Trade Secrets

This section is designed to give you a real insight into the TV business. Click on the categories below to see a selection of tips from professionals on that subject.

These tips have all been collected from seasoned professionals and we will be adding more every week. Treat them as gold dust, they are your inside line on the industry. They might give you a valuable edge or they might just make your life more comfortable!

Filming on Location


Production Assistants

Health and Safety





First Weeks in TV


Coping with nerves

Top Ten Tips for Breaking into Television

Your first day.

I Want To Work In Production. Where Do I Start?

Filling In Applications. A great example from someone applying for a BBC Blue Peter Placement

Filming on Location

"Visit before filming or arrive early and get your bearings. Find the Pub or the cafe for lunch, a happy crew works better and harder. If not for the crew you will need to take care of contributors!

You will be more relaxed and on top of things if you are familiar with your surroundings.

If you have to buy essentials, find a petrol station or buy the papers. You wont be wasting valuable shooting time if you have found these places in advance.

If the Call Sheet says arrive at 08:00, make sure you are there for 07:45. Getting a head start on the day is everything on a location shoot."

Stan Kucharczyk, Senior Producer, Granada Sky Broadcasting

"When out on a shoot, with the pressure of time and external forces, tempers can become frayed. Bear this in mind and aim to do your part to keep everyone happy whilst still getting the job done. This is where you really need your skills as a diplomat, motivator and team member or leader".

Gian Quaglieni, Network TV Producer

"Do not be surprised if you seem to spend half of your day waiting around. It is often this way. Location filming can end up being all about setting everything up and then waiting for the right moment to make it happen. Periods of inactivity followed by moments of intense and stressful activity are normal, you will get used to it".

Gian Quaglieni, Network TV Producer

"Simple things become very important if you are going to stay focussed on the job. Have a huge breakfast on the day, be prepared to wrap up, throw on waterproofs, take sturdy boots (you wont want to be fretting about your shiny new shoes as you romp across a field to ask a farmer to turn his tractor off for ten minutes whilst you film!). Very occasionally you might even need to apply sunscreen"!

Quaglieni, Network TV Producer

"If you are wondering what to ask Santa to bring for Christmas this year, ask for a set of 'walkie talkie' radios. Seriously, a reasonable set of domestic walkie talkies from any high street chain can be absolutely vital on a huge variety of shoots. You wont believe how often the production co-ordinator,researcher, or producer decides they do not need them, only to find that they would in fact, be really useful and save a huge amount of shouting, waving and hanging around. Stick them in your car glovebox and be everyones hero when you produce them and save the day".

Anon - Assistant Producer, terrestrial TV


"On your first job as a presenter, take the time to meet the crew. They will be the ones who can make you look good or bad!

Getting on with the team is a huge part of the job. Producers and Directors are as likely to remember how easy you are to work with as they are to remember your ability to charm an audience. Avoid being a pain in the proverbial, you are just another cog in the machine!

If you have trouble remembering facts or figures for a complicated piece to camera, try breaking them down into groups of three. Also, try ignoring whatever script there is, if there is one, and simply explain to yourself what the story is all about. This will bring the script to life in your mind when you come to present it. You will be communicating and explaining something rather than reciting parrot fashion.

Stay focussed on the job. Turning up not having read the script and with a mobile phone bolted to your ear does not endear you to the Director. Every minute spent reading a script through before the shoot day, saves ten minutes on the day. Be patient with yourself, every Presenter makes mistakes, so try not to let it affect your performance".

Gian Quaglieni, Network TV Producer

A selection of tips from Andy Hodgson, Presenter and Head of Presentation, Bid Up TV

1. Be prepared!
Arrive armed and ready for an interview. Watch the TV channel you are being interviewed by as the interviewer will be interested in your opinion. Remember some of the names on screen and watch how the programmes are put together. The best candidates will demonstrate they can do the job on offer and then provide something extra. This could be opinion on how they can see a vision for the future of the channel or simply the fact that they are multi skilled and willing to work across the business.

