PB Live Careers Forum

Our 2nd Live Careers forum attracted a whole range of queries. Thanks to everyone that joined in – here are the responses so far!

The Panel

Paul Crompton

Paul is an experienced factual producer with 20 years’ work in TV. Executive Producer and Co-owner of Barge Pole Productions, Paul’s specialties are popular factual television, observational documentaries, formats, legals, scriptwriting, dramatic reconstruction, pitching and development.

Nicky Searle

Nicky is Talent Executive at NBCUniversal International Television Production, looking after companies as diverse as Carnival Films, Monkey Kingdom and Chocolate Media. Prior to that she managed talent for Optomen Television. She has been in the industry for nearly twenty years working her way up from her first TV role as an unpaid intern at MTV Networks.

Paul Merrick

Paul is an experienced Producer/Director with over 12 years specialising in observational documentaries and factual entertainment, including extensive self-shooting. Creative and highly motivated, he’s dedicated to making great television across all genres and passionate about storytelling.

Joe Mahoney

Joe is Managing Director of ProductionBase. Prior to joining PB, Joe spent a number of years at BBC Worldwide as a senior commissioning editor, before moving on to Channel 4 to become their Head of Commercial Development.

The Questions

Q:  I’m a British P/D and planning on moving back to UK with my cameraman partner in December after what will have been almost 4 years away. During this time we’ve been working on international docs, mainly for National Geographic. I’m just wondering what advice you can give us in terms of finding work in the current climate back home? Have things changed significantly in the past four years? It’s also worth mentioning that most of our contacts were based up north before we moved away and we’re now considering a move to London.

PM:  I think things have changed significantly over the last 4 years, with an expectation of PD’s being able to self-shoot, do sound and sometimes edit. Having to be a ‘jack of all trades’ probably means ultimately the quality of the final product is likely to suffer, whereas each specialist brings their own expertise to a production. As for working out of London, I don’t feel that matters too much as long as you are willing to travel and work away from home.

PC: If you’ve got that on your CV you shouldn’t find it too hard to get work. It will help to know where you are based and what channels and companies you worked for. Most of us find work from the contacts closest to us. Reputation is the biggest single factor in finding work in TV, in my experience.

Q: What are your thoughts on talent representation? This is a question on behalf of both myself and my cameraman partner [possibly more relevant to him] I’ve heard of a few people in the industry with agents. But is this as necessary in the world of docs and factual TV? Would any of you ever consider looking for talent via an agency?

PC: Social networking is so common now, that setting up a group of likeminded people with similar interests and skills is dead easy. You should still remain on PB and LinkedIn etc., but at least you also have another way of someone finding you. I’m in the process of doing this at the moment for Execs. I’m forming The Executive Producer Group so that Indies and broadcasters know where to come to find Execs. There isn’t such as group – as far as I’m aware – so I thought I’d give it a go. Having an agent can sound cool, until you have to pay them.

Q: I’d like to get into the script reading and hopefully progress into editing side of things. I have some experience of reading at a production company previously, and had good feedback from my employers on my reports but I would like to know how to get into doing it freelance for different people?

PC: This isn’t my main area of expertise but it seems you are already on the right path. Doing something freelance is the same for whatever genre. You just have to make the leap and see if it works out. Script editing is the next step along. These things will come if you stick at it and really focus on getting what you want.

Thank you Paul C, I know you said this isn’t your area of expertise but do you have any idea where to start to find such jobs? They rarely show up on production job websites such as ProductionBase or Mandy. Is it best to contact production companies’ do you think?

PC: Start with the people you’ve worked with in the past, ask them for any contacts. The quickest way to find work, new ideas, almost anything, is by starting with what you know and exploiting that. Most people tend to move on eventually; the people you worked with may have had calls about work and turned it down, etc. Also, cast the net wider, but then you are open to being ignored etc. the usual TV non-reply. But you never know. There will always be an opening somewhere, mostly it isn’t about you or your skills, and it’s about timing.

