This week, we chat to CSC Media’s Creative On-Air Manager, Scott Pickup.
What made you want to pursue a career within this industry?
I’ve pretty much known what I wanted to do with my life since around 14 years old, which is handy! I have always loved watching films – going to the cinema and renting videos was always a regular thing growing up. My brother and I used to watch a film on the Friday night and then get up at 6am the next day to watch it again. It sounds crazy now but that passion for all things moving image is what drives me still today.
What would you say was your first big break into the industry?
I tried for an age to get funding for short films and so many different jobs in the media industry. The only stuff I could get was expenses only work on a few feature films, great experiences but in no way a career! One day, I’d just had enough of rejection and decided to make something myself. A script idea for a short came to me pretty much fully formed and I just paid for the production myself. When the next job came up I had something real to show and it helped me get the chance to be a Junior Creative at ITV. That broke me into this world and I’ve been slowly battling my way up through the industry ever since.
As Creative On-Air Manager, what exactly does your job entail?
I run the on-air promo department; we produce promos / trailers for all the companies’ channels and some online content. My day is spent thinking, writing, editing, occasionally shooting and working with my small team on their brilliant promo ideas. It’s great as it covers the whole creative process from coming up with something to delivering the final piece. I also get involved with things like branding, idents, concepts for stunts and as many pub lunches as possible!
CSC Media are responsible for 16 television channels such as Chart Show TV, Scuzz, Pop, True Entertainment and True Movies, how difficult is it producing content for such a range of channels?
As a man in his 30s, it’s a real challenge to create things that would appeal to a 60 year old woman one day and an 8 year old boy the next. I tend to approach everything in a similar way; the idea comes first but it has to be right for both the brand and the content. I try to imagine our channels as having an individual personality; would they watch this, would they find this funny, how they would speak etc. It’s a way of keeping the promotions feeling like people make them and care about them too. It’s the kind of process you can work through with any creative idea regardless of what it’s for- you just have to make sure you don’t lapse back into doing just what you like!
You’ve also freelanced as a Promo Producer/Creative Editor and have founded Always Thinking Films – what has been your favourite project that you have done outside of your day job?
The project I’ve loved the most is a little film I made called Spiritualised. It’s made up of hundreds of still photos that I took over about 18 months, and about the same time again to organise and edit them all (mainly because I couldn’t face all the work it would take). It was a labour of love as it depicted one of the last wooden churches in England being moved on for a new housing estate near where I grew up. I did it completely on my own and only showed it to people when it was almost finished. There are so many different opinions to juggle in the professional creative world that this was a real refreshing change, just doing exactly as I wanted.
Since you first started working within this industry, do you think attitudes have changed towards graduates and newcomers into the marketplace?
Weirdly, I think it’s got better and worse at the same time for new people coming in. When I first started it really felt like you had to trample over as many of your colleagues as possible to get ahead. Old fashioned back stabbing and office divisions were rife and I never felt comfortable in that environment.
Now I feel like those attitudes are slowly getting phased out. I know there are still a few bullies in companies out there but the people in charge now seem to mostly want to nourish new talent, rather than make them scrap it out. Here at CSC Media, there’s a real family feel and lots of people have worked their way up from the bottom rung. You don’t have to sabotage anyone to get promoted!
On the flip side, the industry as a whole has culled a decent amount of their permanent staff. There are a lot of experienced guys out there now looking for the same work as the new people coming in. I get a few emails every week from people in that exact position so it’s tough. You need to make promos / trailers in your own time to prove you can do the work before you’d get a chance now.
What advice would you give to freelancers looking to further their career in the creative sector?
You’ve really got to go the extra mile to stand out now, the most creative way you can approach someone the better – although there’s a big risk the person might hate it but at least they will remember you!
That said, it’s mostly about being polite relentlessly. Get all the contacts you can from old colleagues, go to events and talk to anyone who’ll listen. Keep reminding people you’re around, so if you’ve done a great piece of work send it out and maybe ask for some feedback. It’s a very difficult balance as you don’t want to be annoying but keeping in touch every month or so is fine I think.
Also, try and make yourself more valuable to a prospective employer. When I had an off week while freelancing I taught myself Avid as I’d never used it at that point in my career. As luck would have it, the next phone call I got was to work on Avid. I took the job safe in the knowledge I could just about use the program and the job ended up lasting a couple of months! Be careful who you work for too, ask around – do they pay their bills, do they know what they are doing. I’ve had jobs / meetings at smaller companies where they didn’t pay or simply disappeared when it came to the crunch.
Is there anything you haven’t yet done in your career, which you would love to do?
This could be a really long answer as there are loads of things I still want to do. I feel really lucky to be running a promo department at a reasonably young age but I don’t think it’s helpful to be satisfied with your lot. In an everyday career sense I want to direct a lot more promos / adverts and be a Creative Director – maybe at a terrestrial broadcaster or get the chance to build up the business at CSC Media. The slightly more unachievable dream is to make feature films. I’m actually working on two scripts now (by working, I mean staring at a blank page occasionally), one is about a disgraced teacher who ends up on a caravanning holiday with his parents and the other is about a man who escaped a prison boat and ended up living in the outback for 32 years. As you can see I have trouble just doing one thing at a time, maybe I should work on that.
Scott Pickup is Creative On-Air Manager at CSC Media.