2. Dress to impress
Arriving to an interview or screen test as Bob the Builder is only relevant if you are going for the job as Bob the Builder.
Watch the channel and dress according to their dress code. If all the presenters wear suits then also arrive in a suit. If most presenters you have seen wear trendy high street fashions then arrive in that style. By conforming to that channels dress and fitting in with others you will find you will be a step ahead.

3. Showreels
At the start of your career each showreel should be tailor made for each different channel. If you are going for a job presenting a motoring show, then show them how you would do it. If you are going for a position at an auction channel, then auction something on the showreel.

This will give you the advantage over all the others who will simply send generic reels which are usually interviewing people down the high street. The Programme Director will be impressed with your efforts and able to picture you in the position you have applied for.

4.Offer something new.
If getting into the TV station you wish to be in proves difficult, try getting your foot in the door using a different tactic.
Suggest new ways of operating, new styles of presenting or a fresh approach to the production. This keen approach may get you in correspondence with the channel and may lead to an opportunity you never knew existed. Once your on the inside and can prove your worth then it is much easier to chase the dream you want.

Remember, you are only presenting to one person at a time. We do not generally watch TV in huge groups, not often even in families nowadays and this should affect how you present. Do not address your audience in the plural,avoid saying 'you all', or 'lots of you might have heard about'. Each person watching is an indiviual. When I am watching television, there are not lots of me and I am not an 'all'.

Address your audience as single individuals and not a huge amorphous mass. It is this direct and personal communication that makes TV so engaging for us all.

Richard Hammond. Presenter

Production Assistants

"If you are working for a number of bosses, all giving you a lot of work, then there will come a time when you have to prioritise.. You will need to explain to them that you do have other projects to assist people with also. If there is a clash, you must step back and have your bosses take care of the decision as to which of the jobs you should prioritise.

Anon. Production Assistant, Network TV

Health and Safety

When filming is taking place, contributors and members of the public are going to be distracted by the television process, the equipment and the people. They will often not notice for example, that they are standing in the middle of the road, or blocking the pavement, and being a pain to others. As a member of the production team, keeping an eye on safety and assessing potential risks, is one of your key responsibilities. This is the most important part of TV.

Practice keeping an eye on every aspect of safety and looking for potential problems, even when it does not really seem necessary. Be especially careful in stressful and rushed situations, when falling down the stairs can be all too easy.


"If it is an inexperienced interviewee, try and keep them relaxed. You will get better results. Give them time to become familiar with the equipmeny and crew and start off with a straight forward question to warm them up. This will also allow the camera and sound a chance to check shots and levels".

Richard Hammond, Presenter


Background sounds can easily be overlooked. Look around for telephones and take them off the hook if that is ok. Look out for air conditioning fans and water cisterns. Do not interrupt the interview every time there is a minor problem with the sound. Exercise judgement. The interview will need to flow if a good performance is going to be achieved. If you interrupt, it might be during an answer the director did not need and the contributor will have lost the plot.

Simon Winter, freelance camera operator


LIGHTING: Consider the available light and how added lights can be used to appear to be part of the natural scene.

Warn a contributor before switching on a light smack in their face! Have something like a file in front of the lamp initially and pull it away slowly so the light does not hit them all at once!

Simon Winter, freelance camera operator


"Always shoot with the edit in mind. Consider the shots you know you will need when you come to assemble the programme. Do not just point the camera at everything and hope to stitch a programme together out of it later. Keep the final product in mind at all times".

David Wheeler, Network TV Director

First Weeks in TV

"Learn a little about everything. Multi tasking is becoming common in the industry.

No work or job experience is a bad one. The contacts you make early in your career are likely to serve you right through your career.

Do try not to stand around looking bored or wait to be given a job to do. Watch and listen. Find things to do.

Do not kick people on the way up because they might well be there on the way down!

Talk to anyone and everyone. What they say is likely to come in handy one day.

Just because you have a new qualification does not mean you know everything. Try not to get peoples backs up!

