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Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Making the grade (A* innit)

In my experience - YES, PERSONAL EXPERIENCE - I find that when a member of staff is required (at any level),the conversation tends to go like this...

A. PE/SP/PD/PM/PC etc: 'Anyone know a really good xxx available soon?' or 'What was the name of that xxx we used at xxx - he/she was great'. Answer - yes = job filled.

B. Answer no = ask immediate circle (cue Facebook/Twitter/email/network posts). Often = job filled.

C. Nobody is available that is a. already known or b. recommended = advertise

So - generally - the roles you may be seeking are filled before you even get to hear of them. How can you throw yourself into that pool of initial names and be considered? Firstly, network (see previous post) - make people aware that you are looking for work. Often, your name may be passed by as people will assume you are busy. Secondly, become invaluable/liked/preferred/respected or however you would like to think of it.

Not many people will admit it but staff will often recruit from their pool of preferred freelancers/employees. I hold my hands up - I often book or recommend staff that are part of what I cheekily refer to as my 'A-Team'. Now, don't get me wrong - I balance this with always providing opportunity to those who have impressed elsewhere (i.e. through networking, social media, word of mouth, great CV, etc); but sometimes you just need to know that the mark will be hit. Here, a reliable contact will usually deliver.

People sometimes ask me 'how do I make the A-Team'? i.e. get hired again. Everyone/every company/etc will have their own criteria - here are a few tips of mine to ensure I (remember this is a personal blog) hire you again:

