How to Impress on a TV Set – Gayle Woodruff

Today’s Top Ten Tips is filtered from an outstanding talk by Gayle Woodruff, from Northern Film and Media.  The talk was literally months ago, but it’s been sitting there in my notes, and in the back of my mind all this time.  And after so many of you got in contact following our post about Edinburgh TV Festival’s intense TV course “The Network”, I thought now would be a perfect time to share Gayle’s words of wisdom with you.

1) No Job is Too Demoralising

Gayle Woodruff“Some people might turn their nose up at a job that’s just making tea and coffee – but that’s the best way to get yourself in front of a whole TV crew.” – Gayle Woodruff, Northern Film & Media

What if you find yourself in the fortunate position of being invited to work on a TV set?  How can you make the most of your time on that TV set?  How can you stand out from the hundreds of other runners in your area, and really impress your TV employers?  With a huge thanks to Gayle, here are Top Ten Tips for kick-starting your – or how to impress a TV/film crew.

2) Proactivity is Powerful

“If you find yourself on a film set with nothing else to do, ask if there’s more you can do.  Inevitably, there will be something; as long as you’ve finished your tasks that your line manager has given you, don’t be afraid to ask around, and find those other people to impress.” – Gayle Woodruff, Northern Film and Media

3) Make Yourself as Contactable as Possible

“In some instances, you might be a valuable resource for a media professional.  It shows you’re reliable, and they might use you again.  For instance, Anna Harding, Regional News Editor for Global Radio, needed a law lecturer & tried to get in contact with me.  She had my number – I don’t know how, but luckily she did.  And then, I was able to help out a very important person in the radio industry, who has potential to be very influential to my news career.” – Journalism student, anom.

video-943580_19204) The Unfortunate TV Truth (at least for people like me)

Can you drive?  I’m 23, and I don’t have a full driving license.  But according to Gayle Woodruff, it’s an essential part of working in TV or filmmaking.  I strongly advise that you at least get yourself a full working license, even if you don’t own a car yourself.

You may be required to help transport the TV equipment, the props, the set, or even the actors and guests.  It’s all about making yourself as useful as possible to the people around you; and having (or at least being able to drive) a car opens up so many possibilities for a TV or film crew.

5) Truly Transferable Skills

“If you’ve worked at McDonalds, you’ve naturally developed tons of transferable skills that are imperative for a career in TV.  You’ll have worked difficult, tiring shifts, deal with lots of people all day, and (perhaps most importantly) you’ll have learned to smile all the time, even when you don’t feel like smiling.” – Gayle Woodruff, Northern Film and Media

And if you haven’t worked in fast food, think about what other skills you’ve learned that can help you in your TV career.  You should be able to apply next to any role if you know the skills to look out for; and here at 99% Perspiration, we’ll be exploring this in a future Ten Top Tips.


6) Pop the Question

If you get a placement in TV, make sure you get yourself known as someone who cares about being there.  Ask questions, take advice, and don’t just shy away into a corner.  It’s the people who ask questions who stand out.  Bombard them with questions (to a limit, of course), and your TV crew will remember you.

cameraman-382886_19207) Know Where You Want To Be in TV (Even If You Don’t)

“If you want to work in TV, it’s best to think of a career path, or a role on the TV crew (sound, lighting, camera, production assistant, floor manager, etc.) and stick to it.  Take a role you’re interested in and learn everything you can about it.  It’s important to choose one thing, even if you don’t sick with it, because it looks better to an employer if you have a focus and show that you can dedicate yourself to a specific career trajectory than showcase a general interest.” Gayle Woodruff, Northern Film and Media


8) The Art of Massage

Not a literal massage, un/fortunately.

“TV drama and film sets are very hierarchal – a lot of working in TV is massaging people’s egos.  Be nice to your line managers, even if you don’t agree with them on some things.” – Gayle Woodruff, Northern Film & Media


12443287_10154060325073552_1080454322_n9) Keep Hold of Your Contacts

“Keep every unit list and contact sheet for every crew, every programme, every set you ever work on.  You can never know who you may need to contact in the future – but let’s say your director on another shoot needs a camera operator after a drop-out.  You can then be the one to help network people you know work well, and become very favourable in directors’ minds.” – Gayle Woodruff, Northern Film & Media

10) Want It

“Passion, determination, reliability, love, drive, obsession.  Those words can be chucked around anywhere, anybody can say them, but you need to be a strong person to actually prove yourself.  If you want it, make it happen.” – Journalism student, anom.

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And, as always,
Stay productive, stay awesome!

Jay Sykes
Executive Producer, 99% Perspiration


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