Editorial Case Study

Matt Underwood, Researcher | June 2017

Matt decided to quite a PGCE and turn his attentions to finding work in TV, a few years later, the gamble paid off and Matt is now a researcher for Tigress Productions.

Tell us a bit about yourself and what inspired you to enter the TV industry?

I first thought about working in television when I was studying for my A-levels. I had always loved animals, religiously watching anything Attenborough. I wanted to learn more about animals, and get paid to do it! 

I was set on studying Biology at University, and was keen on Bristol University because of the BBC NHU being on the doorstep. But for reasons that I can’t remember, I decided on Sheffield University over Bristol, and over the course of my degree I started to doubt whether or not working in television was a realistic option. So I decided to start training as a science teacher after leaving university. 

My teacher training brought me to Bristol, and I would walk past the NHU every day on my way into university. I would think to myself “that’s where I really want to be”, and I regretted giving up on the idea of working in television. 

But during the next couple of months I started to meet people that worked in the TV industry, and I was enjoying my PGCE less and less. As I was building up a few contacts in television I saw my opportunity, so I quit my PGCE and directed my efforts towards getting a job as a runner. 

It took a few months, but a bit of perseverance paid off, and I eventually got a job as a runner at Tigress

What was the best piece of advice you were given by your tutors/teachers to prepare you for the working world? 

I don’t think I ever listened to my teachers and tutors about work … I had too many ideas for what I wanted to do, and I never stuck with an idea long enough for anyone to give me any proper advice on any of them …!

Did you take on any unpaid positions to gain experience?

I was lucky – I only had to do one week of unpaid work experience at Films@59 before getting a week of running work at Tigress. That one week at Tigress turned into more than two years – I’m still here now. 

How long did it take you to get your first permanent (or fixed term) paying job, and how long did it take you to consistently find paid work?

After quitting my PGCE, I spent about two to three months trying to get work experience, writing to various companies to enquire about any potential positions, and trying to meet new people and make new connections. 

I eventually got a week of work experience with the runners at Films@59. Part-way through this week of work experience I heard from one of the contacts that I had made who worked at Tigress – they needed someone to cover a runner for a week in the office. 

This week went well, and as it turned out the runner that I was covering was leaving a few weeks later. I was asked to take their position as an office runner – I accepted straight away. 

Since starting as an office runner, I have consistently been in work: I was an office runner for about 9 months, before being given the opportunity to move on to a production as a junior researcher, and have since moved between various projects as a junior researcher and junior coordinator 

When working as a runner what are your responsibilities, and what have you found hardest to master?

As an office runner I supported the office manager in keeping the office in good condition and making sure the productions had everything they needed. This included setting up for meetings, making teas and coffees for visitors, running errands, clearing the kitchen, looking after the plants in the office, and locking up the office at the end of the day – chores! 

Between these tasks, I would also support productions. At times they would need someone to check over and pack kit for shoots, they would need rushes logged, and sometimes help with some research. I also got the opportunity to go out on a few short shoots as a location runner, and help film development tasters

Are there any processes or elements of the job/industry that have come as a surprise and you would want to pass onto others?

Every job has elements that it would great to get someone else to do, this changes from role to role, but also project to project. 

As a runner I would cheekily try and avoid going out on errands such as food shopping, but I would take on other jobs to make up for it, jobs that the other runner wanted to avoid

Currently I wouldn’t mind passing on some archive research to someone else – it feels endless! 

Having worked in the industry for a period of time what advice would you give to those just starting out?

Take every opportunity that you can – paid or unpaid. 

If working in TV is what you really want to do, go for it! Don’t let yourself or others talk you out of it like I did. At least try and get your foot in through the door, that way you won’t regret not trying. 

Perseverance is one of the main reasons most people get into television

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