Bumper List for Breaking into TV
Updated: Dec 11, 2019
TV is quite a different industry to get into compared to most. It's a competitive place with lots of eligible candidates. As well as harnessing your skills and gaining industry experience, networking and sheer luck play a big part in landing your dream role. There isn’t a ‘conventional way’ of getting into the industry - so we’ve piled together a list from different people’s experience.
How it works
There are the big commissioners such as the BBC, ITV, Channel 4, and Sky. But often it is smaller independent production companies which create the shows, and the commissioners broadcast them. This is quite good news, as it means that there's even more opportunities to get experience than you might have originally thought. The advantage to this is that they are often more willing to chat with you, and if you do get a role with them it’ll be a bigger role than just making coffee and answering the phone. When you do internships at the BBC or ITV, because they’re large companies with lots of staff you might not have as much of an opportunity to get as stuck in as other places. This is not to say that it isn’t worth trying to get work with the BBC, etc.! There are definitely real advantages to this: good recognisable credits on your C.V., you'll get to network with a lot of different people, and you’ll have access to a lot of good, professional training.
TV is generally split into these three sections:
Development - where the building of the show happens
Production - the filming of the show
Post Production - the edit
N.B. Production is where the most entry level roles are, as there is always a show being made and companies are always in need of extra hands. Production is often split into two sections: hands on production (i.e. filming), and production management. Production management is essentially what it says on the tin: the management of the production / filming. There are many great coordinating and management roles in production management - so bare this in mind if you think that’s of interest to you, and where your skills might lie.
We would recommend not going for jobs that are unpaid. Work experience is often unpaid, and of course this is really important and a good way to get experience. However, as a basic rule of thumb, if you are working you should be getting paid for it. We would recommend taking no more than around two unpaid jobs whilst starting out - i.e. work experience, internships. However, when it comes to runner jobs advertised on facebook, for example, its best to only g for the ones which pay you. If a production have the right budget, they should be able to pay you.
Internships and schemes are hard to come by, but it’s always worth enquiring. See our list of internships and schemes below.
Runner is the main entry level role, and pretty much everyone who works in TV started out as a runner. As a runner you will be doing a multitude of things, but overall you are a support to the production team. There are two main runner roles: day runner and production runner. As a day runner, you are often hired on a day to day basis. I.e. any runner jobs yo see advertised on Facebook will be day runner jobs. It’s a really good way to get a taste of what working in T.V. is like, and observing all the different roles on a production. Also, as it is casual hours, you can do it alongside university or another jobs. As a production runner, you are often hired by the production company on a contract. You will work within the office and on set, and be the main asssistant to the production management team. (Also, runner to production runner are the first stages before working your way up within production management.)
TV entertainment is the main section which offers runner jobs. Shows such as Britain’s Got Talent, X Factor, Saturday Night Takeaway, Take Me Out, The Greatest Dancer, etc. are always looking for runners. Companies such as Thames TV (a part of Fremantle) are good to get in touch with. Have a look at the end of the credits for the Production Secretary / Production Manager / Production Coordinator, as this is who you need to get in touch with for runner roles. Similarly, the soaps are always in need of runners, so it’s good to get in touch there.
TIP: get in touch with the locations team (i.e. when shooting on location, often the locations team will need people for crowd control / marshalling, etc.) on any production as they are always looking for people to help out with marshalling.
Working on Production v. Development:
Most entry level opportunities will be on production, as there is such a huge team of people who go to production. It’s a good idea to get experience in both the editorial and Production Management teams, as the more you know about one you can apply to the other. If you’re looking for work in development, roles like office runner, production runner - on set as well as in the office, PA, development assistant, etc. are all roles to look out for. These aren’t always advertised on LinkedIn and company websites, so this is where it is good to build up a strong network of contacts who know you. Ask people who you are interested in - maybe they have worked on a show you love - to meet for a coffee. Building connections is really key when making it into the TV world.
Schemes / Internships / Work Experience
World Productions - TV company in London who offer a paid internship
Tiger Aspect - Runner pole, Runner scheme, Work Experience
Number 9 Films - internship (unpaid)
Heyday - Development Scheme
Warp Films - unpaid internship
BBC Apprenticeship Scheme - year long apprenticeship
Shine TV Production Trainee - six month paid
Screen Yorkshire Film Industry Boot-camp
The Network Edinburgh
Ninelives - TV company in Manchester, Media City, who offer paid work experience
Below is a list of good websites to keep an eye out for jobs, advice, or events in TV:
Do checkout their twitter handles too for regular updates.
Royal Television Society
Royal Television Society
Sheffield Doc Fest
Children's Global Media Summit
Getting involved with your student media society at university, or even school, is a really great way to start your first steps into media. It means that you can try out a lot of different roles, without formally committing like you would in a job. There are often a lot of different avenues to o this: journalism, editing, TV camera work and editing, production, etc. Of course, student media is very different to working for a professional company. However, it is still a really great place to learn different skills and experiment with all the different aspects to the media industry. And you’ll be constantly mixing with like-minded people, and you can learn from each other and pick up good tips.
TV Drama Companies
Below is a bumper list of TV Drama companies:
TV Drama - Script Reading
If you want to work in TV Drama, specifically in development, then script reading is a really good way to get experience. TV Drama companies are often sent lots of different scripts and books with hope to become a TV Drama series. As a script reader, you are hired to read through the proposal and write up a script report outlining the summary of the narrative, and comments on the characters, structure, plot, dialogue, etc. all with in mind of whether the project would work as a TV Drama or Film; and whether the writer is worth getting in touch with.
In most entry level TV Drama development roles, script reading will be a part of your job. Therefore, to get a good grasp of it is always a useful skill.
The main companies which hire external script readers are:
We hope this helps! Any feedback or added advice is welcome in the comments.