Alex started working in the TV industry in 2014, since then he has worked in film and television as a runner, production assistant, office runner and floor runner.
Tell us a bit about yourself and what inspired you to enter the TV industry?
I originally started studying graphic design at uni. It wasn’t working out for me and I had the option to switch to a Film and TV based course. I fell in love with the subject and did really well at uni. I chose TV over film, partly because a job came up, but I liked the idea of having a shorter turnaround and a bigger variety of projects to work on. I was really lucky that my degree was based in Bath and Bristol so I was in a great place to get on the ladder.
What was the best piece of advice you were given by your tutors/teachers to prepare you for the working world?
I would say a combination of using any connection you have to get work and getting work experience while you can. I got a few bits of work experience while I was university which gave my CV an instant kick start. Almost all my other jobs in TV I’ve had because of a connection!
Did you take on any unpaid positions to gain experience?
Yes, while I was at university I worked for an advertising agency. I went back and did a second week in a different part of the company a few months later.
How long did it take you to get your first permanent (or fixed term) paying job, and how long did it take you to consistently find paid work?
At the time it felt like a long time, but now it seems very quick! Straight out of uni I was offered a part time events job which just about kept me going. About 3 months later I got a job as a runner on Deal or No Deal for 9 months. (Through MFJITV) I was lucky that someone I knew worked on Deal so I came with a recommendation. After that I was out of work for 7 months, that was horrible!
When working as a runner what are your responsibilities, and what have you found hardest to master?
It’s varied from job to job.
Deal or No Deal – Surprising amounts of responsibility! We had audience runners who were in charge of checking in the audience to the show, entertaining them, sorting out release forms and getting them seated in the studio. We’d also have gallery runners making sure the important maps for the show were distributed and the gallery was stocked; studio runners who would photograph contestants and live log each show, marketing runners who would promote the audience tickets and office runner who would help out generally and do any driving or collections of contestants. We also went along to the auditions tour around the country to help set up and interview contestants.
Drama – The general dogsbody, carrying things, driving people around, fetching teas and coffees and lunches, occasional bits of crowd control in busy areas and sometimes release forms. This was the hardest one I found to master because all the shoots I did were one or two days, so I spent most of that adjusting to the different people, locations and ways of working.
Office Runner – This has been the most relaxed, making sure the office is tidy, helping copy tapes and discs, helping pack first aid kits and doing a little bit of research for the teams. Generally keeping the office going!
Production Assistant – This has covered a lot from booking hotels, to finding models, call sheets, props. A lot of logistics,but still a lot of running around.
In all of them there are inevitably points where you end up waiting around which is harder than the manically busy moments, and I always felt a bit anxious that I was supposed to be doing something else!
Are there any processes or elements of the job/industry that have come as a surprise and you would want to pass onto others?
The waiting around on shoots was a surprise. I thought there would be constantly something to do, and on some shoots there is, but it can be a bit unnerving when you feel like you’re forgetting something.
There can be difficult people, as with every job, who ask a lot of you and you just have to do it.
There are also a lot of lovely people, who remember being a runner and are really willing to help and give advice. Always ask advice, they can only say no.
Having worked in the industry for a period of time what advice would you give to those just starting out?
Really do make use of any connection you have. Try not to get downhearted when the work is quiet, and find something to do in the meantime. I found it a struggle committing to jobs in case any last minute TV jobs came up so if you can find flexible jobs between TV jobs that’s great! When you get a job, bend over backwards to do everything and never complain. Everyone has got their eyes on you and the hard working runner who is always smiling won’t go unnoticed. Neither will the grumpy one with the bad attitude rolling their eyes. Also be careful not to get cocky or above your station.
Also ask lots of questions while you’re a runner and see if you can find a direction you like most. A lot of people I know ended up just doing the runner work and came out of it not knowing what they wanted to do next. For me it was either a) Researcher direction b)Coordinator direction, or c)A technical job on set.
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