  • Deliver - do what you said you could. Never lie. It can be tempting to 'over hype' yourself either on your CV or in person but there is a fine line with being dishonest. I know an excellent Prod. Sec - she is fab - very capable of stepping up. She has never however undertaken any form of PAC workload whatsoever, and this has often prevented her from meeting PC role requirements. I advised that she apply specifically for a short term post PS role to get the basic knack - and then it should be plain sailing to PC heaven; she decided to lie. She was taken on and did really well as a PC throughout shoots. It got to TX time and deliverables were due - she had not a clue. The PM was off sick and she was expected to complete the paperwork. It ended with her in tears in the toilet, a confession to the fib and a justified telling off from the LP (who had to go through the processes with her, despite her own very heavy schedule).
  • On that vein, I once met a guy who told me he had done 'tons' of work on a well known show. My other half works on said show. Never heard of the chap in question - turns out he had done 1 day a very long time ago... awkward.
  • Be personable - by that I mean smile, be polite and be someone that another member of staff is happy to approach. I get a strange sense of pleasure from learning and when I sense that someone else does, I will create opportunities for them as much as I can. As a result they get to experience things outside of their role (in a beneficial way). Equally, if someone is tasked with a rather mundane workload, but does it with a smile and a sense of pride, I will find more interesting/challenging activities for them where I can. The member of staff who moans, is sullen, looks annoyed about what they are doing and is generally demonstrating no desire to succeed or no interest in the task in hand, rarely gets an invite to do more.
  • Don't be too personable i.e. grin like a Cheshire cat or be over-familiar too quickly - I know you should never judge a book by its cover, but it happens ok? There is a young lady who works in the industry - I don't know who she is or what she does, other than that she is trying to climb the ladder and is keen to make an impression. I see her a lot at events, and whenever I do she grins inanely at me. She never says a word. Just grins. I am going to put it out there - with risk of criticism - she scares me. Had she said hello or responded to my initial waves (I don't wave anymore - she scares me remember), then the grinning wouldn't be so unacceptable. As it stands, she grins in my direction until I turn away (and even when I take a peek back she is still grinning...). If she turned up for an interview, I would probably have already judged and made a decision before she had even spoke.
  • Over familiarity is a tough one. We work in an industry where we are thrown into very tight relationships with people - often spending up to 15 hours a day with them. it is very easy to form close bonds with your peers. There are only three things relevant to my story today (joining the A Team - or its equivalent elsewhere): 1. If those bonds are justified (i.e. you are together non stop, long hours, etc) then restrict them to work. Give each other space away from work. It isn't appropriate at the end of a long day to invite yourself to a more senior persons social activity. if you are invited, by all means go along. Don't invite yourself though - it can be really uncomfortable. Be known as a great, hard and fun worker - not a social invader. 2. If those bonds aren't justified - i.e. its the end of your first day/you haven't yet started/you are awaiting response to an application, do not act as though there is a bond. it isn't appropriate to try and add someone who had just interviewed you as a friend on Facebook, or to turn up at an event you have heard they will be at on your own, with the sole intention of remaining at their side. 3. Don't have sex with the talent/crew/runners/etc. Post wrap - do as you will (I still wouldn't). Whilst on my watch, the team member who makes it uncomfortable for everyone else, doesn't come back.
  • Be ambitious - people who have a career plan and are determined impress me. Arrogance and an overly high sense of self importance do not. We all have to go through a period when we are doing things which a. may not challenge us and b. we are confident we are overly qualified to be doing. Those who get on with it and then use their excess time to be proactive and do more, tend to go far. Those who grumble or talk loudly about their degree in xxx do not (tend to). I say this with personal experience - both in that I have to often do things I know I can do with my eyes shut, and I often have to delegate junior work activities to people I know are capable of assisting with much more.
  • Ambition must not be blurred with snobbery. I remember my first job in TV - I started as a Coordinator. I had done my research and had set in my mind what my role was likely to entail. I also had visions of what the Secretary and Runner's role might entail. The show I worked on had no budget and thus there was just little old me. 12 weeks previously (pre career change) I had my own office, a team of PAs and admin staff and a fairly important job title - which meant that I rarely had to lift a finger (fab for a lazy bones like me). Now, here I was, surrounded by paperwork which needed scanning in. What did I do? I kept my mouth shut and I scanned. The snob in my head was daring me to make a dickish comment - but the brains overruled, and I realised it had to be done. So I did it. I quickly realised that I could demonstrate my ambition whilst doing the 'dirty work' too. Whilst waiting for 100s of pages to scan I would sink my head in figures etc and come up with innovative ways to save (remember, we had no budget). fast forward three weeks and the savings totalled a shiny new Production Secretary at my side - and an elevated position for me. the Prod Sec was amazing BTW... I felt bad giving her the 'dull' stuff and ended up doing it all myself anyway!
  • If you are capable it will be noticed no matter what. Two guys really stand out in my mind. I won't name them here - it wouldn't be fair. Let's refer to them as 'Married with a Kid' and 'Nando's' (I am hoping they will recognise themselves...). 'Married with a kid' was working as a runner on a show I used to work on. I didn't know anything about him - nor did I get opportunity to see if he made the grade. He was already contracted when I started. It quickly became apparent he was older than your average runner; however I did not know how that had come to be. He was an absolute pleasure to work with (all of the points above and below) - and as such, he started to stand out. I quickly realised he was entirely wasted in his role as a location runner - and could give the production so much more than we were able to offer him. I didn't notice this because he strayed from the boundaries of his job - he was there, without fail, making the tea/coffee, printing and bundling docs, setting up rig, packing down rig - but because he did everything with such a sense of pride and a real humbleness that I made it my busy to spend my free time during the day with him - and from there discussions re. why he was running, what he hoped to do next, etc stemmed; thus it became apparent he was ready to do more. I wasn't the only one who noticed and almost immediately after contract end he was snapped up as a researcher on a great prime time show. I will always work with him whenever there is opportunity.