Q: I would like to find work as a production assistant. At the moment I am working at a creative agency for HoDs in film & TV and I am a bit worried that this isn’t relevant enough to gain a job on the production side of things…any advice?

JM: Well, wanting to get in at PA level is realistic and I’m sure you would have developed skills that can cross over from your current company. Are you doing anything in your spare time that would give the impression that you’re interested in TV or film?

Q: Could I get some advice on how to get into one of your companies please?

NS: Well sending in your CV directly to me with a short cover letter is the best way, and then trying to get a quick meeting with me is often the way things happen the fastest. Sadly talent people like me are usually concentrating on the more senior hires for the various companies they are working for, but we do try and meet people that we think are a good fit for our brands, and have relevant experience and interests. A well written cover letter about why you think our companies are where you want to be usually does the trick! I will keep a look out for you.

Q: I’m an experienced award-winning commercial and corp video writer and director. Also a big agency background with big brand background. Have only been in the UK a few years so still trying to establish the network and struggling a bit to get work. Any suggestions from the panel?

JM: Well, you clearly have the right experience so maybe it’s not translating too well on your CV and profile. I’ll take a look at this once we’re off line and hopefully we can find areas that can be improved so your profile jumps out at people!

Q: How can I get noticed?! I’m a recent graduate with a 2:1 and am looking for jobs in the Manchester/ Leeds area with production companies. Do production companies advertise jobs or am I better just to send CVs out to specific companies?

JM: Some companies do post and others search profiles directly. I would write to all the prod companies in the area you want to work but make sure you’re aware of their content. Don’t take a scatter-gun approach and try and find out the name of the person that does the recruiting.

PC: I’d start with the indies/producers in the area you live that get all the best commissions, such as Nine Lives/BBC North. I’m sure there is a lot of competition, but go to them with enthusiasm and exciting ideas and they will no doubt feel you have potential.

Q: Within my degree course I got experience in a lot of different aspects of production including TV and radio. I’m struggling to decide what would be my specific interest when applying to job. Do you think this will be a hindrance as at the moment I feel a bit like I’m in a jack of all trades scenario?

JM: I would be a bit stricter on yourself – limit your field of interest for now but don’t get bogged down in it. A company will appreciate the work you have done on your course but they will also want to see you can work in a team, are prepared for long hours and can get on with people. These are highly valued skills!

NS: I need solid experience in one field, which shows me you have a vision for your career development. If you like being a jack of all trades, and let’s face it, it is a requirement these days in our fast paced industry, there are still plenty of roles that you need to have experience of in just TV alone. Try and get some more work experience and commit to a path, and things will fall into place. The only way you will make that decision is by getting some more work experience. You do have to be a jack of all trades in this industry, but a lack of focus on what you want to do, is off putting when I am looking at CVs.

Q: Any advice on the most important things to cover in your cover letter? Also I took a year off after university to travel as well as work, I do mention this at the beginning of my CV as otherwise there is a year gap in my CV. Do you think is the right thing to do?

NS: Three short paragraphs should do it:
1) A little about you, your current situation and longer term career aspirations.

2) The reason why you want to work for the company, particular programmes you like, the genre, and your relevant interests, and suitability.

3) A request for a quick chat to introduce yourself, so you can get on my radar for future opportunities at the company.
A gap year in my book is always a bonus – you can mention it in your letter, and just put it into the chronological order of your life experience. Traveling is as valuable as work experience as far as I am concerned.

Q: I’ve noticed some crew production companies have been viewing my profile but haven’t gone on to view my show reel or my CV. Is there something I can do to make my profile sound more appealing? I would be grateful if you could take a quick at my profile and show reel and give your opinion. Should I add a bit of personality? Should I take out ‘filmmaker’ and concentrate on highlighting that I’m a camera operator and editor? Perhaps add that I’ve worked with broadcast cameras? I would LOVE your opinion!

