Event report: From Runner to Superstar

Event report: From Runner to Superstar

Twitter icon
Facebook icon
LinkedIn icon
e-mail icon
Wednesday, 25th February 2015

A panel of experts offered their advice on climbing the TV career ladder

"How do you climb TV's greasy pole - is it talent, hard work, luck or good looks?" asked Broadcast magazine columnist and entertainment producer Steven D Wright as he introduced the latest RTS Futures event, "From runner to superstar". Or, he added: "Is it class?"

"Luck is maybe the least important - it comes into play but as long as you're working hard and making opportunities for yourself [success] is not necessarily about good fortune," reckoned Sabina Smitham from online content producer and distributor Channel Flip.

Smitham, a creative producer, was one of a five-strong panel of execs offering first-hand advice to a young audience looking to get in and on in telly.

Television is frequently accused of being too posh but ITV comedy entertainment commissioner Claire Zolkwer, who described herself as an "upstart Scot", was adamant that "it's not a closed shop". Zolkwer has green lit hit shows that include Celebrity Juice and The Only Way Is Essex.

Smitham admitted to confusion about her own class and whether it worked for or against a person. "When I started applying for TV jobs," she said, "some people advised me to lose Oxford [University] from my CV because it was going to work against me."

Two decades earlier, in his first telly job working on Planet 24's late-night show for Channel 4, The Word, Wright knew he was a fish out of water. "It was all about looks; it was all public school boys it. It was golden youth basically and I was this fat c*** that came in and shone immediately for one good reason - I watched telly. That rule still stands; -if you don't go home at night and watch telly, you shouldn't be working in TV," he said.

Torie Chilcott"The people that really shine are the ones who are interested and interesting," says Torie Chilcott

Sky comedy commissioner Jon Mountague, who currently executive produces Stella, argued that access to the industry has become more open. "Not so long ago TV was populated by posh people, but the people who work in TV need to reflect the audience and I think TV is waking up to that," he said.

"The people that really shine are the ones who are interested and interesting," argued Torie Chilcott, co-founder of digital marketing outfit Rockabox and a former TV producer and format developer who created the Bafta-nominated The Farmer Wants a Wife for ITV. She advised: "Know everything because senior people know a lot about telly. They watch a lot of telly, love telly and like talking about telly."

"Determination and resilience" are key attributes for getting started in telly, argued Twofour Creative Director David Clews who won a Bafta craft award for directing C4's Educating Essex.

Once in, added Clews, a person has to develop new skills. "Being able to [use] a camera helps - everyone expects that now. Can you [edit] on Final Cut Pro? Can you work simple graphics packages? Push [your] Production Company to give you those opportunities," he said.

"From runner to superstar" was an RTS Futures event held at the Hallam Conference Centre in central London on 24 February. The producers were Lisa Campbell, Reem Nouss and Jessica Wilson.

You are here

A panel of experts offered their advice on climbing the TV career ladder