This week Optomen TV’s Nicky Searle talks us through the trials and tribulations of being a newcomer to ‘The Industry’ and gives some sound advice on how you can stand out from the crowd.
So you think you would like to make a career in television? Where do you start? How do you get noticed from the many thousands of people trying to get into this industry? It’s a good question. As one of the many CVs that arrive in my email inbox every day, how do you get yours on my radar?
A well written cover letter is a great start, and of course making sure it’s addressed to the right individual, and also the correct company! You will be surprised how many emails I get at Optomen addressed to Objective or Endemol. It’s clear that spelling is an issue, spelling names of our key talent or the titles of our programmes incorrectly, is an instant faux pas. A badly laid out email just makes me think that you have no attention to detail, and haven’t thought through your application properly. The best cover letters are a couple of paragraphs, telling me a little bit about you, and why you think you could be a good fit for our company, and why I should meet you?
Will a Post Grad Qualification Help You Steer a Path Through a Tough Job Market?
I’ve contributed recently to a couple of articles on the subject of whether obtaining a post grad qualification will give you an edge over your contemporaries in television. I can understand why this has raised itself again, with the fairly bruising market conditions still being felt in the industry at the moment, many freelancers are finding themselves thinking about going back to study as a way to kick-starting their career.
Before I rattle on, it might be worth taking a deep breath to absorb the sobering air of current stats: there are now over 15,000 people studying at post gradate or higher education level for a media related subject, with nearly 3,000 courses available to choose from – that’s a lot of people and an overwhelming choice. You can breathe out again.
Whether you’ve taken a sabbatical, have been on maternity leave or you’ve been working abroad, returning to the industry is always difficult. This week sports anchor and broadcaster Georgie Bingham, shares her experience and highlights the importance of ‘staying in touch.’
“The chance to work abroad is something many of us yearn for and, three years ago, I grabbed such an opportunity with ESPN in the USA. Now back in the UK, I’m scaling the peaks and troughs that are finding work again when you’ve been out of the local market for a while….I am proud and glad that during my time in the US I bothered to make the effort to keep up with contacts, former colleagues, and acquaintances because they’re the people who will make my transition back to the UK easier. Regardless of whether you’re away or simply take a contract with a single employer long term, it’s all about ensuring you remain in people’s thoughts. Fundamentally, everyone you ever work under, alongside or meet in your career is your next potential employer.”
A few years ago I was at a party in Soho, hobnobbing with people like Carole Vorderman (she was popular then) and Ross Kemp (he was new) and that Beckham kiss-and-tell woman (remember her?). Earlier I’d been to the Ritz with Sir David Frost to talk about a sports debate show and he told me funny stories about Ali, Nixon and Monty Python. I was a commissioning editor and this wasn’t a bad day’s work for a Salford boy.
Fast forward to last summer and I’m in a pokey Cornish B&B with a broken shower and a room smelling of dead dog. I have no spare socks and I’m rushing out to get a shot on a DV camera from the side of some docks. It’s 6am and I’m lying on the cold, wet floor, my face scrunched into the camera eyepiece. How did it come to this? Where did it all go wrong? If only Vorderman can help me work it out?
It was great being a commissioning editor, I thought it was the best job in the world – meeting talented people and the feeling that you’re in a big supermarket of ideas. Being an an Exec at a small indie in many ways more rewarding because the pressures are different? They’re more real. Responsibilities such as development, securing access, managing a big team, hustling, begging, and running around sockless (BBC Four budgets!) all give the job an exciting edge.
Channel 4’s Mark Dolan walks the tightrope of pilots and creative turbulence.
I suppose the big challenge this year is to put a positive spin on shrunken budgets and a risk-averse commissioning culture. And the positive spin is this: we are in the era of the office pilot and the taster tape, and it could be a great opportunity for innovation.
Big, fat, expensive pilots are more carefully rationalised now and a channel is far more likely to physically come into the office of a production company and watch a few people in a room work through an idea, and feed through their thoughts thereafter. This is of course preferable for them, compared to the cost and potential egg-on-face caused by bankrolling a lengthy chunk of development and a full pilot.
This week we’re pleased to introduce Creative Director, Robert Doherty, who takes us to drier climate of Abu Dhabi – a desert of opportunity?