  • Nando's is definitely in the A Team. He was also working in a junior role on a show when I started (logging). Now here the situation was a little different - he didn't just log. By virtue of being a technological whizz kid and having great organisation, he was able to fly through his logging and do bits outside of the realm of his role. Due to being largely confined to the logging room or edit areas, these 'things' tended to be of an editorially helpful way. Either way - he got noticed for being extremely useful - and stood out for being capable of more. I liked him (he drank shots with  me and danced like a fool on a rare night out of a locations tour and we bonded). It intrigued me that whenever people praised him and pimped him out for the 'next step' (researcher) he didn't bite their hands off. Turns out he was deeply committed to going down the Production Route (nobody had ever asked him) - but worried about being unemployed so went along with the logging life! I planted some seeds, made it known to those in the know of his aims and generally ensured I shared as many tips with him as I could. He is now a Production Secretary on an awesome show - and doing swimmingly by all accounts.
  • Ambition you see is essential - 'Married with kids' was determined to re-carve a career in TV and did what it took to make it happen. 'Nando's' took a role he didn't necessarily see as the path for him - but still delivered with pride and went outside the box. Neither ever complained - and both remain in my A List forever my virtue of their exceedingly good manners, commitment to doing the best job possible (no matter how small the job) and happiness to muck in. Even though they were able to deliver so much more.
  • Keep busy and be proactive - just because you aren't drowning in work, doesn't mean others aren't. When you find yourself in a quiet time, look outside the window of your immediate tasks and see what else you can do to assist. Be wary not to hassle people though - and remember the golden rule for making it into the A Team (!) - don't just offer help to those you deem important (and therefore likely to help you in the future), help your peers too. I know a young chap who was very speedy (yet efficient) and would often finish his workload before his peers. He didn't run straight to the top shouting 'look at me - I am great', he quietly offered his support to his peers and helped them get the job done. I noticed him (I observe - a lot), and I will always welcome him to the team whenever there is opportunity.
  • Have good manners - be polite. Nobody likes ill mannered people. That is all.
  • Don't be lazy - sometimes, there are things in our job we don't want to do out of sheer laziness - and passing the buck is a great way of escaping them. A completely mythical example - the researcher who hands a PM their receipts after a shoot. No reconciliation, no idea if the right amount of change is there, no desire to find out. Do they hand it and say 'Oh I just can't be arsed!' (generally - mythically of course) not. They hand it in and run away, and when asked 'do you not intend on typing up your float?' the response is often 'Oh, sorry. I assumed that was a production job'. Mythically, this works both ways of course (cue the story about the Production Secretary who although had nothing to do one day, didn't transcribe an IV that urgently needed doing - cos it's an editorial job, right?!). The situation is irrelevant - if you can do something, you have the time and you can see eveyone else is busy, do it! I know it is petty but the staff that throw receipts and pennies at me get an invisible black cross.
  • Have respect - both for others and for yourself. Those who deliver with pride (as above) demonstrate respect for the job (and thus the employer) but also for themselves, as they are committed to doing a good job, which generally means they take pride in their work (meaning they have respect for themselves). People who respect themselves and others come across well -and will be welcome back.
  • Respect is not about obeying orders from power hungry folk. I worked with a Coord once - I was a Coord too - and she had no respect for anyone. She came across as being respectful of the Execs etc (brown nosing I like to call it) but actually was just plain rude to everyone else, and essentially believed in the old fashioned ugh of  'do it my way and when I say'. If you were equal or beneath her and she needed something done/didn't agree with the way you were doing it/ was simply in a bad mood, you knew about it. She made sure the more junior staff knew that 'they had to respect her - she had earned it' yet actually, in being so bloody rude, demanding and generally glory hunting, she actually herself respected nobody else. Did she think she was respecting the PM/Execs who had hired the junior staff by being nasty to them? She lost my respect very quickly. I think that by being so rude all the time she probably didn't think much of herself either (lack of self respect) - why else would you be so miserable? Disrespect and undermining others doesn't stand you in good stead. Nope - your invite to the A Team hasn't gone AWOL in the post. You never got one.
  • Neither did the poor runner who thought he had to jump through every hoop she held out - including the hoop of 'be rude to my peer - I have been here longer than her'. Sometimes it is obvious that someone is encouraging you to do something inappropriate - don't do it. You are not a sheep. He lacked self-respect. Not an A Team member.
  • Don't ask questions your call sheet can answer. Someone - usually with great research for content, and pride - has compiled a call sheet. Any shoot worth its salt has a call sheet. It is the job of everyone involved to read it. If (and only if) after reading it you cannot find your answer - or occasionally, if it is an emergency and the call sheet is dinosaur sized and a mess (not done by me...) - then absolutely ask away. I guess this links back to laziness. Example: two members of crew of equal grade received a call sheet. One replied later in the day, said thanks, and did what was required. One replied immediately saying thanks (no way it had even been opened in the speed of response) and then turned up at the wrong location. That person had assumed a shoot would occur in 'the usual place' and didn't even look at their call sheet. That failed shoot cost a fortune. 'Didn't read the call sheet and messed up' didn't make the grade.
  • Stop. I am talking to myself here. I could go on and on and on... about this one. This was supposed to be useful - not send you to sleep! I will therefore summarise and nutshell highlight how you make a good impression - and thus, create the opportunity to be asked back:

1. Smile. Be friendly. Have good manners. Show respect.
2. Always be punctual. Time equals money. Money equals a budget. A good budget delivery aids a recommission or future opportunity with the broadcaster.
3. Be confident and come across as capable. Do not fib about abilities.
4. Be prepared - have a contingency if your plan/method to do what is being asked fails. Don't walk away or give up at the first hurdle.
5. Be ambitious and have a career plan - but do not be afraid/consider yourself too important to muck in.
6. Be financially savvy - creativity balanced with budget = please come back soon.
7. Retain confidentiality - don't post pictures of your shoot on Twitter!
8. Be proactive - but respect role boundaries.
9. Be useful - become known as the person to turn to when things need fixing/go wrong/need an extra pair of hands. You will therefore become invaluable.
10. Balance social desire with social etiquette. Go to events when invited, toast the teams success, make the Exec laugh. Don't get pissed/be the last to leave/tweet drunken obscenities to the PM/shag the talent/compete with your peers for talk time/hassle people in their time off for advice or future opportunities.

So - there it is. Basically, do your job and do it well. Be fun to have around without becoming a space (personal) invader. Evidence that you are useful. You will suddenly find yourself in today's blogs opening scenarios of A. B. C. (obvs the A team is where it is at...).

ps As a wee side note - if you want to get onto someone's radar (and thus become someone they may think of/consider in scenario B) - everyone will have a different preferred method, can I share some advice on how not to do it?


Sometimes those in TV who hire are really busy - and cannot always immediately respond to you. I had an experience where I was totally swamped - literally working 18 hour days - and as such, I did not have time to deal with anything non critical. Someone who had tried to make my acquaintance sent me a bit of a rude and flippant message about my apparent decision to ignore them. Anyone who knows me knows that I try my very hardest to reply to all contacts - but yes, I can be slow. That person is now not someone I will consider again in a hurry due to the ill mannered nature of their contact to tell me how rude I had apparently been. FYI - I am talking I had not replied after 4 days to an email to my non work account - not that I had ignored them for months.

On the stalking vein - yes, social media is a dangerous tool,and if you (and by that I mean I) post something publicly people will comment. Why the hell not. If however someone is clearly having a personal conversation from a personal twitter account with a personal friend , about a personal activity, and you have made it known you work in the same industry and may be keen to work with that person (me) in the future, please don't join in. It's really awkward - and to the person (my friend) that person (me) is talking to, you are a total stranger - and it comes across as a little odd. You may ask why its on an open forum in that case - well sometimes, it is just easier!

Example (mythical of course...):
A - 'Yo B, what's occurring? Fancy going for a beer tonight?'
B - 'Hey A - all over it. Fancy trying that new cocktail bar though?'
A - 'Yup - looks yum. Miss your face - see you soon.'
C (a stranger) - 'Wow A and B that bar looks so nice, you guys always go to cool place'.

Weird, non?

 ©July 2012 – Lou Gallagher


  1. Nobody ever comments = sad face

  2. Turn that sad face into a happy one... here is a comment.

    Lou you are truly PRECIOUS!

    A x

  3. Thanks Lou, I'm new to TV and how it all works so found lots of really useful advice in this! And i know what you mean about no one ever commenting on blogs, the only ones I get are from my mother lol :p

  4. Now this is a seriously thorough blog posting! Nice one Lou, really helpful and interesting to learn about different team dynamics...the best experiences I've had as a runner are those where I feel part of a cohesive team that respects one another. Makes you want to work harder, so everyone benefits!

  5. Arjun you A Star for lifer! Thank you for taking the time to read.

    Hi fat_bradley - thank you for your feedback, and I am glad you have found this useful. Sad thing for me is, not even my mother comments lol (don't think she has ever even read this...)

    Cat - thanks you lovely thing!

  6. This was interesting for me to read. Partially because it is insightfully written but also as it has many parallels with other work contexts. Shortly about to go on a scientific mission & will consider some of the points made along the way. Commenting on the comment front I would say that a comment necessitates having an actual point to make regarding the comment; which is far more work than hitting "like".