PC: I’ve had a quick look at your profile and I’d say it makes you look good and you have great skills. But would you be more “employable” if you focussed on selling yourself with ONE key skill rather than several. When most PMs and SPs are crewing up they want people who fit the model of their budgets. They want an offline editor to edit, a shooter to shoot. Not someone who can do the whole lot. That’s not in every case, but it is in most in my experience. Pick the thing you do best, and back it up with credits and experience etc. and then see how it goes.

PC: I will take a look at you CV and showreel after the forum finishes and will get back to you on that one. I do feel it is important to be honest on a profile and keep it specific to your main skills. If you make it very broad, employers aren’t actually sure what you are and probably move straight on to the next CV as they have so many to choose from. For example I was recently offered a position based on my personal and storytelling skills but I had to turn it down as knew in my heart I wasn’t competent enough on the particular camera which they wanted me to self-shoot on.

Q: I would like to specialise in documentaries and factual. How do I go about getting into companies for this?

JM: It’s fairly easy to get a list of the production companies that specialise in docs and factual. You obviously will be starting at the bottom but (I like to stress this a lot) you will always be expected to know something about a company’s output. If you have hobbies and interests that relate to what a company produces, such as cooking for example, this can help tip the balance in them wanting to interview you for a role.

PC: I’d suggest you think about the subjects you’d like to work with, talk to them get some good background knowledge, a bit of foreground knowledge and talk to the indies who specialise in the factual area you want to work in. Tell them about your ideas, and they may think they can’t get it commissioned but you will have impressed them with your research skills and they may have a few weeks they can give you to see if you can help with their existing progs or in development. It’s a better way in than just sending a CV.

Q: I have lots of ideas for various programmes (about 15) and I also have treatments for them. Should I send these to companies? My concern is that the idea will be taken and I will not get a chance to work on it.

PC:No I would avoid sending in a pile of ideas. But a paragraph that summarises your best 2 or 3 will get the Exec to sit up and notice you. It is a risk, as most of us think ideas are precious and exposing them to strangers means they will get stolen. So play it carefully, most ideas aren’t unique, those come around once in a while, but fresh approaches to existing ideas are highly desirable. But it’s an entry point. so the risk might be worth it. I’m sticking my neck out here, but most of the people in TV that I know are honourable and will not steal. Maybe I’ve had a sheltered life?

Q: I’m looking for Edit Assistant/Junior Edit roles, have made and co-edited my own video content. Did a big mailer to companies but can you recommend anything else (or a more up-to-date directory of companies) – or should I just look at the upcoming productions page you have here and approach companies this way?

JM:Are you getting to the right people at these companies? Find out the name of the person that does the recruiting and (as I said in the past) get to know their output. The kind of work they specialise in and show interest in this yourself. Make each letter and application as personal as possible.

TD:The thing about editing, to me, is that it seems to be in a state of flux. I can’t stand FCP, but I’m doing a series now that’s all FCP. Aaaagh! I was cornered. But I’m told FCP and (the much cherished) Avid are on their way out. The future is all about Adobe, so I’m told. But if you get to the bottom of all this and tell prod companies you’re all over it. They’ll soon realise you’re smart and valuable. Just a thought. You’ve got to use whatever you can to get noticed.

Q: I’m being interviewed tomorrow at ITV for their Creative Production Scheme. I have to give a presentation and a short interview but also have to take part in some group exercises. Obviously I’m tremendously excited (and not in any way nervous/scared/terrified at all angelic but I was wondering if anybody had any experience or even any idea of what kind of things will be involved in these group exercises and what should my attitude be like. I have some idea but would be interested to hear any thoughts or from anyone else who might be in the same position.

PC: That you are at this stage is a credit, so make the most of it. These sort of courses are valuable for making future colleagues, bosses, friends etc. Go for it. And when they ask you to pretend you’re a teapot, give it your best shot.

