Matt Smith: head of production at Tech TV
Matt Smith: head of production at Tech TV
A view from Matt Smith

Working your way up? 'Fraid so

What happened to working your way up the ladder? Time was, you started at the bottom, made your mistakes, learned all you could and slowly made the climb up to where you wanted to be.

The key to it all was getting experience.

Now it seems a large slice of those leaving college expect to parachute straight into a top job, with no paid experience – especially in the creative industries. A lot of college leavers send us CVs with self-inflated titles such as "Director of Photography" or "Director", on the basis that they've bought a DSLR camera and shot a few things at college.

I'm not sure whether it’s a case of a generation watching 'The Apprentice' and thinking everything comes quickly, or whether colleges are putting unrealistic goals into peoples’ heads, but it’s almost as if no one wants to be a runner any more.

I read an interesting note on the Unit List this week that echoed this sentiment. The site posts freelance jobs for people working in TV and film – producers, camera ops, directors, that sort of thing. Clearly deluged with the wrong kind of applicants, they’ve started putting a caution on every job they post, urging people not to apply if they have no experience:

Entitled, ‘Why do I have to be a runner in my first job? I have a degree and was a producer at university’, the caution states: ‘Being a producer at university or on a hobby short film is NOT the same role in broadcast TV. It is not subject to the same pressures or requirements of skill, experience or responsibility. It is NOT appropriate to apply for a job as a broadcast TV producer when you have not had experience to at least assistant producer level on several broadcast jobs.’

Don’t get me wrong – there are a lot of talented young film-makers shooting and editing amazing stuff at the moment. But, like the Unit List guys say, if you've not been exposed to the pressure of being paid to get it right, you've not got the experience yet.

That said, with a bit of humility and eagerness to learn, anyone starting out will soon get on the right track and things will flow. And when you’re really under pressure in a few years' time, you’ll be grateful you did the donkey work to get there.

It’ll give you experience that will get you out of trouble.

Matt Smith is Head of Production at Tech TV

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