As the academic year comes to a close there are hundreds of media graduates across the country who are now focusing their attention on the next step, the big leap into the unknown, the entrance into the marketplace as a freelancer.
Two hundred students took part in the HBTI of 2014 and are recognised across the industry as being the bright new hope of live sports broadcasting in the whole of the UK; but just because you’ve qualified it doesn’t mean you’re match ready.
This event was the first in a series at Pacific Quay with the focus on getting HBTI students in the right frame of mind to get started on their professional paths.
Grant Philips, Executive Producer and Director for BT Sports in Scotland.
The industry is driven by people like Grant. He is one of the lynchpins in British sports coverage and he eagerly shared his experiences with the assembled crowd of HBTI students. He currently is in charge of BT Sport’s output in Scotland for Sunset+Vine covering Scottish Premiership Football and Premiership Rugby. Last year he directed the hockey coverage at the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games after flying back from Brazil where he directed match coverage for the host broadcaster of the FIFA World Cup.
Grant was keen to underline the fact that whilst there is a need for new blood in the industry, it is a hard industry to get into and performance levels are expected to be extremely high. To the surprise of many students, Grant revealed that his first job in the media was actually in the mailroom at the BBC – a position that many students would think below them having recently graduated. He continued to explain that no job is too small, and that if you can prove yourself in the simplest or less desirable jobs, you are far more likely to be in the right position and in the minds of the producers who are able to give you a more significant role.
Positivity was a key message in Grant’s talk. Too often he is faced with applicants that “can’t”. In a highly competitive industry producers have a wide range of highly skilled talent to choose from, and of course they will take the path of least resistance to achieve their goals. Excuses of social commitments, inflexible part time jobs and scheduling uncertainties do not leave a good impression, and the decision makers are unlikely to come knocking again if you cannot deliver. As brutal as it sounds, in Grant’s words, “If you really want to make a go of this, do your research, work out when you are likely to be needed for events or a string of shooting dates and clear your schedule.”
With the quality of media courses in Scotland at an all time high, recruiters are looking beyond the technical skills required for each position. Grant pointed out that the deciding factor in hiring a crew for productions is personality. How will the candidate fit in with the returning professionals? Are they well presented, do they communicate effectively, would they be trusted to represent the company from beginning to end? During his time in the mailroom Grant made a point of smiling and greeting everyone he met – he knew their names after a while and they knew his.
The takeaway message from Grant’s talk was to be passionate about what you do, be yourself and show personality, be personable and professional at all times and if you truly want to succeed in the industry, persevere. Send personal emails to producers, find out which person within each company you should be contacting, and contact them consistently asking for help – everyone likes to give their help so make sure it’s you that they are helping.
Grant also gave his email address to the attendees of the Industry Event offering his help directly. We can’t publish his email address here, but Google is your friend in this case. Grant Philip’s closing statement was that “no-one is going to do this for you, you have to have an entrepreneurial spirit, and if you make the first step on your own, every following step will be easier and have more value.”
Wise words indeed.
Here is Grant talking to Creative Loop at the 2014 Creative Loop Student Media Festival:
Linda Fraser, Freelance Production Coordinator, Hit The Ground Running.
Linda came to the Industry Event to share her essential guide to starting off as a freelancer in the media sector. As a production coordinator she deals with freelancers at every stage of their careers, making her an expert in what production companies need and want from their candidates for their positions.
Firstly, there are very few “staff positions” anymore, and those that do exist tend to go to freelancers with long standing relationships with the production companies. Far and away the majority of roles are filled by freelancers, either on short term contracts or as “dailies”. Don’t let this put you off however, everyone is in the same boat and everyone started in the same way – so make sure that you are fully prepared and “job ready” in every application you make.
With the volume of media graduates production companies rarely need to advertise opportunities anymore. The onus is on you to research which production companies are active, what they might be engaged in and to preempt any recruitment by introducing yourself to the production coordinator.
In the short term, what should you be achieving?
Linda’s start off tips are listed above, and though they may seem like common sense, it’s easy to overlook some of the simple things. The very first thing that Linda stressed was that every freelancer should have a driving licence. It gives you the capacity to get to work at unsociable hours, and once on site you are infinitely more useful than someone without a licence. Even if you don’t have a car, a licence will get you far.
On the topic of CV’s, Linda recommended including anything that you think may be relevant to the production you are applying to, even if that includes shelf stacking or telesales. She stressed the importance of being succinct in your CV, with a target of one page for those looking for their first job. Bullet points are preferable to paragraphs, and skills developed over several past positions should not be repeated, nor is a list of production titles useful nor desired. Always included your referees at this stage, it removes a stage of communication and is prefered in the industry, and always insure that the most relevant information is at the top of your CV as if it doesn’t grab the attention of the reader in the first few seconds, then it is likely to be passed over.
“I am a hard working individual team player…” – so is everyone else. Drop it and get to the facts.
There is a wide range of online resources available to you as freelancers, primarily Creative Toolkit which goes into detail concerning CVs, tax, setting up a small business etc, it’s an indispensable resource. Business Gateway and the Cultural Enterprise Office also have vast resources and advice for freelancers in the media industry.
Film Bang is your go to for production companies and other freelancers and it is worth applying for Hit The Ground Running, a two day intensive course that will get you up to speed for your first role in the industry as a runner. The course is run by Linda Fraser.
Below Linda summarises her hour long presentation and adds a few extra nuggets of gold for prospecting graduates.
Networking Masterclass with Beverley Lyons and Richard Melvin
Beverly Lyons is the longstanding entertainment journalist at the Daily Record, and as such maintains countless relationships with people from all walks of life in order to do her job. Whilst she works in a slightly different field from the majority of the HBTI’s, her advice is valid and strong none the less.
In conversation with Dabster Productions’ Richard Melvin, Beverley shared her top tips for “networking” in the media industry, and thankfully for most people, there isn’t that much to it. The overriding problem facing graduates is the perceived wall between themselves and the “industry”, but as Beverley points out, that simply isn’t the case – especially with today’s interconnectivity at hand.
There’s no secret to networking, it’s not a task nor a secret society. Even by attending Creative Loop events you’re putting yourself in the ring to meet industry professionals and your contemporaries. All you need to do is have something to say and someone to say it to – don’t look it as a necessity to get a job or information – look at it as a simple exchange between professionals (albit at different stages of their career) and strike up a conversation. Will you have much in common with the owner of a multinational media company? No, but they’ll put you on the right path to speaking to someone that can help. The best advice that Bev gave during her talk was that you need to create relationships with people on the same level as you, treat everyone equally and nicely, and eventually your circle of contacts will naturally grow, increase in stature and present opportunities to you.
At the end of the Industry Event, Linda Fraser, Richard Melvin, Beverley and host Julia Sutherland chatted to attendees for an hour, and each and everyone of them ran out of business cards to give to students. People, especially those who have given their time to appear at events such as this, are keen to give what ever help they can to those who ask – so ask. The key factor here for graduates is to maintain those relationships by following up with an email or a phone call, make yourself distinctive so that next time you meet them (or the one after that) they remember you by name and actively show an interest in your progress and availability.
As Beverley and Grant pointed out, networking is not just about climbing the ladder, it’s about enjoying your work, building a firm structure of contemporaries and exchanging ideas and contacts to everyone’s benefit. We thank those who came to the Industry Event, as they have shown themselves to be the ones ahead of the curve.
Here is Richard Melvin speaking at the Creative Loop Student Media Festival in 2013 about he expects from students at a networking event.