What you do in the job?
Everything. The researcher's role can be an extremely broad one, and as such is excellent experience for moving on. The researcher supports the Producer, contributing ideas, contacts and sources. Selects and interviews possible contributors, writes relevant briefings.
Researchers work within any genre of television production, including news, sport, current affairs, documentaries and factual programmes, entertainment, children's television, comedy, soaps and drama. The researcher may originate or develop programme ideas and will draw on their particular knowledge and understanding of industry requirements. As a researcher, you will also be a fact checkers and 'brief' writers for on-screen presenters. You must understand and work with relevant legislation and regulations. You may be employed by production companies or work on a freelance basis.
The researcher will identify appropriate data, contributors, locations or archive material etc. collate and assess information from various sources, and ensure that legal, compliance and copyright requirements are met.
During preliminary telephone and/or face-to-face interviews, you will assess contributors' potential suitability for inclusion in each programme according to its genre and format. You may check contributors' availability, and arrange for their appearance within time and budgetary limits and you could be required to identify location requirements from scripts or programme outlines, and assess locations for suitability and cost. The researcher identifies and selects suitable sources for archive footage, still pictures or audio materials and they must present all their findings to decision makers clearly, concisely and coherently, both in writing and verbally.
Researchers may contribute to the development of scripts or other written content by writing drafts, or briefing others who write so that they can deliver what is required. You may be asked to check final written materials for accuracy and suggest amendments in a helpful and constructive manner. Before production commences, you must identify, negotiate fees for, and conclude copyright clearances and legal issues relating to all bought-in materials used on shoots, including archive materials, intellectual property or music.
During production, Researchers arrange transport for contributors to and from locations or studios. Meeting and greeting contributors is part of the role and you will also brief them before recording commences, support them as necessary, and escort them from the studio or location once shooting is completed.
Researchers may also be required to prepare production material such as fact sheets, pamphlets, books and booklets to accompany productions, and publicity material such as production billings, press releases, related websites, and text pages.
What qualities are required?
To be a television researcher, you either have to have good knowledge of or be able to acquire good knowledge of a particular subject, but you also have to have a very sound knowledge of how to make a television programme. Not just filming, but pre-production and post production, the hierarchy and structure of a production team, the size and monetary/scheduling constraints of what you're trying to do, the politics and procedures of a freelance industry and what a particular job role encompasses.
A good nose for a story and the journalistic instinct to assimilate and select from large volumes of material. Tenacity, persuasiveness, and the love of hard work.
Researchers must be able to quickly establish a rapport with production personnel and potential contributors. You will need to maintain up-to-date contact lists and be able to access relevant information from various sources, including the internet, libraries and archives. You source and suggest suitable contributors, demonstrating how their input fits into each production.
Researchers should be aware of the legal and ethical considerations surrounding the release of information to the press and public, especially when sensitive or contentious issues are involved.
Researchers may be required to handle floats and petty cash during production, and you must be able to keep accurate records of all income and expenditure.
Key Skills include:
excellent verbal and written communication skills
excellent presentation skills
advanced analytical skills
precise attention to detail and methodical approach to work
ability to conceptualise ideas
ability to think visually
initiative and problem solving skills
endless energy and determination
advanced IT skills
diplomacy and sensitivity when working with writers, producers, actors, presenters, other contributors and crew members
current knowledge of the relevant legislation, regulations, and associated procedures, including Copyright, Data Protection, Public Liability, etc. and how to comply with regulatory requirements
knowledge of the requirements of the relevant Health and Safety legislation and procedures.
How you start and where you can go with it?
You may come in with a specialist interest in the subject, or move up from runner, PA, or join from a completely different industry. Pay is as varied as the job. From nothing up to ten, fifteen, twenty thousand pounds or substantially more, depending upon the programme, the channel and the degree of experience and expertise you bring. You may well go on to produce, or direct.
Although no specific educational or training qualifications are required for the role of Researcher a degree in a media related, drama or specialist subject may provide some useful background information. Experience in, and knowledge of, the pre-production and production processes is required.
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