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Sunday, 23 March 2014

What the Weazel Wonders: Where Does The Time Go?!

It has been a ridiculously long time since I blogged on here. Unacceptably long. You likely follow me on Twitter for this - and the #TVTIPS - exact reason. I would have stopped following me by now...

I made an attempt to keep things current with a few tweets and lots of re-posting old entries.

I am officially a lame ass blogger.

The purpose of what I am going to talk about today is two fold: a reminder that it's important to not allow this here career we have all desperately battled to break into take over, and secondly, to ponder as to how others do so much!

Take my friend Tulip*. She is an AP. A freelance AP - so like myself, and many of you - has to stay on top of her networking game to keep in work. So - she has a full time job (full time being TV full time - so at least 15 hour days... and an extra day on the weekends for good measure); she has to keep her schmoozing, networking and CV in current top form; and she does social stuff. On top of this, I see from her social-networking feed that she sees her family on a very regular basis. She also volunteers in a soup kitchen - every week. She regularly talks of days spent in supermarkets collecting tins for another charitable giving project. She never turns up at a do without a card and gift- and a good gift at that. She finds time to see friends. She also constantly promotes cool things - where you can tell she has taken the time to research them. Oh, and she goes to Power Ballads and other awesome nights on a regular basis. I have never seen her in the office in an un-ironed outfit, or with hair that should have been washed at least that morning.

Last week I started wearing Ben's clothes to work. I kid you not. I had literally run out of clean -suitable - things to wear. It was a case of aim for 'I'm still young and funky at heart' and go for jeans, converse and Ben's Hooters t-shirt - or, wear the kind of outfit the girls at Hooters actually wear. I wasn't sure the latter would go down well with my new Exec - especially in light of the fact that not only have I not had time to do any clothes washing, neither have I tanned my pasty thighs in quite some time!

Ok - so it isn't always like this - but I have found that since Christmas my work life has taken over. Everything. No wonder the odd Friday I have escaped early I have ended up a drunken, quivering mess in the new local at Media City.

January was spent in a mental edit - literally mental. Long days, masses of legals, too many people requiring viewings and sign off and more changes than you could shake a stick at. I was privileged that
I have been involved in this project in a way a PM would never usually be - to the extent little old me was, for example, doing audio sign offs and sitting in online making changes and having actual editorial influence. So - I didn't mind being crazy busy - I was loving it in fact!

February followed suit - with the added pleasure of contributor viewings (cue more fixes), press and PR, PASC and music cues (I curse them - all 9042 of them).

Before I knew it, it was March. The second week of March. How the mother-funk did that happen?!

Those of you who know me well - or have merely met me in the latter stages of a #TVMINGLING event - will know a few things about me:
- I love a good time (work hard, play hard is a big mantra of mine)
- I am obsessed with having perfectly manicured fingers and pedicured toes
- I have OCD and cannot stand anything in any of my cupboards being in the wrong place
- I generally scrub up ok
- I LOVE my family and London

Not now my friends. Over the last 10 weeks or so my life has literally turned to a state of chaos. Admittedly a broken foot (yup - cheers 2014 for that one) hasn't helped. I feel I need to be honest in order to move forward:

- there are currently four (large) hampers of dirty laundry in my house. Some of which has been in the bottom since we came back from New York. At New Year....
- I haven't had a pedicure since Christmas
- not only are my cups in all the wrong cupboards, the cupboards haven't been cleaned internally since Christmas. Just a quick Flash wipe over....
- I haven't been to see my family since Christmas. Despite being in London twice for work.

OH GOD. Did I really admit to the cleaning (lack of) bit on a public blog?!?

So - the moral of this story is: I need to get it sorted. All of it. Especially seeing my family.

The reality is Tulip* and every other well dressed, organised soul in TV feel the strain too. The difference is I have genuinely just let work consume me. I have been so addicted to making sure everything at work is perfect, I have neglected my home life. Poor Ben now has nothing left to wear seeing as I have shimmied my way through his wardrobe now too. Admittedly he could turn the washing machine on from time to time - but that's a whole other story...

