A panel share their advice on breaking into television as part of Leeds University “Media Futures” lecture series.
In early February, RTS Yorkshire leading lights Jo Haddock, Lisa Holdsworth and Fiona Thompson took part in Leeds University’s “Media futures” lecture series. In a lively session, they answered that perennial question, “How did you get into TV?” All three women had very different answers.
Chair of the Yorkshire centre Fiona Thompson had been working for the Civil Service when she decided to become a mature student and study theology at Birmingham University. A chance encounter with a TV producer and chat about her thesis led to a first television job as a researcher at Yorkshire TV.
She went on to become a freelance programme producer and director, specialising in religious programming. Thompson produced programmes for the BBC, Channel 4 and ITV. Her advice to the Leeds University students was to have passions, interests and knowledge, which they can offer to potential employers.
That advice was backed up by Jo Haddock, a development executive at True North and Yorkshire centre committee member. She started her career as a journalist but a job writing features for Homes & Antiques magazine led to interest from TV producers.
Haddock admitted that she initially resisted the leap into TV as she worried about the lack of job security. She advised the students that freelance TV work is precarious, but ultimately rewarding and engaging. Her freelance career included roles at Endemol, RDF, Maverick, BBC Entertainment and Celador, before she took her current role at True North.
Her advice was to make the most of internships and work experience placements. “The students who show initiative, spark and a passion for TV often go on to secure paid employment at True North,” she said.
Lisa Holdsworth, Vice-Chair of the Yorkshire centre, was able to confirm that with her story. Her 17-year writing career started with a work experience placement on a YTV factual show, from which she secured a production co-ordinator job at a local indie. Through that, she was able to get a script to Kay Mellor who gave Holdsworth her first writing commission on ITV drama Fat Friends.
Since then she has written on hit shows, including Emmerdale, New Tricks, Midsomer Murders and Ackley Bridge. Her advice to the students was to put themselves in the path of opportunity: “A work placement might seem to be nothing more than making tea, but you never know who you’ll be making the tea for.”