How to go from runner to researcher in TV

How to go from runner to researcher in TV

Thursday, 4th July 2024
A woman has her fists raised and clenched, staring intently at someone off camera
African Queens: Njinga (credit: Netflix)
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“I personally look back at my years as a runner with really fond memories…. You’re an unsung hero for the team.”

Broadcaster Jasmine Dotiwala was remembering her own start in television, as she hosted and produced the RTS Futures event ‘Runner to Researcher’ in early June.

She continued: “The secret of being a great runner is to be consistently delightful.”

The event, aimed at TV’s most junior employees, offered tips on how to move on from the runner entry level to the next stage in production, working as a researcher. It can be difficult to achieve this promotion and many young people drop out before making it.

To progress in TV, said Anu Bains, casting producer at Eureka Productions, networking with colleagues and building relationships with talent managers are key.

She added: “Always show your best side; kindness goes a long way…. Running can feel monotonous and like a thankless job, but you must not show that… embrace it… you are learning so much.”

Leian Darell John-Baptiste, an executive assistant at BBC Factual Entertainment, pinpointed displaying a good attitude, energy and empathy.

He added: “You have to be able to speak to everyone. [If you can’t], you’re really going to struggle to succeed in this industry.”

Dotiwala said: “You need to be resilient and be able to deal with rejection.”

Researchers come in all shapes and sizes. “I write a lot of briefs,” says Paula Nimaro, a researcher in documentaries at Whisper TV. “Being a researcher, you have to be curious. I also write character biographies for the director [and] help on shoots. In post-production, I have been working on trans­cribing… films.”

AI hasn’t yet made that task redundant – “There are tools but you need a human to go through it,” noted Nimaro, who worked as a researcher on Netflix docu-drama African Queens: Njinga.

She credits the Pact Indie Diversity Scheme, which offers placements at production companies, with helping her make the leap from runner to researcher.

What should you avoid as a runner if you want to become a researcher? No bad attitudes, said John-Baptiste.

“Treat everyone equally,” added Nimaro. And “don’t be on your phone [constantly],” said Dotiwala. “It really gives the wrong impression.”