Unlike most of my British friends; I love American TV. I was basically raised on it – although my mother will strongly disagree and admonish me for suggesting such a thing.
Understandably I need to get into the British Industry before I have any hope of having a go across the proverbial pond but I thought I would assess the pros and cons of the industry both in the UK and in the USA. Now obviously (and sadly) I am not American and so I won’t have a full grasp of the procedure and can only speculate based on research.
Let’s start with the Home Team…
1. You know where to go
Although places like Manchester, Glasgow and Cardiff are trying to be seen as more than back burners and after thoughts when it comes to seeking a job in the Film and Television industry, ultimately London is still the place to be if you want any kind of shot.
2. Contact information is readily available
If you want a chance to get in with your favourite company you can simply head over to their website and find that contact button where you have the option between a phone number, email address or filling out an enquiry form.
3. Schemes and Events
There are a couple of well known Schemes that you know will help propel your career in a good way if you get on to them. For example; The Production Trainee Scheme led by the BBC and Action! by Working Title Films. As well as that The Royal Television Society and BAFTA often hold industry training events, networking sessions or fairs in order to help recent entrants gain an understanding of their options and get them in direct contact with the companies.
You’ll more often than not get a reply from 7/10 of the companies that you have sent an email too borderline begging for unpaid work experience – even if it’s to fob you off.
1. London or Bust
If you lived in a wee village in Scotland or the suburbs of Plymouth and you had a burning passion for filmmaking… You’re screwed. The cost of living in London alone would bankrupt you before you had a chance to get started, and nowhere else in the UK compares (yet).
2. Lack of Starting Options
When you start out, and follow the conventional route, you basically have the choice between being a runner and going home. The length of time you need to run for is uncertain and varies wildly (I know people who have done it for two years and other for two months). I understand that it’s seen as a sort of initiation, and is a way to weed out those that aren’t cut out, but for those of us who are competent, confident and career focused – It can seem like an unnecessary long stepping stone.
3. No Community
Minus a few Facebook groups, there is no community amongst peers. No way to meet up, collaborate or befriend like minded individuals in the same position as you, this makes the whole job hunting process a little isolated at times, especially if like me all you friends are in other professions.
4. You studied film. So what?
Despite the skills you learn at university; making a tonne of short films, working in teams, developing ideas, location scouting etc, you are still at square one when you start applying for jobs. Your degree seems to give no edge in the majority of circumstances. I am neither encouraging or discouraging a university degree in film but all I am saying is that it is a shame that a Film/TV related degree doesn’t hold as much weight as one might think.
So there you have it, a comprised list of my top pros and cons of trying to get into the British Film/TV industry. What do you think should have made the list as either a pro or a con, and why?
Look out for Part 2 of this post which will look at things from the United States point of view.