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.
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.
- 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 Aspect, EndemolShine Group, Freemantle, 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.