So - from tomorrow onwards - I am doing this:
- leaving work by 1900 latest UNLESS it is critical (staying late to chronologically order release forms cos the person who filed them did not, is not urgent. That is just my OCD.)
- going back to Bikram Yoga at least once a week. WITHOUT FAIL. A calm soul is a calm mind - and a calm mind, gets the job done quicker.
- reinstating wine Wednesdays. Social time is vital for a good balance right?
- delegating. I must learn, that even in a limited team, it isn't my job to do it all (combo of the OCD and being a control freak).
- doing at least 2 washes a day until the laundry is caught back up on. By doing the leaving on time thing, I will be able to stay awake til the load finishes and thus hang it out.
- getting a cleaner (yup, I am turning into someone I never thought I would be. She is called Caroline and arrives tomorrow - at 1830 - which is fine, cos I am finishing at 1800, right?!).

This blog will have been way more therapeutic to me than it is of use to you I am sure -but I hope that is shows you this: even those of us who appear to be 'doing well' in the game, are battling. TV is an uncertain game - but what you can be certain of is you will have to learn to balance it along with other elements of your life. It is rarely 9 to 5. You rarely only do what is on your job description. You and only you are responsible for ensuring you don't let the other schizzle slide.

So on that note, I am off to get a pedicure. Then I am going to B&Q. I need to buy some filler.... on one of those rare very drunken Friday's I accidentally smashed my door handle through a wall. 6 weeks ago. Yup, that shit needs fixing!!!

*Tulip is not her name. It's a gorgeous name but it isn't very her - I hope she identifies herself and giggles at my choice of pseudo-name for her....

** I PROMISE - PINKY PROMISE - to write an ace and useful blog by Wednesday of this week

*** #TVMINGLING SPRING BREAK HAS BEEN RE-ORGANISED - TICKET DETAILS OUT FRIDAY 28 MARCH

**** Thank you for standing by me -I promise to be better here on :)

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Should you negotiate your rate?

When you apply for a role - if you are not in one of the few fortunate ones where the rate is fairly standardised and accepted without question - there is always likely to be the dreaded question of 'what is your current rate?'.

I say dreaded because - in my experience - people generally feel slightly uncomfortable talking about money. I don't think we should - but somehow we do.

If you are going for a production or editorial role you generally know that the others who have applied could potentially undercut you - so you want to give a competitive price - yet equally you feel you have advanced in skill range and thus want to increase your own income. It's bloody tough!

There is also the cat and mouse game of assuming the PM/Exec/etc will offer you a lesser rate than you ask for - and thus you add a 'safe £50' to cover yourself if they do (with a bonus pay rise if they don't!).

Wouldn't it be so much easier if things were standardised I hear you cry?! Well, yes and no.

Lets say - for the sake of discussion - two researchers meet for a coffee: one has just stepped up and one has been researching for 12 months. They discuss pay - the researcher who has more 'on the job' experience discovers she is earning £50.00 less a week than the NQ. This can be super frustrating BUT it is important to remember several things when setting your rate/assuming you are being duffed over:

1. GENRE - the area of TV you work in will greatly affect how much you are paid. As an example - a drama runner will work on average 15 hours a week more than a TV office runner, and as such, it should be reflected in their pay. The factual AP will generally earn less than his/her entertainment AP peers - factual TV tends to have less of a budget (tends - don't start shouting at me).

2. ACTUAL ON THE JOB EXPERIENCE - now, this one upsets some folk. They cry out that they may have other, relevant skills/ a stronger academic record/ produce better results. I understand - I have been there guys - but generally, it is accepted that the more on the job experience you have the higher your rate. So - for example - the NQ researcher gets £450 and the researcher with 2 years experience gets £550, etc. That is life.

