Working in broadcasting: Employee case study

Hana Odell describes her job as location director for a production company.

What is your role?

I am involved in programme development. I set up the format structure of the programme with my team. I work on the editorial side of the programme pre-shoot and then direct one of the crews out on location on filming days.

What do you like about your job?

I love the fact that every show you work on is different.

As a freelancer, you’re always working with new companies and with new people. I’ve worked with some great contributors. I get to travel and I’ve seen parts of the UK I would never have visited otherwise.

What’s not so great about it?

You have to work long hours and can work up to six days a week in the run-up to a shoot. On location, you might start at 6am and finish at 10 or 11pm at night.

You will also have to make sacrifices such as missing friends’ and family’s parties because you’re filming on location. You have to get used to being away from home for a couple of weeks at a time.

You’ll need to accept that it’s difficult to plan holidays when you’re working freelance. I always manage to get a holiday, but it has to be at the last minute!

How did you get to where you are?

I came to the industry when I was 25. I had been working in advertising when I saw a vacancy for the research trainee team at Channel 4. I didn’t get it, but was chosen to be a runner for the company.

I stayed at Channel 4 for about five years and then worked as an editorial assistant. I then went freelance, working as a researcher and later on as an assistant producer. I’ve been working in TV for about seven years now.

What do you want to do next?

I’d like to move on to producer or director maybe, but I want to keep working on programmes that inspire and challenge me.

What kind of skills and qualities do you need to be good at your job?

Experience is key and you need to be able to think on your feet and multi-task. You need to be good with people. Some programmes require more research, so it helps to have an academic understanding of how to research.

In some programme areas, you might need a degree. I’d probably find it quite difficult to get onto any of the historical programmes around now about the First World War without a history degree. But it is quite an open industry. I know people who went straight in at 18 and worked their way up.

What kinds of changes are going on in your industry?

Today there are more ways to watch TV on a variety of platforms. It is an exciting and also challenging time for the industry.

People are never going to stop watching TV, whether it’s on their phone or on demand. The next ten years should be very exciting. It is an ever-expanding and changing industry.

What advice would you give young people thinking of doing your job in the future?

You need to be able to think on your feet and multi-task. You also need to be good with people. Brush up your research skills.

The industry is built on work experience. Watch the closing titles of your favourite show to the very end to see which production company makes it and then send them your CV.

Getting onto those shows will help you work out if it’s the industry for you. Just make sure you display a passion for TV, not just a passion for meeting celebs!

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I cover the lifestyle content for The Scotsman Magazine, The Scotsman's Saturday supplement.

Gaby Soutar, lifestyle writer for The Scotsman Magazine