Stay calm when everything is falling apart as it often does. You need to be able to think clearly when others are not. This way you will prove to be valuable, and you will get on in the business.

It is bound to be confusing with lots of frightening terminology and possibly frightening people. Try not to forget that everyone started this way and at least by offering to make the coffee, you will know at least it will be one decent cuppa sometime in the day!"

Gian Quaglieni, Network TV Producer


Expect to allow one hour to edit one minute of good telly, this will allow for extra bits like music transfer, lay offs etc.

Preparation is key. Prepare as much as you can before the edit, so you can spend the time with your editor cutting the story and not looking around for shots, and listening to too much music.

Coping with nerves

"Whether it's a job interview, your first day working at a new station or your fist piece of live TV, nerves can get in the way, spoil your enjoyment and hamper your performance. There is no need to give in to nerves.....

Ever watched someone hosting a live TV show and thought, 'How do they manage not to look nervous? Maybe they don't even get nervous at all?'
Well, the fact is they probably do, they wouldn't be much use if they didn't, but they have learned to control their nervous anxiety and turn it to their advantage.

First of all, when the big day arrives, accept that you are nervous, don't try and kid yourself that you're not. In fact, nerves are a good thing, they make us release adrenaline which is useful. So you need to learn to turn your nervous anxiety into a positive force.

Once you've acknowledged that you will experience nervous feelings and that they do not have to be a bad thing, begin to work on separating yourself from these feelings, isolating them and letting them get on with their thing whilst you get on with the job.

Before you walk into the interview, go live on air or whatever else you're about to do, find a quiet corner somewhere. Take a few minutes away from everything to practice controlled breathing. There's no need to sit on a beanbag or light a jostick, you can do this standing in a quiet corridor. Just breathe in slowly and calmly through the nose and exhale gently through your mouth. Do this ten times and as you do so, feel the tension drain from your arms, neck, shoulders and legs. This may sound like old hat, but try it, it works.

As you try to relax, don't struggle to banish your nervous feelings. Accept that they will still be there, but they are not going to get in the way of your thinking and functioning.

If your stomach feels jittery, let it, don't fight it. You're not going to go on and speak with your stomach, so it really doesn't matter how it feels.

Eventually you will learn to separate yourself from nerves and concentrate on your work, turning your anxieties into useful adrenaline and mental alertness.

If this doesn't sound like much of a solution, try it. Remember the key points are to accept your feelings of anxiety and allow them to get on with their thing whilst you get on with yours. The nerves will become nothing more than a stimulus for adrenaline and thus make you quicker, brighter and better."

Richard Hammond, TV Presenter

Top Ten Tips for Breaking into Television

by David Wheeler, Founder and MD .

1. Be enthusiastic and energetic.

You will need to convince your prospective employer that you are driven and dedicated, and have an informed opinion of the media and the TV industry. Employers always say that enthusiasm for TV and whatever the job your are doing counts for a lot.

You need to come over as a highly enthusiastic, personable, imaginative, articulate and confident communicator. The media is all about communication, and in the course of running and research jobs for example, you will come across an extraordinary range of people. You will need to understand them, empathise with them and persuade them to talk to you for the purpose of making a programme.

2. Communicate clearly with good ideas.

In an interview, be it on the phone or face to face, focus and mention only relevant stuff. You may get excited and verbose but keep it concise. The interviewer is a busy TV producer or production manager and will be making a lot of these calls. If writing, be accurate and get names correct. Get punctuation and presentation right and keep a record of your emails and letters to refer to before an interview.

Remember that an interview, or meeting if you like, should ideally be a relaxed conversation between the two of you for mutual benefit. The interviewer is also trying to get a successful result and wants to find someone suitable. Have a few questions to ask them too.

Run through your strengths again and feel positive about yourself. If you have prepared well, there is no need to be nervous. However, if you are still feeling anxious then try the simplest cure of all. Smile.

3. Research the company and the job

Find out as much as you can about the company you are applying to.

