More than 900 young people attended the second RTS Midlands Careers Fair at Birmingham’s Edgbaston Stadium in early October.
Alongside Q&A panel sessions with top execs who work on some of the country’s biggest shows, practical workshops In the exhibition hall included how to make drama with BBC One’s Doctors in their specially created hospital set, filming on smartphones, using drones and how to make a podcast.
The major broadcasters joined more than 40 exhibitors from across the industry to give attendees one-to-one advice on how to break into the industry, from creating the perfect CV to gaining professional experience.
While all this was going on downstairs, RTS Midlands ran six sessions upstairs during the day, covering different areas of television from landing a first job to exciting new careers in media and broadcasting.
Regional opportunities were first on the agenda, with Rural Media and ScreenSkills exhibiting their national talent schemes to those hoping to kickstart their careers.
Attendees were encouraged to apply for the BBC/Rural Media Productions’ New Creatives talent scheme in the Midlands, which offers commissioning opportunities for new work in film, audio or interactive media, and ScreenSkills’ Talent Finder scheme, which places entry-level trainees on film and TV drama productions across the UK.
In the third session, Jude Winstanley, Managing Director of The Unit List and a TV line producer, offered advice to people looking to get their first job. “Make sure everything that is public [is what] you would want an employer to see,” she said.
Unique and transferrable skills are just as necessary as TV experience when updating a CV, she added. “If you’ve got no experience but you have a driving licence or you speak another language, chances are you will get a job over someone that doesn’t.”
In “The soap and the glory – working in continuing drama”, the panel spoke of the huge amount of work, across departments, which goes into creating a series. “Everything starts with stories, which then feeds into script, production, scheduling, costume, post-production… one couldn’t exist without the other,” explained Liza Mellody, studio producer at EastEnders. “You have to think of ‘how are we going to film it’ as well as ‘how are we going to write it.’”
The best way to get noticed is to make the most of opportunities, she continued. “Don’t think ‘I don’t want to be making tea and running around’, you’ve got to do the graft and be willing to do the work. Do your best in the job that you’re in. It does get noticed.”
During the fifth session, TV executives explained how to stand out in one of the industry’s most competitive areas: entertainment. “There’s nothing like shiny floors, when you’re moments away from going live and you hear the credits roll… if that’s what you want to do, it’s the best thing ever. But with that there are long hours. As TV execs, we look for dedication, you do need to do the time,” explained Ashley Whitehouse, executive producer on The X Factor.
“[A career in TV] does come with a few sacrifices, it isn’t always glamorous,” he warned. “If you want to succeed and do well in TV – it is a lifestyle choice. If you really want to do it, you won’t care about the sacrifices.”
BBC Entertainment commissioning editor Kalpna Patel-Knight said that going far is “more about teamwork, your personality, how tenacious you are and how you can be a player in a massive team. If you are switched on, you will go far.”
In the final session, creative talent spoke of the new careers available in media and broadcasting.
A way to break into radio and podcasts is to “look for opportunities… local radio is a great way to get in,” said Becca Bryers, a podcast producer, who produces and presents Multi Story, a selection of the best stories from BBC local radio. “People sometimes see it as a stepping stone but there are great careers just within local radio.”
BBC WM broadcast its afternoon show with Sunny and Shay live from the Careers Fair, interviewing attendees and exhibitors about the day and getting tips on working in TV.
The RTS Midlands Careers Fair was held at Edgbaston stadium in Birmingham on 7 October. The event was produced by Caren Davies and Jayne Greene.
All photography by Nick Robinson