Graduate story: My work experience in Film

RosemaryRosemary Koper, MA Film Studies graduate

I’m currently in the final week of a two month placement with British Film Institute Education team. Having completed an MA in Film Studies and being a regular visitor to the BFI Southbank cinemas, this placement struck me as the perfect opportunity to gain some valuable work experience with an organisation whose work has interested me for years.

BFI Education run events and courses and aim to encourage new audiences to engage with film. Every February they run the Future Film Festival, which showcases the work of filmmakers aged 16-25 and gives young people interested in getting into the industry the opportunity to get advice from professionals and to network. A large part of my role has been promoting the festival, both via email and social media, and by visiting colleges and universities to screen some short films and talk about the festival. I travelled to film and media classes across London to get the word out about what the festival had on offer; as effective as a popular Facebook post can be at promoting an event, it can’t match the personal touch of a face-to-face conversation.

During the festival, I was responsible for helping to organise the crew of volunteers who’d been assembled to ensure the smooth-running of all the screenings and talks. Luckily, I had a few opportunities to attend some of the events and was able to see the impressive short films screened, chosen from over 3000 entries.

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Graduate story: Paul Webb, QMSU Volunteering Coordinator

paulwebbI graduated from Queen Mary with a degree in Film Studies in July 2017. I started on a joint programme of Film and Drama but switched to single honours Film after first year. I’d never studied either subject before and quickly realised that I was passionate about cinema.

Alongside my studies I worked as a team leader in all three of the cafés run by Queen Mary Students’ Union – The Learning Café and Ground (Mile End) and The Shield (Charterhouse Square). I started my degree when I was 22 so had lots of experience in catering and hospitality. I luckily managed to secure my job at The Learning Café before I started my course. Moving from Newcastle to London, I knew I needed a reliable source of income. The job was extremely convenient and perfect for a student because my managers worked my shifts around my timetable. I developed skills in customer service, staff supervision, time management, prioritisation and lots more, all of which I still use every day. As a student staff member, I was also able to take part in the QM Skills Award which I completed in second year. It offers lots of brilliant free training sessions in transferrable skills like project management, financial planning and cultural awareness. You can find out more here:

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Finding work in TV

realization-of-video-771413_960_720There is no fixed route for getting into TV, which means it is important to be flexible, open minded and proactive in seeking out opportunities. and building your network of contacts.

It is common to start with work experience positions, even once you have a degree, and then work your way up. Work experience and junior positions are rarely advertised, so you will need to make the first move and contact employers directly. This means being able to market yourself and being persistent despite (what is likely to be a lot of) rejection are vital.

For further tips and advice list to this excellent podcast from the BBC:

See also this article from The Guardian, containing 6 top tips for finding work in the TV industry, including making use of short films and videos you’ve made during your time at QMUL to showcase your best work, and marketing yourself online via social media, blogging or setting up your own webpage.

Remember you can always book a 1-2-1 appointment with a Careers Consultant to explore your options, and there are also a number of helpful job profiles on the Prospects website:

Television Camera Operator
Television Floor Manager
Television Production Coordinator
Television/film/video Producer

STEM, Finance and Business graduates – the new ‘Madmen’?

mad men advertising

Think advertising and media agencies and the traditional association is with arts and humanities students. After all, it’s all about being creative, right?

According to the media agencies making up GroupM, part of the WPP global advertising and marcomms group, there’s been a significant shift towards recruiting graduates from a broader range of disciplines. Whereas not so long ago there was an 80/20 split of humanities to other graduates, nowadays it’s more like 50/50. Why the change?

First it’s recognised that creativity comes in many forms and is not the exclusive preserve of the liberal arts. Plus technological advances have meant the nature of media and advertising is changing. With a focus on big data, analytical creativity and commercial savvy are increasingly needed.

So how does this work in practice? The visually and verbally creative teams at creative agencies come up with a marketing message for a client’s product. Then the media agencies pick up control of the marketing process, advising clients on how and where to advertise to make the most of their marketing budget. They ensure the message reaches the right people at the right time. It’s no use buying an expensive ad slot half way through a UEFA Champions League broadcast if the client’s target audience is 20-35 year old women into camping and yoga!

By capturing and analysing data from users across all digital devices (mobiles, PCs etc), media agencies are able to create very specific segments of audiences to target. They know how specific types of people can best be reached, ie, through which medium via which channels at which times. Which gives their clients more bang for their buck.

So, whatever form your creativity takes – verbal, visual, analytical or commercial – if you’ve got a passion for digital, the media world is interested.

Could there be a career in the digital industry for you?