Also you should know about the TV business generally if you are serious about working in it! Read the trade press, the National Press, watch TV (actively!), study the info on and have an opinion on programmes. Read TV books, view company websites and talk to people in the industry when you can. Don't ask them for a job, ask them to tell you about their job, or the business generally!

Research and consider the nature of the job you are aiming for. You will be at a huge advantage if you know the role that you would be suited to in TV/Film/Radio - you donít want to be stuck for words if they ask this highly predictable question.

4. Find out as much as you can about their programme(s)

Show genuine interest in their programmes. Which editions did you particularly like? Why? Think how you would have made that programme? What new ideas do you have for the programme? Did you like the presenter? What did you like or dislike? Why? It may be they want to assess your initiative, common sense and practical nature in order to fill a runners position, so consider this area too.

5. CV

You always want to be thinking about building up a relevant TV CV, with broad experience. This depends on you, and the job you want, but these are some of the things that could be appropriate: DJ-ing, acting, performing, writing for University magazines/local press etc, photography, editing your own videos, mixing sound for a band, playing in a band, organising events, public speaking, special knowledge of a particular programme area...DIY, antiques, music, sport, property, politics... . Plus of course media training and qualifications.

Grab their attention with your USP or your unique selling proposition. Why are YOU the person they need. What are your special strengths?

6. Be confident but not cocky

You may have just acquired a degree, but your potential employer may perhaps have two and will have heard it all before.

7. Do not sound in awe or get too excited

If you are good, you ARE good, they will want you! Build up your confidence to speak sharply about what you have to say. Try not to get star struck and in awe when talking about celebrities.

8. Prepare some original programme ideas

TV and radio are hungry for ideas, and new ways of treating ideas. Your interviewer wants to have a dialogue about television, or the subject of their programme. They want to have a simulating conversation, whether it's on their own programme or others. They want to see you stand up to discussion of your subject and not collapse when trying to argue a point!

9. Find out who to write to

You can do this by watching programmes you feel you could contribute to, taking the names of producers, and writing a scorcher of a letter. Call reception and ask for the correct name of the producer or editor you wish to write to. Take the opportunity to demonstrate some creative writing and put over your strengths.

10. Persevere

It may take a short time, or it may take a year or two to break in and get regular TV work, but if you work at it, and do not expect the work to come to you, then who knows what opportunities could be around the corner.

I have enjoyed, indeed continue to enjoy, a stimulating career Directing factual programmes. I have filmed with a fascinating range of people, both well known and less so, and have visited a range of beautiful and interesting locations worldwide.

I am still enthusiastic about the industry after 24 years and am keen to help others enjoy success in TV too.
David Wheeler Founder and MD

Your first day.

Some more thoughts on your first day.

Turn up on time!
Punctuality impresses, and in TV it's very important. TV programmes have to go out on time, and usually involve the coordination of a lot of people.

Nothing annoys new bosses and colleagues more than late 'starters'. Check your route into work, and do a test run if necessary.

A friendly colleague may invite you out for lunch. GO! Ok, it may cost a bit, but getting to know your colleagues socially is always a good move.

Spend the first couple of days doing a lot of listening, and check out who's who and what's what. Listen to how researches etc deal with people on the phone - excellent training. Don't use the phone to call people to tell them what an excellent job you have, or you won't have it for long!

Just ask if you are not sure about something. No-one will expect you to know everything from day one! Far wiser to ask than to cock something up completely!

I Want To Work In Production. Where Do I Start?

This super film gives you an overview of some of the jobs and what's involved in programme making. It's well worth a look.

Filling In Applications. A great example from someone applying for a BBC Blue Peter Placement

Please tell us why you are interested in this particular placement and how you think it will benefit you.

I believe this placement will benefit me in many ways; firstly my hunger for a subject area which both interests and challenges a creative outcome whether it be self-directed or towards an audience and secondly I believe it will stimulate my creative thinking and illustrate what I enjoy doing the most and thrive at.