Q: I am trying to get employed as a Production Assistant, an area within which I have some previous experience back home (I’m Irish). As yet, I have experienced a great amount of difficulty in getting any sort of paid position of this kind over here. At the moment I am working in post-production but fear that this will make guiding my career towards a production based role more difficult.

JM: Well, your background working in Ireland should be a big help – I don’t think you’re current role will hold you back. I’ll take a look at your profile once we’re off-line and hopefully we can look at ways to make sure you’re coming across to companies as a good employable candidate …with relevant experience!

Q: I’ve done a lot of P/D work including working (indirectly) for Joe on a lot of BBC Worldwide DVD special features. I stopped working for BBCWW earlier this year as I need another line on my CV! As a cradle-to-grave P/D (self-shooting and self-editing) I could make half-hour docs to broadcast standard for BBCWW despite the budgets being only around 25-50% of the equivalent broadcast budgets. In this day and age I would assume that is a selling point, but I am in two minds about drawing attention to this for 2 reasons:

(1) I worry that saying “I can do it cheaper” will risk putting employers off on the basis that cheap = not very good

(2) I worry about stressing the self-shooting and self-editing, because programme content is really where I am strongest. My programmes would have been equally good or better if I’d employed cameramen & editors.

What do you think – am I right to put my self-sufficiency front & centre, or do you think I’d be better off with that taking a back seat on my profile?

JM: Nice to hear from you. Don’t be put off by the budgets you worked too…they are far higher than some productions made for digital TV! You have great technical experience but I have a feeling you probably appear to a potential employer as being a bit unfocused in what you’re looking to do. I’ll take a look at your profile once we’re off-line to see if any obvious points that need to put across more strongly. Like underselling yourself!

PC: Ed, I agree there is a stigma around the word “cheap”, so perhaps rephrase it so you say you can do the job of two people, make the budget go further. (Or is it farther?) Also, my concern about anyone who says they shoot and edit, is that I believe the edit is a product of discussion. I select editors who are quite opinionated, and generally think they’re better producers than anyone else in the team. Factual is often shaped in the edit, more than drama and light ents, so in my view you need this process to be more of a dialogue than someone sat working alone on a laptop. I don’t mean to be too negative here, but that’s how I prefer to work. Is this helpful?

Q: My long term goal is to work as a camera operator on high profile factual TV programs and documentaries, those broadcast by Channel 4 and the BBC. I have spent much time thinking about the different routes available and have settled on the following. I plan to set up my own small business and market myself as available to film weddings and events as well as corporate videos. With the money that I earn from these jobs, I plan to produce short documentaries in my own time which I can then use to target the larger companies to gain paid work as camera assistant/second unit and work my way up to working as a camera op. in the types of programming that I enjoy the most. Does this sound like a reasonable plan of action?

PC: This sounds like a BRILLIANT plan. I wish I’d had such clear forward thinking when I started out. Good luck.

Q: Being new to the jungle of pitching, I have a question about the etiquette of proposals to producers. Can a writer/director pitch the same idea to many producers? I already had the experience of producers showing an interest but visibly not moving forward. To have a chance of getting my idea developed, I’d like to pitch it to many producers. Is it unethical? Against the etiquette?

PM: A good question, but difficult one to answer in a real positive way. It doesn’t matter what stage you are in your career, it always poses a question of who to take your ideas to and how long to give them to take the project forward. I have several ideas on the go at the moment and I’m in the same quandary. In the past I have had ideas stolen from me, having been told there in no mileage in the idea, only to see it pop up on TV with the Exec’s name attached to it several months later. One thing I will say though, an idea is no good if its not out there in the arena. I would say if your proposal is well written and presented then, a fair timescale would be 6-8 weeks before moving to the next avenue.

Q: I would like to find work as a production assistant. At the moment I am working at a creative agency for HoDs in film & TV and I am a bit worried that this isn’t relevant enough to gain a job on the production side of things…any advice?

