Producer making historical TV shows

About me

Steven P.
History
History
BA (Hons)
Halifax
2012
United Kingdom

About this profile

Producer
Freelance
United Kingdom
Broadcasting

About the job

What I do

I'm a producer so my job is to do all the research for the history shows as well as help write scripts, arrange locations, and sort out all the logistics of a complex TV show. I also look after contributors, presenters, and archive as well as help out on shoots. Essentially producers are the glue that hold TV shows together.

Skills I use and how I developed them

Historical Research - that came largely from my degree. It may be a TV show but you have to treat it like your dissertation, if not a little more seriously. I've never had any letters from the public about mistakes I made on my dissertation but I've had a LOT of people writing to me to pick holes in my programmes.

Organisation - developed over time and through being a member of student societies, in particular YSTV.

Communication skills - these are crucial in TV - so often I have to cold call someone in a far off country and convince them to help me out in a couple of minutes. You also have to be really good at communicating your ideas to other people - you may have the next Strictly Come Dancing in your mind but it'll stay there unless you can communicate it. I developed these through my time at York Student TV, during my seminars, and whilst working in marketing for Visit York. One key skill you should try to pick up is confidence on the phone - if you call and not email you'll get attention!

Specific TV skills - these you just learn with experience, but student media is a good place to start.

What I like most

It's so varied and you get to meet fantastic people, tell incredible stories, and go to some amazing places.

What I like least

The long hours. You work hard in TV.

What surprised me most

How helpful and friendly most people in TV are once you break in. There's a lot of competition when you first start but after that most people are really lovely.

Finding and applying for the job

How I looked for work

It's all about networking and building experience. I did a lot of work with the Careers Service and Alumni Office to build up my networking contacts and skills and then I started gaining experience both in professional contexts but also through YSTV. It was heard going at first but soon you become known in the industry and offers start coming in - think of it as a tree multiplying out from you - everyone you meet meets someone and they meet someone etc.

How I found out about the job

Personal contacts

The recruitment process

You don't usually apply for a job in TV. It's all about who you know and the contacts you build up!

You can apply for certain jobs via websites, schemes, and applications but these are rare. I would keep them in mind, but not stress too much about them. It's all about work experience and building experience.

My career

My career goals when I graduated

I wanted to make History TV shows. I still do!

My career history

I started with working on historical apps, then I went into ITV and worked on shows including Come Dine with Me. I then sidestepped back into history, working on Horrible Histories, Tony Robinson's Wild West, Great American Railroad Journeys, and Secret Histories to name a few.

What has helped my career to progress

Being genuinely fascinated by both history and TV. Passion will get you far

How my studies have helped my career

I couldn't be a history producer without my history degree but I wouldn't be here without the societies I was a member of.

All the skills that you are picking up from your degree are super useful, but you've got to learn what to do with the research you find. Rather than going along the academic line, in TV it's all about the story and telling it in the best way.

What surprised me about my career so far

Mostly that I have one to be honest! Sometimes working in TV is so random it doesn't feel like a real job!

Where I hope to be in 5 years

I want to be a director - making my own films.

My advice to students

My advice to students considering work

If it's in TV you should do your homework. Use the careers service to help build up your skills in networking and watch as much TV as possible. You can't work in TV unless you love it!

You should also join York Student Television. It will give you a very real sense of how TV works and allow you creative freedom and opportunities that you'll never get in the actual industry. And with 50 years of YSTV alumnus, there's a strong network there to help you with any career.

My advice about working in my industry

Don't be afraid. People will tell you TV is difficult to get into but if I did it then anyone can. Just be courageous and let your passion shine through.

It helps if you have an idea of what type of TV you want to work in. I've always said that saying you want to work in TV is like saying you want to work in a hospital - being a brain surgeon is totally different to being an A&E nurse in the same way making a documentary for BBC Four is totally different to working on Doctor Who.

If you get work experience then make the most of it. I've had so many work experience people come in, sit in the corner, and say nothing - don't do that. Engage, ask questions (no matter how dumb you think they are), and make yourself indispensable. That's how you get a job afterwards - I know that because it's how I got my first proper TV job, and I often hire on work experience people who have amazed me.

Other advice

TV is a small industry - when networking, just because the person you're talking to doesn't work in the area that you want to work in doesn't mean that they don't know the exact person you need to meet. I've watched so many people rudely brush off people who I know can help them!


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