
- Be honest about things you are not so confident about.
- “It is a tough industry, but we are still expanding and looking for talent. More production teams are needed, and new studios will be opening. There is more content needed than ever before.”
What can I do at Nottingham?
Building your skills
Brush up on your essential professional skills Use your time at university to find relevant work experience where possible, but as previously mentioned this can be challenging during these times. Other work experience can still prove useful. Those in the industry require good organisational skills and the ability to work under pressure owing to it being a pressurised environment.
Recruiters seeking PAs often prefer those who have office or administrative experience or can demonstrate good attention to detail. Excellent communication skills are a necessity. Volunteering or working for a student society can help you develop some of these skills and the ability to work to tight deadlines. Brushing up on your administration skills including writing emails and being competent at using Microsoft applications such as Excel and Teams will also help equip you for your first role in TV.
Online resources help you to hone your production skills, and platforms like YouTube and stock agencies enable you to host or broadcast your work for free. Developing a portfolio of work will provide invaluable experience and demonstrate to potential collaborators that you know your TV and are passionate about it. If you want to try your hand at scriptwriting start to collect scripts and write for Impact magazine. If you’re making films at University, then you could use TikTok to showcase them.
Getting involved with a student society
The university has several Students' Union societies which offer training and opportunities to gain hands-on production experience by working with like-minded people. These include the Film Making society which would be relevant if you are looking to work in TV drama. Visit the Students' Union's society pages for more information. You might also join the Creative Student Network where you may get to meet alumnus from film and TV.
At a recent session run by the RTS, networking skills were strongly encouraged. Clearly when attending events in person you can practice your networking skills though meeting and talking to people in the industry. Be polite, professional and friendly and don’t forget to do your research beforehand. There is nothing worse than commenting on a TV show that you thought your contact produced, only to be told that they worked for a different production company! Joining film or TV related groups, gaining work experience and attending industry related events will expand your network.
In Nottingham, the independent Broadway cinema hosts screenings, and film making training. The Royal Television Society runs numerous TV workshops and events.
If online networking is more you style or a necessity then ScreenSkills offer mentors and are good places to meet people from the industry.
Following people you admire on social media can work well and this may include Twitter or Instagram. Again it is essential to do your research first. Those in the TV industry encourage persistence, but stress the importance of being polite and professional.
Having a professional LinkedIn can be helpful, look at our webpages on building an effective profile or speak to a careers adviser.
We also offer a few career mentoring opportunities to be mentored by an alumnus from film or TV.
Please be aware that study abroad, compulsory year abroad, optional placements/internships and integrated year in industry opportunities may change at any time for a number of reasons, including curriculum developments, changes to arrangements with partner universities or placement/industry hosts, travel restrictions or other circumstances outside of the university's control. Every effort will be made to update this information as quickly as possible should a change occur.