JM: I’m sure many aspects of your current role as a production assistant will be very relevant to a PA job in TV or film. Are you doing anything in you spare time to imply that you have a genuine interest in what you want to get into? Where possible you should take up some unpaid work and I would also make sure it’s either TV of film for now. It’s very hard to jump between the two industries.

Q: I’m a former BBC reporter producer and PD news and docs of 18 yrs experience, flying solo now and trying to work out how to secure commissions in TV as an independent..very different from the BBC while I was there! Any advice / tips greatly appreciated.

PC: From what you’ve written I’d suggest you focus on indie commissions for Panorama and C4’s Dispatches. Either on your own or through a regular supplier of current affairs docs. They need quality and experienced TV journalism, it’s their lifeblood. The commercial world is very different to the BBC, but you seem to have a broad set of skills. Best of luck.

Q: I have been working in TV now for two years and really feel ready to move up to a Researcher role, i have a fabulous Runner/Logger role this August, and after that i would love to make the step up. I think my CV shows i’m ready and i have a lot of writing and research experience from my degree. What advice would you give for me to move upwards along the Researcher route and preferably into Development?

PC: Talk to the people who you have got on best with over the past two years. Ask them do they know anyone who needs a junior researcher. I’ve taken a few on this year from someone with no experience at all to someone who wanted to leave editing. It always surprises me who finds their feet quickly. You need to think like a journalist, have the ability to persuade people to do things for no money, find stories, etc., some people find it’s not them at all. I imagine working in post-production you’ve seen lots of producers/clients come and go. Track down the ones you got on with best and see if they have openings.

Q: Would the best advice you could give to someone starting out be get as much experience as possible? I just finished university recently and tried to get as much work experience as I could when attending the university- working for a production company in London, on a film set in Kent and then the local Championship-level Football club’s television station; yet I am struggling to even get interviews for any jobs at the moment. Would you suggest I take on more un-paid work as a way to build up contacts or just keep applying with the hope something arises?

PM: Unpaid work experience is one thing, but continuing on with unpaid work is a definite no no. Not only for you but the industry in general. Companies will, if they can, try and get something for nothing. Whilst I was still at film school, I managed to get into the BBC documentary dept for my work placement, although this was unpaid, I was lucky enough to work under a couple of Directors and learnt so much from them. One option that you could take would be to look at people working in the field you want to be in i.e. Camerawork, Directing, Editing etc and contact them asking if you can shadow them. Sometimes it’s about who you know in the industry and word of mouth recommendations can go a long way. This should hopefully get you at least minimum wage positions to start building up your CV. Although I did work for the BBC for a short period for free over 12 years ago, although it now stands me in good stead, working for free on an ongoing basis is not something I can agree with. A word of caution, the more unpaid work you do now the less paid work is on offer for every new starter and when you need paid work there will be someone else to do it for free so why pay you.

PC: Read the Chris Evans autobiography, he did so much work for free. He made a mess of most of it, but he blundered through with enthusiasm. I can’t say this is the best way or the only way, but it does work. All creative industries are challenging to get into, and when you’re in it’s a challenge to stay in, that’s just the way it is. There are a lot of people for a smaller number of jobs. Tenacity is essential. Talent in a specific area isn’t a hindrance either.

Q: I am a fairly recent graduate but I do have experience as an editor (offline/online) and director of short films and webisodes. As of lately it has been very hard for me to find anything in the area I am interested in, so I was wondering if you know of any specific production companies that have some job/internships openings. What about your production companies Mr Crompton and Mrs Searle?

PC: Send your CV after this forum is done. I have a few people who are helping with development so if you’ve got ideas that we can get commissioned then even better. My plan with Barge Pole, to make it more appealing for people – like you – to come to me with their best ideas first is to offer slices of the back end and production fee.

