TV and Film

The UK screen industries contribute over £7 billion to the economy and currently employ c. 80,000 people. The UK is also home to some of the world’s leading production facilities and talent pools in the industry, known for their creativity, innovation and technical excellence.

The industry is evolving and changing fast, with a myriad of roles and opportunities spread across a range of different visual media such as, large terrestrial TV channels (BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Channel 5) Film Studios (Pinewood, Shepperton, Elstree) subscription channels (Netflix, HBO, Amazon, Apple TV, Disney+), social media platforms (Facebook, YouTube) and independent production companies. Opportunities are also growing to work in the sector outside London, as Salford, Glasgow and Belfast have become highly successful production hubs for industry leaders such as the BBC and ITV (Salford Media- City) and HBO (Belfast – Game of Thrones).

The advent of more on-line content and much wider the use of Visual Effects (VFX) in TV and film also means that the industry is also seeking out entrants with strong IT/software skills in addition to the more traditional technical skills of directing, producing, designing, lighting etc.

Expand All

The number of different types of jobs is immense, spanning all parts of the production process from commissioning, development of content, production, post-production and through to distribution. To give an idea of the scale….a big budget film can create as many as 10,000 jobs.

The one unifying factor about all of the roles, is that the industry is increasingly becoming one in which people work on a “freelance” or fixed term contract basis. There are permanent roles, however as budgets are cut, these are declining. The advent of more advanced technology also means that some roles can be done remotely. So, when considering a career in the sector, think about whether you are suited to this style of employment, which also means that you will have to pro-actively build networks and contacts to find work.

The full range of industry jobs is broad and employs a wide variety of skills and expertise, so the first task will be to consider where your strengths and interests lie.

Some questions to think about are: What type of work do you want to do? Do you want to be involved at the inception of the project? Do you want to create the content (write, design, direct), do you want to be involved in the project’s production (produce, production accounting, lighting etc) or post-production (editing, marketing, distribution) ?

Many job roles in film combine creativity with high levels of technical and/or managerial and organisational ability, so regardless of which role you choose, some of the skills below will be very useful:

  • planning
  • problem solving and troubleshooting
  • liaising with a wide range of people
  • organisation
  • flexibility and adaptability (at very short notice)
  • working to tight deadlines
  • working in challenging environments and conditions

To find out more about the different roles, read the Screen Skills website , which has detailed job descriptions for a number of  roles in TV and film such as, director, editor, production manager, producer, costume designer, hair & make up designer etc.

Whichever part of the industry you are interested in, you will need to demonstrate a range of technical and transferable skills relevant to this area. For example, if you are interested in script writing, you need to have written scripts that have been performed (it can be a short piece), if you would like to be a producer, you need to have produced short films, plays etc. It sounds obvious, but with such high levels of competition, applicants to entry level roles often have a vast body of amateur (and sometimes professional) experience behind them.  In addition to the technical skills you will need to have transferable skills such as:

  • Flexibility, drive and perseverance
  • Good team-working, organisational and project management skills
  • Very confident and articulate communication skills
  • Creativity and an inquisitive mind
  • Awareness of the technology used in broadcasting
  • Evidence of your ability – in the form of portfolios, showreels, websites, social media etc.

Getting experience

Getting paid work experience in the sector can sometimes be difficult, especially at the beginning, however there are lots of opportunities to develop your craft and technical skills whilst at university and during the vacations, which can improve your chances of finding paid opportunities. It’s important to collaborate and find like-minded people to undertake projects with, as all TV and film productions involve working closely with others. If you are interested in film-making, join The OU Filmmaking Foundation which supports and promotes film making at the university, including producing, advising on productions and offering financial support and equipment rentals. You can also make your own short films using a Smart Phone – it’s a great (and relatively cheap) way of producing your own work and contributing to a production, as similar to a big budget show or feature film, it will still require other roles such as a scriptwriter, lighting, costume designer, editor etc. During the vacations, look for work experience opportunities at the various film studios across the UK, such as Pinewood, Leavesden, Shepperton, Media City (Salford).  The National Film and Television School also offers volunteering opportunities on their student productions.

Even when you leave Oxford you may need to continue a portfolio approach to your career. This involves undertaking a variety roles in order to develop skills and experience, build networks and survive financially. It’s quite typical for new entrants in the industry to have a “day job” that pays the bills and practice their craft in their spare time, to build enough expertise to apply for paid roles. However, a little experience can go a long way – and the people you will be competing against face the same challenges, so if you combine some experience with passion, commitment and good research into your chosen areas, you can make a stand-out case to be considered. Use every experience as a networking opportunity, no matter how small it may seem, as you never know what it may lead to in future.

