Wednesday, April 30, 2008

No work without experience, and vice versa

If you've never been to the BBC jobs website, I recommend a visit. Go to the zone marked Select a BBC jobs category and choose programme making. It's instructive to see what opportunities are publicly advertised. Read the job descriptions and you get some sense of what staffers are expected to do and what experience they're expected to have in order to be considered for a position.

A kindly reader of this blog noted my comments yesterday about wanting to work as a TV drama script editor, and pointed out an opening at everlasting BBC medical drama Casualty. But a quick glance at the job description and pre-requisites soon revealed this - REQUIRED KNOWLEDGE AND EXPERIENCE: 1. Script editing experience. If you want to apply for a script editing job, you need to have experience of script editing. And how do you get experience? By working as a script editor. Catch-22, here we come.

There is a career path to securing that position. Several continuing drama series employ assistant script editors, where people can learn and hone the multiplicity of required skills on the job with the safety net of a more experienced script editor to guide them. But such positions are rare, and most often filled by those one stop further down the food chain: researchers.

Even getting a researcher gig ain't that easy. But there is another way in to be found on the BBC jobs site: work experience placements. The script departments at Casualty and Holby City both advertise placements, while BBC Films offers opportunities for those willing to work for free to get a foot in the door. So there are chances for those willing to make the effort.

Last but not least, some courses and training experiences may open the door to work. It's not unknown for people who take a script reading course with the Script Factory to be offered work as a consequence. The BBC has a Training and Development division, offering courses in a wide range of disciplines. Among these are a two-day introduction to script editing TV drama. Naturally, there's no guarantee paying to do this course will lead to anything and it ain't cheap [six hundred and ten pounds for two days!].

Even when a situation seems like a hopeless Catch-22, there are always possibilities. The only question is whether you've got the drive and tenacity to pursue those openings, no matter how many obstacles stand in your way. I've often seen persistence is the trump card that separates those who want a certain career and those who get it. Ask yourself, just how much do you want it?


michellelipton said...

And don't forget that Casualty is prime time Saturday night on BBC1 - it's a high profile show with a higher budget than a lot of continuing dramas, it attracts high profile guest actors and uses experienced writers. Of course, this means they need experienced script editors.

But it can be done. A friend of mine just got a script editing job on an S4C show without any prior script editing experience. And hey presto! Now he's experienced...

Maybe set your sights on smaller shows like ones on cable or digital channels, or ones which use new writers?

AndrewT said...

Sadly BBC work experience (certainly in Scotland) isn;t the most organised. I've been waiting three months to hear back if I've been selected for news experience!