Q: It’s been a while since I actively contacted production companies rather than relying on my existing contacts calling me. Back then (10 years ago), the standard practice was to send a hand written cover letter and a printed CV by post, preferably preceded by a phone call. Are cold emails with CV attachments now the standard method for putting your CV about, or are these likely to end up as Junk (or both!)?

NS: Sending emails and CVs is definitely the way to go. Save the planet and all that!!! Once you have a contact email for a particular company or talent manager, I would regularly email then with a short cover letter, detailing your availability and your latest CV. Many companies now have their own databases (we are about to launch our own) and whilst some people are afraid that this is just a fobbing off portal we do actually use these databases for recruitment every day, as they feature complicated matching systems to actually drill down the skills we need for the particular role we might be looking for. Being on these company databases is important, BUT don’t wait to be called…an email to an inbox, at the right time, might just get you that job. I am often looking for people at short notice, so being able to scan my inbox for people who are available, now, tomorrow or even next week has got me out of crewing up jams before.

Q: I am a runner/Production assistant with a years’ part time experience. I am wondering if you are aware of any emerging areas/trends of tv production that are experiencing increased demand for skills? For example I am aware DIT/Data Wrangler jobs seem to be in demand, but cannot find courses or entry level jobs. Any thoughts and ideas appreciated. I’m passionate about current affairs, science and factual programmes, and enjoy learning new technology.

NS: The DIT/Data Wrangler job is an interesting one, as these roles are becoming more and more in demand as it’s a vital part of the food chain in the production process. We are at an interesting point with this role, as often it’s left to Runners to do this, and in my mind its way too much responsibility for that grade. I think companies are realising that those technical skills are really important and are worth paying for. Am not sure if there are courses, specifically for this role. Most tapeless camera courses would cover it. If you do go into a company as a Runner, and show an aptitude for this kind of technical work, then I am sure you will build yourself a reputation and they will call you back. However we will start to see these jobs advertised more and more, because tapeless isn’t going away.

Q: I’m a graduate with some experience, and I have been accepted onto an MA course to study Film and Television Research and Production. In your opinion, is it worth obtaining a media qualification, or is it more beneficial to begin the job-hunt, maybe completing more work experience/working for free first?

JM: I’m sure the MA course will be very rewarding but it certainly won’t guarantee any job at the end of it. Companies value relevant work experience and being prepared to work for free will give you more openings into a full time position.

PC: I agree with Joe. Use the MA to show you know the terrain, the formats, the tricks of the trade etc., but on top of that, do something completely different. Having someone who is an expert / specialist / or just knowledgeable about a specific subject is often far more interesting than a list of media qualifications.

NS: If you want to study a post grad specific media course, then that is up to you. I see from your profile, you already have some work experience under your belt. Your options are to continue to study, and hope that the educational establishment can further assist you with getting work placements during your course, whilst (I hasten to add) also making your own contacts for your future opportunities. Or you can just get straight out there, and start to learn on the job. Unpaid work experience eventually leads to paid work. Plenty of graduates come out of university and have to start at the bottom, and you will have to do that again armed with your MA qualification. The decision is yours.

Q: I graduated a year ago and have been lucky enough to gain some experience in the industry but it has mainly been unpaid work. However gratifying it may be it does not pay the rent as I moved to London 3 months ago for better opportunities. Is there a demand for entry-level employees? Do you think it should be fairly easy or fairly difficult to find paid employment in either film or TV especially considering my preference is the Art Department.

PM: Difficult for me to advise you on this one as my field is documentary making. If you knock on enough doors and eventually one will open. You need to target those companies regularly, email them you CV and a covering letter and phone up and speak to the relevant person in the company rather than just sending to an info@ email address. TV is a passion and unless you are one of the lucky few taken on as staff, which is rare nowadays, freelance work is very challenging and you will need a support network around you during the lean times.