When making “speculative approaches” you may need to write to a lot of places and receive a lot of rejections (or just don’t hear back!) before you get what you want, so be prepared to work at it and tailor your approach to each role. Most film and TV companies have their own websites, so find them, explore them, find a relevant email address and write to them. When writing, explain, who you are, why you want to work for them (write about their work), what you want to do and what skills you can bring to the job. Be passionate in your application and demonstrate your enthusiasm for new ideas – always supporting this with real examples of your work/previous experience, If you’ve been making your own films, writing, designing etc, it’s important to let them know.

Also, be persistent, you can contact them every few months to remind them that you’re still interested and you never know, the right opportunity may appear several months after your initial contact.

What to do during your work experience

When you have the opportunity to get hands-on experience, seize the opportunity to build and cultivate a reputation for being hard-working, personable and willing to go the extra mile. In all of your jobs, make a contribution and learn what you can: get involved and don’t become frustrated if you seem to be asked to do anything and everything by the team. One Oxford alumnus commented that “time spent making a cup of tea is never time wasted – and there’s often a chance for a chat when you deliver that cuppa”.

  • Work hard and be professional – in an often high pressured environment, it’s important to demonstrate the same level of commitment and professionalism as your colleagues
  • Be engaged, interact with your colleagues and be friendly – this is an industry built on networks and often involves long hours, so people need to want to be in your presence for long periods of time
  • Talk to your colleagues: getting on with people is crucial, but most importantly genuine passion for the job or the programme you are associated with will show, and that will be appreciated.
  • Ask people about their jobs – learn about the job from as many different perspectives as you can, ask them how they got to their current position. People usually like talking about themselves and their experiences, but choose your moment!  Don’t start quizzing them if they are busy or stressed out.
  • Don’t claim to have a skill or know something unless you actually do!
  • Make yourself indispensable – the more people come to rely on you, the better chance of keeping hold of a job or getting another contract.
  • Make other peoples’ lives easier – anticipate what needs to be done and do it for them or volunteer your services. Look for solutions rather than bring problems.
  • Be prepared to put in that extra shift… to stay on to help clear up at the end of the day. Your next job will probably come through word of mouth, so being willing to help the team to the end is a good reputation to foster.

In this industry “you are your brand” so make sure that you reflect the image you would like to portray in everything you do. Periodically check your on-line presence on a range of search engines and make sure any social media accounts also correlate with your chosen professional image – your future employers may check!

There are several and different routes into film and television and it’s important to know what the typical route is for your area of interest. Screen Skills (the industry led charity for the screen industries) and BAFTA Guru (the British Academy of Film and Television Arts’ hub for careers advice) are great resources for finding out about various entry routes into the business. Also do your own research on people whose work you admire, using websites such as IMDB (Internet Movie Database) and/or LinkedIn to find out more about their career path and trajectory.

You may also need to consider further study to develop the technical skills for your role. It’s not mandatory for all roles, but can make a huge difference to your abilities and also crucially help you build your networks at the start of your career. For example  The National Film & Television School offers a range of short courses, diplomas and postgraduate courses in areas such as Editing, Cinematography, Digital Effects and Producing. Creative Media Skills (based at Pinewood Studios) also offers a range of short, undergraduate and postgraduate courses in subjects such as, Screenwriting, Film Production, VFX, Animation and Prosthetics, Hair & Make Up.

When choosing a course it’s very important to conduct detailed research not only on the content, but also teaching staff (visiting and permanent), other support they may offer such as, careers advice, their contacts within the industry and what their graduates have gone on to do. It’s highly recommended to visit and attend open days to meet staff, ask questions and see the teaching space and equipment available.

If you’re not sure exactly what type of role you’re interested in, a role as a “runner” on a production or in a company is a great way to get experience and exposure to the different options available. As a runner, your role is unlikely to be strictly defined and you will be expected to provide support whenever asked. This can involve, photocopying, greeting guests, driving and delivering equipment. The work may not sound “glamorous” however it’s a fantastic way to meet and work with people doing different roles in the organisation, so use it as an opportunity to ask questions and learn as much as you can.

Runner positions aren’t always advertised, however you can find out about upcoming productions via IMDB or IMDB Pro (there is a subscription fee for the latter) or the Knowledge. Some television studios such as ITV, BBC may advertise roles, so it’s also useful to check their vacancies pages.

Another first foot in the door could be through Trainee Finder an industry led programme to find and assist new talent to join the industry. There are eligibility criteria that you will need to meet and you do need some experience to apply, however it offers a great opportunity to start in the industry. Former trainees on the programme have worked on TV shows and films such as Outlander, Peaky Blinders, Wonder Woman, Jurassic World, Game of Thrones and Doctor Foster.