Think you need to be a computer science graduate to work in the digital industry? Think again. Even if you don’t fancy yourself as the next Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg, there are still plenty of roles within the digital industry for you. Careers in the digital industry are not just for those who can code. Almost everything we do, from shopping to communicating, now has a digital element so it’s no surprise that there are so many varied opportunities in the digital industry.

Online Marketing– With so many brands taking to the web to promote and sell it has increased the importance of online marketing as brands need to get noticed online. Online marketing differs largely from the conventional marketing employing technical tools such as Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), Pay-per-click (PPC) and social media.

What skills do I need? For the more technical roles good knowledge of the search engine industry, SEO, PPC and of best practices is essential. But for social media roles practical experience is more important, so if you’re an avid Facebook, Twitter and Blogger user you’ll fit in just fine.

Online Content– Online copy is a vital part of any website and has far extended outside the boundaries of word heavy sites of magazines and newspapers. All sites have textual, visual or aural content which requires constant uploading and updating.

What skills do I need? Love writing? Then this is for you. There are lots of opportunities in online copywriting and it’s an entry level position in which you can readily build up your skills prior to employment. With free platforms such as WordPress and Blogger, you can skill-up on software employers use in the workplace.

Ecommerce– Ecommerce is the business of buying and selling online. It has opened up a vast amount of jobs in the online world including, digital sales, account management and online advertising.

Where skills do I need? Depending on what you’re selling, roles in ecommerce can require great people skills, if you’re trying to sell advertising space, or technical knowledge of how to upload products and facilitate sales.

Web and Software Development- Roles in this area are for the more tech savvy graduates. A degree in computer science or a related area can really give you the edge over other candidates.

What skills do I need? Experience of coding and HTML will help you get ahead here as well as knowledge of iOS, Android and Blackberry app development.

Web and Graphic Design- As a web designer you’ll be responsible for creating attractive and user friendly designs to satisfy a client’s brief.

What skills do I need? For a career in web design you’ll need to be creative and have a strong digital portfolio. Knowledge of Photoshop, InDesign, Fireworks, HTML and CSS will help too.

Analytics and Research- You’ll determine how well a website and its features are being received by using tools such as Google analytics. By looking through the data you’ll come up with ways to increase and improve site traffic.

What skills do I need? If you’re good with numbers then you’ll fit right in here as these roles require someone with strong numerical and analytical skills.

Alannah Francis
Careers Admin Assistant
QM Careers Centre

Student Story: Getting into the media

Bex CoxBex Coxon, 2012 QM Graduateon Graduated from Queen Mary in 2012 with a BA in English and Drama. A few months on, she is working for the BBC with a view to pursue a career in Media. We caught up with Bex to see how she developed her CV (and herself!) for a career in the media:

You got into working in the media through the BBC Production Talent Pool. What does that involve?

The Production Talent Pool is a scheme run by the BBC that takes on around 100 people and gives them a fast track entry route into a career in Television and Radio Production. Once you’ve got a place, anyone hiring for entry level roles in the BBC has access to your CV. You then just have to wait for the phone to ring. Usually there’ll be a shortlist of PTP candidates for the role and you’ll be invited for a ‘chat’ or interview by them to see if you’re right for the role.

So what is your current job title?

I’m currently a Personal Assistant (PA) to an Executive Producer in BBC Factual. I’m also a Production Management Assistant for all of my Exec’s programmes, so I do odd jobs here and there for Producers, Production Managers and directors like booking meeting rooms, meeting guests and making copies of DVDs/scripts. Day to day, I’m in the office 10am-6pm managing my Exec’s diary and liaising with people such as production teams, talent agents or channel controllers by email or phone to arrange meetings or viewings of his upcoming programmes (that need his input when editing). Sometimes I get to go out on shoots and help with looking after actors or presenters, making teas and coffees; generally helping the day run smoother.

Very busy then! And very competitive – you know as well as we do that media candidates have to really stand out on their CV. How did you make sure your application shone through the competition?

I put a lot of time and effort into my application, as I didn’t have much experience directly related to TV or film. I enjoyed my degree, but most of my time was actually spent getting practical experience outside of my course. I served on the committee of a QM sports team; I was secretary of the QM Theatre Company in my second year and Co-President in my third (and organised an £18,000 Edinburgh Fringe Festival performance run both years running); I volunteered for two years as a steward at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre and did regular overnight shifts for the charity Nightline in my final year.

I also completed a 6-month summer internship with an online magazine specialising in mental health and psychology. It was a newly established magazine, and I was asked to interview guests, upload my articles straight to the website, source my own images and go to events/conferences and report for the magazine. I think it’s useful to work for a small team, because you are more likely to be given the opportunity to have some creative input. I had done some travelling and creative writing so I also mentioned that in my application. I fundraised £2000 to go to Malaysia with a charity when I was 17 and organised lots of events for that including a big fashion show. I think events organising/management is always a good skill to include on any application and in whatever capacity. I was also a student ambassador and course rep.