I’m a Promo Producer by trade. I’m currently looking for work and there isn’t much promo work around so I want to apply my skills elsewhere, but I’m finding it hard as I have experience in script writing, directing, editing etc but for example if I apply for a script writing role, because my experience hasn’t focused on script writing I’m immediately discounted. I worry that potential employers may see me as a jack of all trades and a master of none when actually I’ve spent 5 years working hard on all of them. How do I get this across to people before they discount me.

JM: Your CV/profile needs to be focused. You have great experience in various roles but probably not long enough in each of them to attract a production company. You should narrow down what you have most work experience in – producing and directing will transfer across to certain areas and you should focus on looking for companies that produce both corporate work as well as television. I’m happy to look at your profile to see if we can give it more focus.

Q: How do I progress from being a Logger/Runner upwards, to Junior Researcher. I’m finding it tricky to move up the ladder. I’m always asked to work as a Logger, occasionally a Runner.

NS: Logging constantly for days can be mind-numbing, but if you manage to find some time to report back to your PD or SP about what it is yoku are logging, pointing out the best sound bites, what YOU found interesting, they might notice that you have sound editorial nouse, and call you back for the next opportunity they have.

I’m a reasonably well-established PD with experience of factual programme making, eager to develop my career in specialist factual productions (history, science, arts) and observational documentaries. Having started out in natural history and more recently, as a PD, moved into more general factual programming I’m concerned about moving my career forward in the way I’d like. I’ve recently turned down several popular formatted productions on the basis that they’re not what I aspire to, even if I have direct experience in the areas they cover. I’m concerned that working in certain genre (daytime especially) will from this point forth begin to count against me and limit my chances of moving into spec-fac productions. I’ve previously felt that it’s better to continue to work than to hold out for something that may never arrive, but having given the kind of thought to my career now that perhaps I should have done long ago, I’ve changed my view. I wonder what you think? Am I being realistic? Although interested and reasonably knowledgeable about diverse subjects in science, art and areas of history, I don’t posses a degree in any of these fields, having (foolishly in hindsight) opted for a purely ‘media related’ honours degree in Film & Photography, albeit from a well regarded film school. This fact, coupled with my more recent production history may, I worry, prejudice employers against hiring me for their specialist factual documentaries; after all, wouldn’t you select a director with a ‘history or science background’ for a film on, say (quantum theorist) Paul Dirac? I continue to develop specialist factual programme ideas and am beginning to wonder whether winning a commission, either through my company or piggy-backing on an established indie, is my best chance of getting a break in a specialist field. Of course, commissioning editors are just as likely to be prejudicial (or more so) in their choice of directors. I’m getting offered a good deal work – and about that, I really shouldn’t complain – but as a BBC4 watching, Radio Four listening, reader of New Scientist and historical biographies with wide interests in music, I’m increasingly frustrated by the narrowing scope of those job offers. Your advice is welcomed.

JM: Well, firstly I’m glad to hear you have lots of work at the moment! It’s probably fair to say that production companies tend to stick with people that have a certain amount of experience in a one genre as they have to put production crews together very quickly and want the best in a certain field. From the PDs I spoken to over the years that have moved into different areas, I’d say it’s really about letting people know your other interests whilst working at a company – many indies produce a range of shows across the genres you’re interested in, so what better place to stake a claim than from the inside! I would say keep taking the work you’re getting and always make a point of discussing other areas you want to work with key people from that company. And as for commissioning editors…they rarely get to choose the key people that work on a production.

Q: I have had a bit of experience as a production assistant and I want to look to build on this. What is the best way to look for smaller/indie companies that are based on factual entertainment/documentary film? I am based in central London and I can imagine there is a wealth of companies in the area.

JM: As you suspect, there are a lot of production companies based in London and the South East. Before writing and applying for a job, make sure you do your research on the company – know their output –most companies have their own websites with info in the latest productions so there is no excuse. Also, have a genuine interest in their productions and make each application personal to the company – never take a one letter/CV suits all approach.

You can follow the original discussion on the Watercooler here.