Director / Producer Paul Leyshon writes about his move from S4C to network TV, and some CV tips he got at the Media Parents networking evening in Bristol, sponsored by BBC Bristol and RDF Television West.
There are times in life when we all need that little bit of parental guidance. That little tightening of the scarf, and the dreaded spit on the hanky and wipe across our chops before jumping on the school bus.
As a Director / Producer with ten years experience working for S4C in Wales, despite being top of the class and one of the big fish in my little pond, I can’t help but feel like the new Kid on his first day at Big school when it comes to applying for network jobs.
For S4C in Wales I’m one of the channel’s main Lifestyle and Reality TV Directors. I’ll go so far as to say I’m probably the main Children’s Director having been UK and Welsh Bafta nominated in the past six years and annually responsible for delivering the most popular shows.
However with the big local companies almost becoming ‘closed shops’ due to recent budget constraints, the freelance landscape is that little bit harder. In my first two years as a freelancer I worked relying only on my reputation and word of mouth. I now have to ‘chase’ work much more. With a spoon full of sugar to help the ‘pride’ go down it is something I have found pretty difficult up until now.
During the past 18 months I have been sending off my CV to a whole range of companies in England. 200+ jobs applied for through other recognized media websites with little or no luck.
For a reasonable £700 I had my show reel and website up and running and with references and clips from the likes of Alex Jones (The One Show) and Matt Johnson (This Morning) it is money well spent. However, hoping to break into London and Bristol, I still wasn’t getting a sniff of a job. When I did the replies were usually “you’re over qualified”, “you’re a jack of all trades” or “you haven’t worked outside Wales”.
Having recently joined ‘Media Parents’, I’ve received some useful feedback from Amy Walker. And this week I had the opportunity of coming to the Media Parents networking event in BBC Bristol.
I was very fortunate to speak to Jennie Macdiarmid, BBC Talent Manager, Richard Bowron, Exec Producer at Love Productions, and Emma Dowley, Production Executive at RDF West. All three gave great advice on where I was going wrong with the layout of my CV and plenty of hints and tips as to how I should be applying. In addition to this the evening was a good opportunity to chat to other talented freelancers and meet some interesting people.
Here are some of the CV tips I was given at the Media Parents event:
- “Say at the top what ‘I’ am looking for and want to do. Use present not past tense to say what I want and can bring to the table / what my ambitions are.”
- “All the content and experience is there – just not dynamic enough in presentation – grab attention in the first few lines”.
- “Too many credits – better to choose the main ones and stick to 2 rather than three pages.”
- I was told also it may even be worth having 3 CV’s tailored toward a certain genre / job that I’m going for.
I had reservations about S4C stuff not being seen as major broadcast credit but Richard Bowron quashed that straight away.
So having given away my CV (albeit one that needs changing) to several Execs and been given a number of contacts and email addresses, I came away with a lot more confidence and a clearer idea of what roles I should be applying for and the best way of doing so.
As good a tool as my website is (and I would recommend the use of a website to anyone as an online show reel / biography), I was lazily hoping that Exec Producers would be taking a leisurely summer stroll through each page, browsing away like a holiday maker in ‘departures’ with way too much time on their hands. Not the case of course, and thanks to some advice from Media Parents I now have direct links to my website and youtube show reels straight from my CV.
Despite thinking I was practically perfect in every way, a Mary Poppins style clean up of my CV and approach is what was needed. And lo and behold on writing this I already have my first interview set up through Media Parents since joining a couple of weeks ago.
I am more positive in my approach now and hopefully I can sell myself a little better in the big bad world of network television without needing an adult telling me to tie my shoe laces and to pull my socks up.