My degree course at Loughborough University has allowed me to explore my subject area and it is caused me to want to learn more about the things I love and find both playful and fascinating. I believe this opportunity with Blue Peter will provide a fast moving, fun and enthusiastic placement, which I can adapt to and work tirelessly at, to both enjoy and gain the most possible fulfilment from.

I think the placement will benefit me in many ways, not only will it broaden my knowledge of a incredibly exciting and ever developing multi-media platform, it will give me an in depth and irreplaceable insight into an incredibly exciting industry and working environment.

In relation to the criteria, please provide details of any interests or activities which support your application for this placement.

I completed the level two swimming instructors qualification in 2006. By completing this qualification I was then able to teach children of all ages, abilities and backgrounds from adult and toddler classes right up until they turn 16. This allowed me to follow and develop another of my passions, which is swimming. Having swum competitively myself for a number of years I then got offered the opportunity to coach for the City of Cambridge Swimming Club. I jumped at this opportunity, as it was an exciting challenge due to the fact it was an entirely different set up to swimming lessons I had previously done. This was especially true as I was there not so much in a teaching facility but as someone to train them how to swim races competitively and coach them how to better their strokes.

Teaching children in such a wide age range has allowed me to pass on my knowledge of the sport to them and I hope that my love and passion for it is also passed on to the children I have taught.

Teaching also allows me to connect with the children and learn about their lives, what they like or dislike and what is currently the latest 'craze' of the moment, all of which I think is relevant to what a placement like this would need from a successful candidate.

As part of my degree, I hold a strong working ethos and like to keep an open mind, regularly visiting and digesting fun and exciting places and exhibits. I like to keep a record of things which excite me and spark inspiration from, this I believe a key tool to any creative thinker.

Other interests include traveling, photography, cinema, magazines and delicate and ornate hand-made craft items and toys.

The main highlight to my University life so far I believe was last year, when I was elected as Hall Chair in my hall of residence. This opportunity gave me so many different opportunities, and not only made me a person who was tested at all levels, but pushed me to achieve a high level of organisation, loyalty and enthusiasm. During this year I successfully chaired a committee of 15 other people and took most of the responsibility for 350 freshers moving into university for the first time. I found the whole experience to be incredibly rewarding and gave me a real sense of achievement.

Please give details of your education, skills, qualifications and training to date (please list in chronological order).

GCSE's June 2004

The Netherhall School And Sixth Form College, Cambridge

  • Design And Technology: Graphics - A*
  • Music - A*
  • Science double award - BB
  • Art - B
  • English - B
  • English Language - B
  • Physical Education - B
  • Mathematics - C
  • French - D
  • September 2004: National Pool Lifeguard Qualification
    • Renewed April 2006
    • Renewed March 2008
  • October 2004: ASA Level 1 Swimming Teacher

AS Level GCE June 2005

The Netherhall School And Sixth Form College, Cambridge

  • Music Technology - D

Advanced Level GCE June 2006

The Netherhall School And Sixth Form College, Cambridge

  • ICT - A
  • Product Design - B
  • Media Studies - C

Other Activities / Responsibilities

  • 2005 - 2006 Young Enterprise Regional champion team, NYE ICT/ Multimedia Director (The Netherhall School And Sixth Form College, Cambridge)
  • May 2006: ASA Level 1 Diving Instructor
  • October 2006: ASA Level 2 Swimming Teacher and Child Protection
  • Edexcel Level 3 BTEC Foundation Diploma in Art and Design June 2007: Loughborough University School Of Art And Design.
  • First Aid At Work Certificate: Summer 2007

Higher Education

BA(Hons.) Visual Communication 2007 - Present.
Loughborough University School of Art And Design.

I have an in-depth working knowledge of using Microsoft Office, including Microsoft Word, Excel and Outlook. I also have a proficient understanding of Adobe Photoshop CS3, Illustrator CS3, In Design CS3 and Final Cut Pro.

I am also currently working towards developing my skills in Adobe Flash CS3, Dreamweaver, Adobe Motion and Maya Autodesk.