Although I had no direct TV experience, I did have some experience with Youtube and online media. There are loads of editing programmes you can buy/download and teach yourself which I would recommend doing. Photoshop, Final Cut Pro/Adobe Premier/Avid, Excel, Outlook and so on are all programmes that are useful to have under your belt when working in TV/Radio/Multimedia.

You also worked on campus in Ground! Was this experience useful?

Despite fitting it in around everything else, work actually became my relaxing time (where I didn’t have to think about anything else). I started working in Ground near the end of my 2nd year, but I really wished I’d applied as soon as I got to uni! I’d highly recommend getting a part time job while studying – I’m not sure I’d be as confident in facing the world of employment if I hadn’t. Any employment is valuable experience – I operated a mini digger in a church graveyard for my dad one summer – not relevant to what I want to do now, but it certainly showed me what I don’t want to do and that I’m willing to get stuck in and get my hands dirty!

So you had lots of experience, but not directly related to TV. I’m sure lots of students will be relieved to hear that it doesn’t have to be all about direct experience!

While some people who got through did have a great background and experience in TV/Radio/Media production, one had previously been a chef, another primary school teacher – they also had no direct link to TV or Radio.

It’s important to remember that experiences that you think are irrelevant might be crucial to your application! You just have to find the skills in them that can relate to the application. For my job they wanted ‘storytellers’, and I found that experience in storytelling can come in a hundred different forms – including how you write the actual application itself.

But not everyone is successful first time round when they apply to work in media roles. How can people spend time preparing themselves for the application process next time?

Apply for work experience in TV, radio and media. There are tons of placements, and although they’re competitive to get onto they definitely help you decide whether it’s something you want to do as a career. There are also loads of independent production companies out there who are likely to take on work experience/placements/internships – find out who makes the programmes you like and send them an email telling them that you enjoy their work and would like to help out for a week or two – the worst that can happen is they say no or don’t reply. Any kind of media/storytelling experience is useful and shows that you’re creative and ambitious.

Also, watch lots of TV if you want to work in TV, and listen to lots of Radio if you want to work in Radio, and so on! You’re bound to get asked about your favourite programmes at some point, so you need to show that you actually have an interest in that form of media! If you know who you’re going to be interviewed by then make sure you know a bit about them (a simple Google/IMDB search usually gives you some answers!) Come up with loads of programme ideas/formats and try and develop them as far as possible – its cliché but ideas are ‘currency’ in the TV/Radio world and a good idea is a good idea no matter who or where it has come from.

If you don’t get through first time and you know it’s what you want to do, please don’t let it stop you. Try and get some more experience, keep focused and apply next year. There is a lot of work involved, so you have to be able to prioritise – I had to take time off writing my dissertation to prepare for an interview, but it’s about how you make the time up again!

Where do you see yourself in 5 years’ time?

In 5 years’ time I’d love to be working on shows like Blue Peter, The One Show or Children In Need, either as a researcher or Assistant Producer.  Factual, magazine style shows and documentaries are the programmes I watch the most, so naturally they are where I want to work. I would highly recommend going for jobs in the areas of TV/Radio you watch/listen to the most, you’re already a fan and know a lot about it so it makes sense. My ultimate but unlikely dream would be to become a Blue Peter presenter; I would jump at the chance to be in their shoes even for a day; I can’t think of a more exciting and challenging job. There’s no normal route into a role like that though, so it may always be a pipe dream unfortunately… but you never know!

QM Careers offers a wide range of support for interview preparation and application technique. You can book your appointment by calling 020 7882 8533 or by dropping in – Queens Building WG3.


How To Get Into Media: Tips From Industry Insiders

The videos from the first ever Media Summit are now live on our YouTube page.

Take a look and find out whether our guests think it’s best to specialise or if they argue that variety is the spice of media life.

Channel 4 Dispatches journalist, Hannah Livingston, gives great advice to those wanting to get into TV; whilst Rebecca Coxon, Production Management Assistant at BBC Factual, tells us what kind of experience can help you succeed in the BBC Production Talent Pool.

The videos also feature Alex Thomson, Chief Correspondent, Channel 4 News and Edwin Lampert Group Managing Editor, Riviera Maritime Media. They both highlight the extensive routes into media, including the often overlooked opportunities at business to business (b2b) publications.

There is also great insider advice on how to succeed in the media industry and how you can get experience in the area your passionate about, outside internships and employment.

If you missed the event you can read what the guests had to say here.