As I said - I do understand that this can be frustrating - I remember working on a job with a Coordinator once when I was a Coordinator - she was getting £75 a week more than me... as she had 7 years more Coord experience. Now in my mind I was thinking hang on a minute, if she isn't ready to step up after 7 years she can't be that great (remember this is my personal opinion - not saying you must all have progressed within a certain time frame, this was simply how I honestly felt) - however, she had earned her rate by dedicating time to the role and gaining small increments and that was how it was. Simples.

3. LOCATION - geographically, if you do make the decision to accept a role outside of London you must GENERALLY be prepared to take a small cut in rate. Equally, if you make the move to London - do not be afraid to ask for more. London staff and crew tend to earn more. I am earning less as a PM in Manchester than I do in London - am I working any less? Hell no... it's just how it has worked out.

4. HISTORY - if you have worked at a company before they may be more inclined to up your rate from the last time they hired you - meaning you find it easier to secure a pay rise. This is not always the case - but it can help.

5. CONFIDENCE - when asked your rate (so long as you are being fair and not asking for something insane) hold your head high, look the person asking said question in the eye, smile and say firmly (albeit politely) 'my rate is £xx'. The second you introduce 'I would like it to be...' 'I think I deserve...' etc into the conversation, you open the floodgates for... NEGOTIATION!

So - should you negotiate your rate? YES! If you make a request and it is accepted - jackpot! if however they offer you less do have the safety net of knowing it is ok to try and negotiate somewhere in between. If they don't have the money - they will simply tell you, and then you can make the decision as to whether there are any other advantages to the role and whether you can still afford to live.

Sometimes a £25 hit can be worth it if you can gain new skills - i.e. being taught how to shoot, etc.

GOOD LUCK... go get the rate you deserve!



Tuesday, 18 December 2012

'Assumption'... friend or foe?

Before I worked in television I made a lot of assumptions about those who did - I won't be honest about them all, you will probably all stop reading here and now. I will be honest though and say I made them. Which is quite rare for me - as I generally try and live my life making assumptions as little as possible.

Now don't get me wrong - I do not mean that I avoid obvious assumptions... 

Walking home at night if I have have two paths to take - one dark, intimidating and unknown, and the other better lit, with other folk in sight and safer 'looking' - I will assume my safety is more likely on the latter route...

If my other half pours a large drink at home before a night out, I generally assume he is on a session for the duration...

If my debit card gets declined in the shops, I will assume I have run out of money. This does happen to me sometimes (Must. Stop. Overspending)

I don't however assume things are a given just because they are on offer in the here and now, and I don't assume someone will be a certain way/shape/size simply based upon - well, assumption.

I have found myself the victim of assumption in my 'television life' a few times of late - and it made me realise that there are some key things we all must remember - and also heightened my awareness that we do, in TV (as I am sure in all areas of life/work), assume often.

1. Just because you are successful, excellent at your job and held in high regard, do not assume you will always be in work and will never have to face the 'fear' you often see others going through. 

I was really fortunate this year in that I have not had any gaps in employment - however it has been hairy at times. I realised that I just assumed that there would always be a work offer because there always had been - and actually as a result I have not had the sense to save for that inevitable rainy day. I am not impressed with myself. Please don't think I am arrogant nor that I assumed I would always be offered a job - just that I assumed something would always turn up and therefore never realistically considered how I would manage financially in life had it not. I am always very keen to give advice - and now I am giving some to myself (that I share with you) - no matter how fortunate you have been to date, do not assume that will always be the case (hope however it will be). Put a little away. I intend to, starting.... next month (I just blew a fair few pennies on a new dress so have to wait til the next pay day).

Seriously though - after a recent incident involving a broken leg and 2 weeks of unexpected unpaid leave, I realised the stupidity of having never 'put away'.