Please give details of any work experience (paid or unpaid) undertaken to date (please list in chronological order)

In 2005 I undertook a three week work experience placement with the creative agency Ware Anthony Rust in Cambridge, Cambridgeshire. This placement gave me my first insight into working in the visual communication industry and reinforced my aspirations to follow this career path. The placement was fun, fast moving, incredibly inspirational and up-lifting. I have also found all of these particular aspects whilst studying my degree and today I thrive at trying to achieve my best.

Later in 2007 I completed a 1 week placement with M&C Saatchi as a runner on a series of television advertisements; one of which being the current student account campaign for Natwest Bank. This opportunity formed what is now the base of my undying love for both the degree I am studying and my passion within the creative industry.

Having started University at Loughborough, I have played an active role in a number or extra curricular activities including being elected Multimedia coordinator for Loughborough Students' RAG (Raise and Give). This student run organisation is Europe's biggest and most successful charity and fundraising organisation and last year alone we raised an outstanding amount of money for local and national charities. My role within the organisation is to liaise with both press and media organisations within Leicestershire and the surrounding areas to increase the publicity and coverage of events and to also raise the profile of the organisation within the local and national media.

Another vital aspect of my role within RAG is to participate within the fundraising activities held throughout the year, think of new innovate ways to fundraise and to work along side 10 other committee members.

Over the last year I have also become a member of Loughborough Students Media Centre, working along side the student television channel LSUTV (Loughborough Students Union Television). The experience I have gained from being part of such an exceptional team has allowed me to try out a number of roles and accumulate an invaluable foundation of knowledge within the television and broadcast industry from camera operating to VT editing and production.

Tell us what you like/dislike about Blue Peter (considering that it is aimed at 6 - 12 year olds). Think about studio items, films shown and web content. Is there anything that you would do differently? Please provide some specific examples.

The particular aspects that I love about the show Blue Peter and have done since I began watching it over 15 years ago are firstly the undying passion the presenters always emit to the audience and how they deliver their particular reports with such enthusiasm. When watching the show I always felt a strong sense of connection with the presenters, looking up at them as role models and following their example. My other love for Blue Peter was the fundraising side of the show, and how as a child I could participate in Blue Peters infamous bring and by sales as well as other creative and fun activities that raised money. Watching the Totallers' and following the amount of money raised by myself and others gave me a sense of achievement and allowed me to relate to the programme, presenters and ethos of the whole show.

Looking at web content, and the ever moving multimedia platform, I think the website, and content has developed extraordinarily well to suit the needs of the target audience. I think the interactive format of the new site is fun and easy to use and compliments both the show and captures the interest of the user. I think if I was to add or change anything to this, I would add podcasts either on the website, or along side the BBC's iPlayer service where you can watch previous shows. I think a 5 minute podcast from one or all of the presenters talking about what's coming up on next weeks show, what they have been up in the week or giving brief overviews of the activities and reports the presenters have participated in within that show would encourage the audience to watch the next show. Not only would this push the multimedia platforms it would actively continue the theme of relating to the children as they could download these podcasts onto their MP3 players etc, making their access easy and greater continuing to hit the multi-platform media.

Another big part to the show, I believe is the yearly publication of the Blue Peter Annual. I think it is a true asset to the show but could be improved/ revolutionised to match the shows ever developing look and multimedia platforms. Instead of a print based book could the annual be available for download on the website, or even from online stores for use on iPods or laptops/home computers? Could the annual become an interactive DVD, which all the family can engage in and use as an entertainment and information tool?

Finally, the last area which I think could be improved upon is the film features covered on the show. With a secured target audience of 6-12 year olds, I feel the emphasis could be put more on issues surround them as an audience group. For example; the ever-growing child obesity problem hitting the country. Without directly addressing this, it could be done in a number of ways. One example being more 'active' films and features done by the presenters covering sports, dance and games such as the recent Figure Skating feature broadcast on Wednesday 17th December 2008.

Courtesy of Ben Lloyd - June 09

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