Controlling wild children, unruly teenagers and even dogs is all part of the job for a TV Student! Here 3rd year TV Production student Lisa Burton tells us about some of her experiences as a 1st year on work placement.
By Lisa Burton
During my first year at University I knew I wanted to do some work experience within the TV industry as soon as possible in order to help me with my course and more importantly to get some contacts so that when I left University I would feel comfortable knowing that I had some people in the industry I could rely on.
I didn’t predict how much I would learn from working with such a great team and how much it motivated me to work so I could work in such a fab environment again.
One of the work experience placements I undertook was for the new ‘Supernanny’ series for Channel 4 called ‘Jo Frost: Extreme Parental Guidance’. It was a two-week placement in London, the summer before my second year, so I was a little apprehensive as to what to expect. I wasn’t told what programme I would be working on beforehand so just had to trust whatever it was I would work to my best ability!
Days working for the programme differed massively. The team were still in the casting stages for the programme so had to follow the brief which Channel 4 set, which often changed on a daily basis. We were looking for children that had behavioural problems, not the tame version like we are used to in ‘Supernanny’ but even more extreme.
I often would go casting on the streets with researchers and producers. It would often be just be a producer and me out for the day together so having people skills and being able to impress was fundamental. I was asked to approach the general public on the streets but in a professional way that I was taught. This experience has improved my interpersonal and communication skills. Be aware that going out with producers and researchers, you have to be alert and not let your guard down as in the end you are working.
On one day I assisted the DV Director on a recce to a single father’s home who had two young sons. The two little boys would fight all the time and were quite aggressive. Tony the cameraman went off to interview the Dad so I was left in the room with the two boys (aged 9 and 11). There were two dogs who were fighting in the corner. The two boys were a little wild to say the least; the younger one kept saying he was going to blow my head up! The older brother had the television on full blast and so I had to tell him repeatedly to turn it down so it wouldn’t affect the sound for the interview in the other room. I couldn’t tell him off but had to talk to him like he was my friend, which seemed to work eventually. It was a stressful time and I had to control the boys and dogs and be there for Tony if he needed an extra battery for the camera or to answer his mobile when it went off. The little boy who said he wanted to kill me seemed really sad when we left and said he wanted me to stay longer!
Another highlight of the work experience was going to an underage nightclub in Woking with one of the researchers to find a girl who was growing up too quickly for their age. This is an example of having to get up and go when you are needed, especially as this was at night. I have been travelling to Thailand and America before and have been in some scary places, however Woking at night was a little more intimidating. The underage girls were more confident and aggressive than I would ever think a 13 year old could be. We got spat at and shouted at when we asked the girls their age. Lovely. We went inside the club and spoke to some girls and took their details down before making a quick exit and going home.
I advise everyone to do work experience outside University because you learn so many different things that you would not be able to learn in a University environment. I met some amazing people and it definitely gave me the confidence for my placement a few weeks later at Pathé. Get as much work experience as you can out the way before third year because believe me you’ll have plenty of work to be getting on with!