A Day in the Life
New Presenter How I got in!
What you do: The range of the job?
Wildlife Presenter, Hidden Treasures BBC2 etc. My way into the biz: Being honest, before doing my degree I didn't really know what I wanted to do as a career. I read Zoology at Bristol University and in the summer of my second year, I decided to stay in Bristol over the holiday and find some work. My tutor had connections at the BBC Natural History Unit (NHU) and I managed to get a couple of months of animal husbandry for a "Natural World" film. The work involved becoming an instant expert on frogs and toads - I was to look after 20 or 30 animals that were shipped in for some studio and location filming. They arrived in a large box and I can vividly remember carefully unpacking each container - not knowing what was inside. It was a little bit like Christmas until I picked up a very light container that didn't seem to have anything leaping around inside. Opening it very carefully, a long hairy leg appeared from beneath the lid of the box and I nearly dropped it - either there had been a strange metamorphosis inside the box, or I had a pet tarantula to look after as well! It was a great talking point over the dinner table, especially as my landlord said there were to be no pets in the flat! Luckily he didn't hear the amphibious mating chorus every night coming from the room next door to mine! During my time on this project, I worked very closely with the cameraman and he gave me lots of advice about people to speak to about getting work experience in the industry. This is really the only way in to being a researcher and I managed to do a few stints before my finals. I was lucky that I got ahead of most of my friends who wanted to do the same thing, as they mostly started their hunt for work after their finals finished and I was already a year ahead of them I spent many hours during my final year on the phone, writing letters and watching the credits on wildlife films so I would then ring up the producer and go in for a chat and could talk about his/her film.
Qualities: What you need to be able to do the job?
By the time my finals were over, I had job offer on a major BBC NHU series as a Runner and from then on it was just a case of bumping into people at the BBC, more phone calls and sending out CVs. Be warned - there is a lot of hard work involved in even getting work experience (unpaid!) let alone getting your first job; and having had a job doesn't guarantee you getting another one when your contract runs out. Behind you there are hundreds of people in the queue for your job so you always have to remain on top and be willing to sacrifice life for work. The best tip I was given was that for every Researcher job there might be 500 or more people on the list. You only get the job if you are number 1 on the list - how do you get there? List your attributes and experience and see if that puts you ahead of the rest of the candidates - if not - go out and get more experience and create opportunities to push yourself higher and higher up the list until you're at the top - then you get the job!!
Career path: How you start and where you can go with it?
For me - the move from Researcher to Presenter was fairly painless. I had always wanted to be in front of the camera but it's hard to find the opportunities to get the chance to do it. I did a couple of official screen tests and also sat at home and "played" for hours in front of my camcorder and then watched it back. My lucky break came when an email came around for Fox TV asking for new presenters on a wildlife series - so I auditioned and got the part. The rest is history! Presenting is a really hard job. It's really fun but there's just so much competition for each job. If you think life is uncertain with contracts as a researcher, then it's far worse as a presenter! Good luck!
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