I met someone recently who told me he would never not work - 'they love me. I can literally sit on my arse and do fu*k all and get paid. I tell you, they love me' [the companies who hire him]. One day I will run one of those companies and all arrogant moos can assume they will be out the back door! Dick.

2. Never make an assumption about the personal values of another in the industry - especially if you have yet to be given the opportunity to get to know them. It is very easy to feel like you know someone simply because you have formed a relationship with them in a basic Twitter (or a.n.other social site) chat, or because you share an office space. I credit myself for not making this mistake very often - and 'assumed' most were the same - yet twice this week I have been insulted by flippant comments thrown at me by others who have simply made them on nothing but assumption. One about my personal nature and another about my methods of work practice. Both were wrong.

If you do not know someone incredibly well, either take the time to get to know the facts or reality, or say nothing. We might make television, create artistic masterpieces and claim top notch rating figures just 'like that'... we do not however have the power of knowing others as we do ourselves. By all means, observe, form opinion on actuality - but never assume.

3. DO assume that you should always be treated with respect in the workplace. I was saddened to meet a young man recently who - upon my asking why he allowed his colleagues to openly mock almost everything about him - told me that he had 'always assumed they would... I mean look at me'. I was outraged. When you take on a post in a company - whether you are in the highest or lowest role there appears to be, you should take it on with pride and safe in the knowledge that you were given it because you are capable and deserving. Even if you have your own confidence battles - you must assume that you will be given respect by your peers. If you are not - then don' assume - as my young man then told me - that, that is just as it is in TV... as far as I am concerned, I do not think it matters what the industry is, no member of staff deserves to be ridiculed and made to feel like hats just how it is.

4. Avoid assuming that change is bad. Working in Production it is my job to adapt to the practices of a new show, company or Line Manager. Sometimes however it is my job to show one of the above that perhaps their practices are the thing that need adapting. We have a preference for doing things in life - in both business and pleasure. We generally - even if not consciously aware of it - assume that the way we do something is the best way/ the most efficient way/ the only way... in work, ensure you listen to why someone else is doing something before you assume it isn't the way they should. Yes - it may turn out that your initial assumption was correct - but every once in a while you might just learn something. In assuming you give nothing else a chance - and without a chance, we do not learn.

Anyhow - that is basically all I wanted to say about that. BTW on the thread of assumption...

1. I do not have short hair. It is tied up in my picture.
2. I am not orange - I had a spray tan for a night out. I do not go to work like this. 
3. Apparently there is no such thing as a baby pigeon... assumed by lack of sighting. There is - I had three dumped on my balcony at uni. Do not assume things aren't true just because you cannot immediately see them.
4. I - like all of you I am sure - am not invincible. Be kind to each other.


It's interesting because people assume that because I'm famous, I know all famous people [Daniel Radcliffe]





Thursday, 6 December 2012

Ho ho ho... did you hear about what happened at the Christmas Party?!


This one is for you all – tis the season to be jolly. With your friends. With your family. With your colleagues – to a lesser extent.

The Christmas Party can be a cracking day/night out – but don’t enjoy it so much that the joke afterwards, is on you!

Equally – do go and enjoy it!

The crimbo do is supposed to be the ‘highlight of the year’, ‘a way of saying thanks to the staff’, an opportunity to ‘get to know your colleagues in a more informal environment’... according to the top dogs (no top dog in particular). I think it is a great opportunity to show you are human by having a few free drinks, a boogy with the boss and leave with your dignity still intact!

There are so many horror stories about how so-and-so did such-and-such last year and got sacked/never came back/etc that for those of you new to a company or indeed the industry may even question if you should risk going to the party. You must. Equally, there will be some who do not like their colleagues as anything other than that – a colleague, and prefer not to mix business with pleasure. You must go too. Even if just for a fleeting visit. A no show at all will always be noticed no matter how new/shy/old/young/boring you (think you) are.