Application Tips

  • Apply for jobs advertised, but…
  • …you should also be approaching companies directly, as many vacancies are not advertised. It may depend upon being in the right place at the right time. However, always research the company before contacting them.
  • Get involved in developing ideas, working on projects (amateur or professional) and show that you are a truly dedicated to your craft and developing your skills
  • Attend industry events hosted by BAFTA and the Royal Television Society for careers tips from professionals in the industry, to network and meet other like-minded people with whom you can collaborate in the future

When searching for roles that aren’t advertised, it’s important to learn how make an appropriate and effective speculative approach. Make sure that your CV and Cover Letter are tailored to that particular role/position and organisation, as standard formats will vary depending on the role. For general advice see our briefing on Making Speculative Approaches. You may also need to showcase your work/portfolio on-line  – websites such as Wix, Square Space, and Fabrik , provide templates.

Graduate Programmes/Trainee Schemes

There are a few graduate programmes in the industry, unsurprisingly they are very competitive, but are still worth applying to in addition to pro-actively searching for other roles. Below are some examples:

BBC Production Trainee Scheme – 10 month fixed-term contract based in London, Salford or Birmingham  with the opportunity to work on a variety of content across BBC channels

Edinburgh International Television Festival – The Network– The Network takes place every August alongside the Edinburgh TV Festival. Offers 60 delegates four days of masterclasses, workshops and practical TV-making experience led by industry professionals, as well as a year of mentoring and access to exclusive paid jobs.

Shine TV – Offers four weeks work experience working on a production or in development (over 21s only)

Channel 4  – offers a number of Trainee and Industry Talent Schemes across areas such as Investigative Journalism, Data Science, Screenwriting and the Paras Production Training Scheme for disabled applicants interested in a career in television

SKY – offers a range of graduate programmes in different areas such as Finance and Business Analysis

Independent television companies & production houses

Increasingly, TV content is commissioned from and produced by independent production companies such as Tiger AspectEndemolShine GroupFreemantle, Working Title 

Some do run formal “Runner” or “Trainee” schemes and advertise, however vacancies are often filled by those who have made speculative applications or through their networks.

Books

The following books are available to read in our Resource Centre at 56 Banbury Road:

  • How to Get a Job in Television, Elsa Sharp
  • The Radio Handbook, Carole Fleming
  • Contacts 2012
  • On Air – A career in TV & Radio, Chris Alden
  • Careers in Media and Film: The Essential Guide, Georgina Gregory, Ros Healy, Ewa Mazierksa
  • The TV Presenter’s handbook, Kathryn Wolfe
  • Getting Into Films & Television, Robert Angell

General

  • BBC
  • ScreenSkills– industry led charity for the sector with information on roles, scholarships/bursaries, training providers and careers advice
  • Mandy – International Film & TV Production Directory, includes a good vacancies section
  • Televisual – Blogs, news, relevant articles and jobs search
  • The Knowledge Online – Source of UK Film & TV contacts
  • PACT – Producers’ Alliance for Cinema and Television, representing independent television, feature film, animation and interactive media production companies
  • Broadcast Now – Popular trade paper Broadcast.
  • Want to Work in Television – There is a list of links to production companies to get you started on the Useful Links page on this website
  • Production Guild
  • ACE – European producer development scheme
  • Screen Daily – with online news bulletins
  • Raindance  – Film Festival and course provider for film makers
  • National Film and Television School
  • TV Watercooler – For lists of active company talent bases and general industry advice
  • Frame 25: Media Jobs – Introduction to broadcast media, with many links to further sources.
  • BBC Writer’s Room – resource for aspiring writers
  • IMDB – Internet Movie Database

Job sites

The industry is working to create a more inclusive workforce “behind the scenes” as well as in “front of the camera” and there are a number of initiatives to encourage and support people from under-represented backgrounds in starting and succeeding at a career in the industry

Creative Access helps young people from Black, Asian and other non-white minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds, as well as those with a lower socioeconomic status , to secure both jobs and paid training opportunities in creative industries and advertises a range of opportunities on their website. Sign-up for their newsletter to keep up to date about new opportunities.

A number of major graduate recruiters have policies and processes that are proactive in recruiting graduates from diverse backgrounds. To find out the policies and attitudes of employers that you are interested in, explore their equality and diversity policies and see if they offer ‘Guaranteed Interview Schemes’ (for disabled applicants) or are recognised for their policy by such indicators as ‘Mindful Employer’ or as ‘Stonewall’s Diversity Champion’.

Looking for more?


Check the CareerConnect platform for all our upcoming events and opportunities, book appointments, find jobs and internships, and more.

Login to CareerConnect