It's rare to get into television production except by starting in an entry-level role, where you can gain a broad view of TV production and get experience of working in a range of areas.
Television production assistants are employed by independent production companies and terrestrial, satellite, digital and cable television companies including the BBC, ITC and Channel 4/5. Experienced assistants may also work on a self-employed/freelance basis, particularly within the independent sector.
Responsibilities of the job include:
- problem solving and troubleshooting
- clearing copyrights
- booking studios, production equipment, performance and production staff
- liaising with a wide range of people
- organising meetings and interviews
- preparing and distributing briefing notes and scripts
- organising schedules and contracts
- overseeing cues, timings and continuity during recording
It's important to remember that this is a competitive industry and that this type of television production job (even if it's a short contract) is a fantastic chance to gain experience, make contacts and get a foot in the door!
A degree in any discipline is acceptable for entry, although a relevant qualification in, for example, journalism, communication/media studies, humanities, English or business studies may be preferred. However, the ability to demonstrate a genuine interest in, knowledge of and/or experience of television/radio is essential, and often more important than academic qualifications.
Unpaid work experience can also be helpful. Employers seek candidates who possess excellent communication skills, who are adaptable, calm and able to work well under pressure. Good organisational, administrative, budgetary and IT skills are also necessary.
Where to find out more
Most jobs occur in major cities such as Leeds, Manchester, Birmingham and London. Vacancies are advertised via the internet, in newspapers, and specialist publications such as Audio Visual, The Knowledge, Media Week and Broadcast. Candidates need stamina, enthusiasm, determination and perseverance, as there is intense competition for opportunities.
Networking, job shadowing, speculative applications and sector research are essential (directories such as Kays Production Manual can provide useful contact information). Some employers, including the BBC, operate graduate training and/or work experience schemes, for which early applications are advisable.