When working in the Arab Nations is mentioned, inevitably the one of the first places that springs to mind is the United Arab Emirates and in particular, Dubai and Abu Dhabi. To most people in the west it conjures up images of self-satisfied ex-pats, working in the banking industry and living the kind of lifestyle not seen in Britain since the hey-days of Maggie’s 1980s. That image may persist in some quarters, but in others, another reality exists, and for me, its taking part in the cultural and media revolution here.
I’ve been over here for the past 4 months consulting and post-producing a CGI animated series and so far its been a blast, as well as an eye-opener.
The region has long term plans for making it a media hub of the Middle East and leading the way is Abu Dhabi’s Vision 2030, an ambitious plan, put in place to build an infrastructure of industries before the petro-carbon resources inevitably run dry and ensure a modern, thriving place to live and work for the near 3 million population of the UAE’s capital. Not so much making hay while the sun shines, as building a future while the oil flows.
ProductionBase is almost exactly fifteen years old. I know this, because I have on my desk a champagne cork from a Camden wine bar with the biro inscription, “ProductionBase’s first day of trading, January 11 1995. Moray and Susan”. What that really meant was that I’d found a desk and got the phone line connected.
Perhaps the genesis of the ProductionBase was a meeting of TV industry figures called together in September 1999 by producers, Andrea Michell and Jane Thomas, to create a central point of information about production talent. Or maybe it was a conversation I’d had in August on Santa Monica beach with my then girlfriend Susan, a researcher who had just finished a contract with World of Wonder, and wished there was somewhere she could look for a comprehensive round-up of available jobs in TV production. Both propelled me into setting up the PB.
Why was there was no such database of production people already in 1995? Most production companies and departments relied on production managers’ contact books for the programme staff they knew and liked, and they sifted through the sack-loads of prospective CVs posted through their letterboxes every week for interesting looking newcomers.
With the Sundance Film festival due to commence next week, Moray casts a hopeful eye over some of this year’s entries in an ever-changing documentary landscape.
“The Sundance Film Festival 2010 kicks off next week, the showcase of new dramas and documentaries that remind the US film industry why they went into the business in the first place. It’s also a reminder that there is more to aspire to as a British documentary maker than the patronage of a BBC or Channel Four commissioner.
Among the hundreds of films screened in and around the Festival, the “In Competition” section is where the action is. Only 1 per cent of films submitted to the competition make it to the final competition line-up, and those 58 successful competitors will be watched by every relevant studio producer and executive in the USA.
The ongoing discussion on our Watercooler forum headed ‘Camera Person with Own Kit: £100’ gets to the heart of the worries of thousands of TV freelancers. At first reading, it looks as if the debate is about what is a fair rate for the job. In fact, the real subject is whether the team offering the work, and the people who apply to do it, are working within a professional industry, or one for amateur enthusiasts.
Let us be in no doubt that there is a professional television industry. A 2005 Film Council study noted that the UK’s total TV turnover was £13.4 billion in the previous year, and it has grown over the last four years. Skillset estimates that there are some 75,000 people whose livelihoods directly depend on that turnover for their income, which probably includes you and me.
Film and television-making is not a monopoly controlled by the professionals, any more than baking is controlled by Rank Hovis McDougall. You can bake cakes at home, or to sell at your tea shop but if you were employed to make Mr Kipling’s French Fancies, you would not expect to bake them in your home oven, and you would expect to be paid a sustainable rate in return for your employers’ intention to make a profit from them.
Freelancer David McDougall is a Self-Shooting Producer/ Director with over 10 years experience primarily on documentary films covering a broad spectrum of subjects before heading overseas to the Middle East and SE Asia. Most recently David was shooting a documentary ‘Scholars for Change’ in Burma & Thailand for Thabyay Education Network. Here he shares his experiences while filming in Burma:
Introduction to the shoot you were on
This was one of those serendipitous and worthwhile jobs that came out of nowhere. After two years of working as a P/D in the Middle East, I’d dusted off my backpack and was travelling around South-East Asia. I was in Chiang Mai, Northern Thailand when I received an e mail from an ex colleague who’s a BBC Series Producer. She had a friend, coincidentally enough, also in Chiang Mai, who required a fund-raising documentary film to be made. The subject was the state of the education system in Burma and Burmese students.
What where the surroundings like compared to UK?
We filmed in a variety of locations in Burma and Thailand. Burma’s pretty grim; poverty-ridden; down-trodden people; below standard infrastructure all hanging under the malaise of military rule. Thailand’s great!