TV and Film

The UK screen industries contribute over £7 billion to the economy and currently employs c. 215,000 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, terrestrial TV channels, film studios, subscription channels, social media platforms, sales, distribution, exhibition providers and independent production companies. Opportunities are also growing to work outside London, with Salford, Glasgow and Belfast becoming highly successful production hubs.

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


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The number and types types of roles is immense, spanning all parts of the production process from commissioning, development, production, post-production and through to distribution. To give an idea of the scale, a big budget film can create hundreds, sometimes thousands of 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. 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're suited to the freelance 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 very broad and a wide and diverse range of skills and expertise are needed, so the first task will be to consider where your strengths and interests lie. Watch the end credits of TV shows and films to see the range of roles that exist and which production companies were involved.

Some questions to think about are: What type of work do you want to do? Which part of the process do you want to be involved with eg: writing, set design, producing, marketing, distribution, lighting, costume etc?

Many roles 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 some of the different roles that exist, read the ScreenSkills website, which has detailed job descriptions for a number of  roles and a series of self-directed learning modules about getting your "first-break" in the screen industries.

Whichever part of the industry you're interested in, you will need to demonstrate a range of technical and transferable skills relevant to this area. For example, if you're interested in script writing, it helps if you have written scripts that have been performed (it can be a short piece on stage and/or filmed), if you would like to be a producer, producing short films, plays etc. is a great way to gain relevant experience. 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.  Having an up to date portfolio/website of your work is important to demonstrate evidence of your ability. 

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 beyond, 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're interested in film-making, join The OU Filmmaking Foundation which supports and promotes film making at the university. You can also make your own short films using a Smart Phone – it’s a great (and relatively cheap) way of creating your own work - Screenskills has some tips for filming on your phone 

Many of the roles in TV and film can also be found working in stage productions, so working on these is  a great way to get relevant experience - get involved in OUDS, OUTTS or college productions. Some stage productions are also filmed, so there may be opportunities to get some filming experience.

During the vacations, look for work experience opportunities at the various film studios across the UK, such as Pinewood, Leavesden, Shepperton, Media City (Salford). You can also volunteer to assist on student productions at The National Film and Television School.

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 (briefly), 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. Clearly express your interest in your applications 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, perhaps 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 (choose an appropriate time) – 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 that you don't have!
  • 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 TV and it’s important to know what the typical route is for your area of interest. Screen Skills  and BAFTA Guru are great resources for finding out about various entry routes into the business. Do your own research on  people whose work you admire eg: reading industry 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.

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 (there may also be virtual events you can attend).

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). Some television studios such as ITV, BBC may advertise roles, so it’s also useful to check their vacancies pages. The website My First Job in Film, also advertises entry level positions.

Another first foot in the door could be through the ScreenSkills 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. 

Application tips

  • Apply for advertised jobs, but…
  • …you should also approach 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.
  • In your spare time, 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 organisations such as 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 to 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 online – websites such as Wix, Square Space and Fabrik provide templates.

Graduate programmes and trainee schemes

There are a few graduate/trainee 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:

Independent television and production companies

Increasingly, TV and film content is commissioned from and produced by independent production companies. To find out which firms make the type of films/Tv programmes you're interested in, watch the end credits to see which firms were involved.

Some offer formal intern/trainee schemes and advertise roles, however vacancies are often filled by those who have made speculative applications or through their networks.


Job sites

Recruiters are keen to have a diverse workforce, and many will have policies and processes that are proactive in people from diverse backgrounds. An increasing number of recruiters are offering traineeships, internships and insight events that are aimed at specific groups eg: Creative Access supports people from under-represented backgrounds, to enter and progress within the creative industries.

Try the following to discover more about the policies and attitudes of the recruiters that you are interested in:

The UK Equality Act 2010 has a number of protected characteristics to prevent discrimination due to your age, disability, gender reassignment, race, religion or beliefs, sex or sexual orientation. For further information visit the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s webpage on the Equality Act and the Government’s webpages on discrimination.


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