Ben S.

Development Producer
Happy to mentor
Happy to be contacted

About me

Ben S.
History
History and Philosophy
Undergraduate
Langwith
2006
United Kingdom

My employment

Development Producer
BBC
United Kingdom
2011

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A day in the life of a Development Producer in the United Kingdom

How I found out about the job

The corporation contacted me, based on my experience in the field

The recruitment process

In a freelance industry, contacts are all important. After years of building up my contacts book in numerous jobs, I was contacted speculatively by the BBC about the possibility of working for them.

My career history

As a freelancer, I've had many jobs in a relatively short career, so will try and keep this brief.

After work experience at independent TV production company Wall To Wall, I was offered a job as a Junior Genealogist on the BBC1 family history series Who Do You Think You Are? . This was the very bottom rung on the ladder in the industry, but it was a foot in the door all the same. On this series I worked my way up to Junior Researcher and then to Researcher.

After approximately a year and a half I left to work on a observational documentary series as a Assistant Producer. At this level, I bounced around a few production companies, making history and science shows for BBC2 and Channel 4.

Having worked in programme production for about four years, I decided to move into development - coming up with new ideas for shows and series and getting them commissioned. In 2011 I was contacted by the BBC and offered a job developing history documentaries for them and for co-production between the BBC and the American broadcasters. I was subsequently offered the job of Producer. This is my current role.

Courses taken since graduation

PgDip in Broadcast Journalism at City University

My advice to students considering work

Almost everyone in TV gets their first job off the back of work experience. If you want to work in the industry, send your CV to as many production companies as possible! If and when you get work experience, be hard-working, friendly and diligent. If someone spots you, you may well get some paid work from it.

My advice about working in my industry

Get as much work experience as possible - this is the number one way to get a job in the industry.

Also, in your first job, no one will care if you've made a feature length documentary about an issue that's important to you. It's much more important to be able to make a good cup of tea and work seriously hard with a smile on your face.

What I do

I come up with ideas for new history programmes for the BBC and for co-productions between the BBC and American broadcasters. This involves brainstorming ideas, working with experts, writing up ideas, hunting out new on-screen talent, making short 'taster' tapes to sell the idea and pitching the ideas.

Skills I use and how I developed them

My history degree has been of huge benefit to my career. I have specialised in history shows - with a sideline in science shows - for most of my time in TV. If you want to work in factual TV, rather than entertainment, a specialism (be it history, science, art or other) is much more beneficial than a Media degree.

Degree skills:
Research, writing, critical thinking, arguing your cause have all been useful. Standing up in a seminar and trying to convince other people that you are right is a great training ground for pitching your programme idea to a commissioner, trying to convince them to invest hundreds of thousands of pounds in your proposal.

Extracurricular skills:
Sociability is a vital part of working in TV. Building contacts is vital for getting your next job and work often involves asking experts and members of the public to do things for you for free. Being friendly helps!

The whole university experience of making friends and joining societies etc. is great for building social skills.

What I like most

It is a genuinely creative role. Once you come up with an idea, you take ownership of it and try to get it commissioned. this involves research - which I love - and talking to fascinating people.

Getting an idea you came up with made into a big, glossy TV programme which is watched by millions of people is a great feeling.

What I like least

Almost the whole industry is freelance, which can be tough, especially at the start when you haven't got many contacts. However, this does get easier with time.

Next steps...

If you like the look of Ben’s profile, the next steps are down to you! You can send Ben a message to find out more about their career journey. If you feel you would benefit from more in-depth conversations, ask Ben to be your mentor.

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