Being a recipient of the RTS bursary is a lot like being a spy. I considered ending this there but have been told that it needs to be around 600 words long, so I might as well use those extra words to explain myself a bit
I recently spent a week in the commissioning department at UKTV. I arrived at the reception and gave my name, braced for the understandable response that I should leave immediately due to my lack of relevance and the fact that everyone here was very busy getting on with their jobs. But no, I was welcomed in.
As I walked through the turnstile, I expected alarms to ring out - “Unauthorised entry! You do not belong here! And also sort your hair out; seriously, what’s going on there?” but once again I passed through without an eyebrow raised.
It reached a point where I was surrounded by actual members of the industry, all working hard on actual television shows, right beside me, chatting with me as if I were one of them, and still nobody had realised that I had no business being there. Like an undercover operative, I had inﬁltrated the TV industry, and it was all down to my RTS bursary. Spy analogy complete.
(Oh, and also we get to wear suits at fancy events a lot like James Bond. Okay, NOW the spy analogy is over. Moving on.)
Basically, the point I’m trying to get across is that the RTS have opened a lot of doors for me and put me in places I never thought I’d be in at this early stage in my career. And it does feel a lot like I shouldn’t really be there because they’re such impressive places, but realising that actually I can ﬁt in to that environment and I do have a valid reason to be there makes the idea of working in TV seem much more real and achievable.
I’m a writer and director of mainly surreal comedies, and thanks to the RTS I’ve been able to meet and chat with people like Armando Iannucci (The Thick Of It, Alan Partridge, The Day Today) and Graham Linehan (Father Ted, The IT Crowd), as well as Richard Watsham (UKTV’s director of commissioning), who is my mentor.
This mentorship is what led to my week in the commissioning department. During our second year as bursary recipients we’re assigned mentors relevant to the area of the industry we want to go into. Because I’m a writer I was paired with Richard, who could teach me about pitching, the commissioning process, and what commissioners look for in programme ideas. All of which will make pitching my own ideas much easier in future.
I’ve also been to live recordings of the brilliant Taskmaster, where I was offered drinks in the green room (and some lasagne, which I thought was odd - but I don’t know; that’s the ﬁrst time I’ve been in a green room - maybe they’re all full of lasagne), and given a special yellow wrist band that meant I got to sit in a RESERVED chair in the audience. It was a great experience, and really interesting to see how the show gets put together.
Richard was also able to arrange a meeting with Caroline Chignell (agent of The Mighty Boosh, Richard Ayoade, Vic and Bob, Chris Morris, etc - all of whom are inspirations to me). As I tend to write quite unusual and often surreal comedies, chatting with Caroline was very useful as many of her clients have a similar style. I was able to ﬁnd out how best to go about getting into the industry when you’re not taking a mainstream approach.
None of this would have been possible without the Royal Television Society bursary scheme. Thanks to the RTS, I now have a huge amount of incredible industry contacts and feel prepared to leave university and begin my journey/quest/voyage/pilgrimage into the TV industry.
Victor Hampson is in his second year, studying BA Television Production at the University of Gloucestershire.