July 28, 2022, by Leah Sharpe
How I Broke Into the TV Industry
By Tolu Baruwa, International Media and Communications graduate and Production Assistant at The Crown S6
Breaking into the TV industry is hard enough. But trying to break into it whilst you’re in third year writing your dissertation, keeping up with your other modules, having a social life, plus dealing with the anxiety of a global pandemic, is a whole other level.
How I got my foot in the door
It was my final year and I was beginning to write my dissertation on the impact of high-end drama. The pressure was high as I was also starting to apply for graduate roles. Many of my peers from the more corporate sectors, had been receiving their graduate acceptance letters, and whilst I was happy for them, I couldn’t help feeling like I wanted mine as well.
I knew that I wanted to work in television but I didn’t know how to get there. I was applying for media graduate schemes but was not getting much luck with them. One piece of advice kept coming up when I asked for help from people on LinkedIn, “all you need is to get your foot in the door”.
Using my initiative, I made a list of all the UK independent production companies that had produced my favourite TV shows. I was set on emailing all of them to ask for graduate opportunities. After receiving numerous rejections and empty responses, I narrowed my focus down to my favourite one out of the lot. I contacted that company three times from October to March, until they decided to reach out to me. They were hiring a Runner. And straight after university, I started the job.
I started the job and sat beside the girl who rejected me numerous times via email. She says that I stood out because of my persistence. Working on the other side, I saw numerous people sending in their CVs for roles in the company. The people who stood out were those who followed up on the last email, after a month and nudged it up to the top of my inbox. I went on to secure a role on one of the company’s hit shows as a Production Assistant.
Firstly, I must note that deciding to work in the creative industry is a risk, as it is precarious in nature. It is not linear in the way that a more corporate industry is. You may choose to be freelance for some time, or you may often hear, “It’s not about who you know, but who knows you”.
Getting as much support around you is beneficial. I applied for mentoring through Creative Access. Through my mentors, I have been able to gain production and script reading experience, build relationships with inspiring people in the industry, and overall, increase my confidence in my TV career. A mentor can even help you navigate whether this is the industry you really want to pursue. But it does not even need to be quite as formal as having a mentor. Simply speaking to a careers adviser or even reaching out to a few people in your desired industry on LinkedIn can help. It may be daunting at first, but remember that people love knowing that they can help you in some capacity.
Prioritise and take your time
Secondly, applying for jobs whilst studying can be overwhelming, so it’s important to take things one step at a time. Taking note of upcoming application and submission deadlines is useful so you can plan ahead but also prioritise what is necessary at the moment. Don’t put pressure on yourself or compare your process to your peers. Allow yourself to unwind if it gets too stressful.
Believe in yourself
Finally, If I’m honest, I was quite scared of entering this industry. I had imposter syndrome when being the only black woman in a meeting room, for example. I know that many other ethnic minorities feel like this across all industries. But I would encourage you to remember that no matter how different you may appear or sound, you are deserving of whatever space you are in because you worked for it. Though it is slow moving, there is a lot of progress in terms of diverse employment. I am glad to say that after almost a year of working here, I have met with some of the most talented writers, executive producers and directors that are all people of colour. It gives me so much hope when I see them, as it reassures me that there is a space for me in those influential positions too.
Be persistent, take your time and unapologetically, take up space!
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