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An overview of the editorial department

TV editorial teams are responsible for story development and execution: they are idea generators, story finders, 'peoplefinders' and most importantly: they know instinctively if a story has legs (will make good TV). The editorial team are usually the first to be employed once a programme has been commissioned by a broadcaster. Editorial come on board in pre-production. They hit the ground running, finding contributors, experts and stories that fit with the programme’s treatment. The series producer (or producer on single programmes or smaller productions) controls the editorial side of the production, and picks the editorial team.  

Once stories have been chosen by the producer, the editorial team plan shooting schedules with contributors, write scripts/interview questions and go out to film the stories that they’ve set up. After production has finished, the editorial team is reduced down to one or two people, who are there to help collate/retrieve/return any missing paperwork, and source or return archive materials supplied by those who’ve contributed.

When the filmed stories go into post-production - producers/directors usually get to cut their own stories. If the budget or schedule doesn’t allow for producers or directors involved in the shooting of the stories to go into the edit suites, production will hire edit producers to cut one or a few stories simultaneously. Editors and EPs start during production, and have an important editorial role as they craft the rushes fed into the edits and write edit scripts, which may include voice over commentary.

Editorial teams in TV generes

Editorial staff are generally employed on every production that includes factual content, or productions that need casting assistance (finding ‘real’ people, or ‘talent’). However, researchers are employed on TV dramas too, say if the script is history-heavy and needs checking for factual accuracy. In that instance, a researcher would liaise with experts in the field of history, and rely on history books as resources to back up facts, or identify factual errors in the script.    

If there is room in the budget the role of the researcher and junior editorial staff can be found on the following productions:

  • Structured Reality TV

  • Radio and Broadcast News

  • TV Films

  • Documentaries

  • Entertainment

  • Factual

  • Soaps

  • Dramas

In the TV drama/soap/serial world: editorial is also known as the Script Department. The Script Department act as a liaison between scriptwriters and the Production Department. They collaborate to achieve the best possible editorial outcome and deliver scripts on time, in the specified format, and to the agreed length. They brief, critique and assist writers from script commission through to delivery of the programme to the broadcaster.   

What are the entry level positions in the Editorial Department?

The entry level positions for the editorial department in TV are:

Factual Genres (Documentary, Specialist Factual, Reality, Sport, News)

The entry level positions for the editorial department in TV are runners, production assistants and junior researchers. Sometimes you can transition from a runner to a runner/junior researcher within the duration of a series production, or over the course of a few months if you’re working in-house at a production company. This only happens when you can prove that you have the added reliability, tactfulness and diplomacy needed when handling contributors/talent/HODs. If you get a job/work experience/trainee position in children’s TV, factual, entertainment, news or documentary genres - these are all potential genres where you’ll be able to join an editorial team.

  • Office Runner

  • Production Assistant

  • Junior Researcher

  • Logger

Drama/Scripted Genres (Drama - inc soap -, Drama Doc, Comedy, Animation, Children’s TV)

In stark contrast to most other departments in TV, those starting out in the Script Department don’t usually start as runners. Entry level positions are usually: script reader, assistant script editor, script secretary or researcher. The BBC runs a graduate trainee scheme which is a fantastic way in (though highly competitive), with trainees regularly spending a few months on EastEnders in the first instance.

  • Runner

  • Script Reader

  • Researcher

  • Assistant Script Editor

WHAT ARE THE CAREER PATHS?

When you start out as a runner/production assistant/junior researcher, you will begin to understand what floats your boat in editorial terms - it could be: casting, live news, facts and figures, science. Are you a visual thinker? Or are you more interested in budgets and logistics? At an early stage, it’s good to decide if you are more interested in the aesthetics or the practicalities of production. If you’re a visual thinker, you may want to go from researcher, to assistant producer to director - as in this role, you’ll have more control over how the programme looks, and what type of performance you want from your contributors/talent.

If you’re keen on numbers, logistics and leadership - you’d probably take the researcher, assistant producer, producer and then series producer route.

When you start out as a logger/runner/data wrangler or junior researcher, you may want to go from logger to researcher, to assistant producer to director, you’ll have more control over how the programme looks, and what type of performance you want from your contributors/talent. If you’re keen on numbers, logistics and leadership - you’d probably take the logger, researcher, assistant producer, producer and then series producer route.

WHAT IS THE HIERARCHY OF THE EDITORIAL DEPARTMENT IN TV?

The editorial department in TV production usually consists of the following roles:

  • Runner

  • Production Assistant

  • Logger

  • Data Wranger

  • Researcher

  • Assistant Producer

  • Director

  • Producer

  • Editor

  • Edit Producer

  • Series Producer

  • Executive Producer (oversee projects, stepping in if any problems with the channel/production team)

Areas of the industry these entry level jobs could lead into:

  • Producing

  • Directing

  • Script Editing

  • Edit Producing

  • Production Management

  • Location Management

  • Continuity

  • Storylining

  • Investigative Journalism

  • Story Producing