How to survive five years in TV

How to survive five years in TV

Wednesday, 16th November 2022
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Earlier last month, an online Futures event heard from four young people who have navigated their first five years – a make or break time for many – in TV production.

Breaking into the industry is tough. Funmi Olutoye, a news features producer at ITV’s Good Morning Britain, reckoned that only one in 20 to 25 emails she sent out looking for work elicited a reply, let alone an interview. ‘It’s a test of your mettle and whether you’re tenacious enough to [work] in this industry,’ she said. ‘There are many people I started with who are no longer here… it’s not because I’m more talented, it’s that I had more tenacity to stick with it.’

To prepare a presentation at work about his career recently, Michael Sheridan, an assistant producer at 4Studio, Channel 4’s social media department, looked back at the emails he had sent looking for work experience and jobs – they numbered 916.

He said that to build a career in TV: ‘It’s really important to be professional, but also bring… your whole self [to work].’ He said everyone had their own experiences, were from different backgrounds and had different perspectives that were really interesting.

Developing a network is key given the freelance nature of much of the TV industry. ‘Keep in touch with people,’ said Fozia Nasir, a factual producer who is currently working on BBC Studios programme The Met: Policing London. ‘This is a very transient industry and people move around very quickly.’

She added: ‘At least six weeks before you finish a job, email talent managers and start putting yourself out there.’

TV can be a demanding business. Jordaan Shelley, another news features producer at Good Morning Britain, said: ‘There are lots of moving parts, particularly if you are in live TV… things change and the story moves on, so [your editor] wants you to scrap what you’ve done and change it all. That was one of the biggest things that I had to get used to and it was stressful.’

'First five years in TV masterclass’  was hosted and produced by the broadcaster Jasmine Dotiwala, and the four panellists were former trainees of hers. Watch the full session here.