Why is it so important you ask? Managers are always looking for team players – and the Christmas party is a great way to get your face known around the company (make sure it is just your face though...) and besides when else can you talk freely with the Head of HR/MD/post boy... by its very nature the Christmas Party (at the early stages) is a melting pot where all barriers come down and you get to relax. This really is to your advantage (well, at the very least not detrimental to you) as long as you observe some simple boundaries...

The Do’s!
  • Go! Have fun. Talk to people, smile and laugh. It IS the season to be merry!
  • Listen to people when they talk to you – don’t do that awful media fake ‘mmm that sounds great’ [so awkward when someone just told you they are going through a divorce/their dog just died]
  • Make thoughtful introductions – they will go a long way to some. Do not use this as an opportunity to dump the office dud but actually consider who so and so may like to meet/hasn’t met yet
  • Make a positive impact – make people smile and laugh. You want to leave this party having made a positive impact – you can absolutely be the one who suggests a great ice breaker or the first round of tequilas; do not be the booze hound in the gutter waving your empty shot glass at the MD in his/her departing car
  • Talk about things which are upbeat and interesting as opposed to the usual work dry chat or moans about the crap quality of the stationary (etc)
  • Dance/sing karaoke/join in on the action – to show willing. Don’t hog the mic all night... especially if you sound like dog sh*t!

The Don’ts (in my opinion)
  • Talk incessantly about work – this is a social occasion and nobody wants to hear your strategy ideas over wine!
  • Boast about your new promotion/salary increase
  • Ask for a promotion/salary increase – just because the boss has had a few sherries...
  • Take a souvenir from the venue ( or if you must, do not get caught)
  • At no time is it ever cool to show off your exotic/erotic dance moves... keep them in the bedroom (if at all!)
  • Reciprocate advances from married colleagues. It will end badly. Cheating is not cool and i think both parties are very naughty
  • Forget to check that your dress/skirt/whatever is where it should be – I went to a party once where a poor girl spent half an hour wandering around with her spanx on display to the whole office (it was not me...)*
  • Snog anyone you may not ‘like’ in the morning. Or give BJs on the back of the coach home. Everyone will talk about it afterwards!!!

The Don’ts (as kindly donated by some of my gorgeous followers on Twitter – thanks all!)
  • Shout random words every ten minutes and think it is really funny. You will just be ‘that dick who kept shouting dog’...
  • Give the crappy gift you got in last year’s office Secret Santa to someone in your office. Awkward...
  • Get really drunk and tell people how you really feel about them!
  • Photocopy your arse
  • Cop off with your boss
  • Take someone home... can be mega awkward...

Remember that successful networking is based upon what people say about you when you are not there. What do you want your co-workers to be saying about you after the party?!?

  • On that vein... I did once (pre TV, a long time ago) wear chicken fillets in my bra to a Christmas Party (for a very posh law firm) and then proceed to crazy dance with my boss – during which one fillet worked its way out of my strapless bra and dress and flew across the dance-floor. I kid you not.

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Christmas is coming... and work is drying up

HO HO HO... tis the season of joy, goodwill and a distinct lack of TV jobs. Apparently.

I have to say there is a slight misconception for entrants to the sector that needs clearing up: runner 'x' said to me the other day, 'apparently there is no work at Christmas but all the other runners I know are working'.

There is lots of work at Christmas - what there is a lack of are new openings. Those working throughout December/January tend to fall into one of two camps (TEND!) - they are either 'staffers' and thus have the guarantee of work all year long (or, until they wander to pastures new/get caught stealing tea bags) or, they are working on a production which runs over the winter/festive period. With regard to the latter, I hear queries of 'how can they be? I heard there was no work at Christmas?' - there is, as I said. It just generally gets recruited to earlier in the year.

Television production does not cease for the winter months - sadly - how fabulous would it be to have three months of 'chill time' (paid, naturally) a year?!? What does slow down though is the start up of new productions and recommissions, thus the reduction in advertised posts.

If you know that you will be available in December, do not wait until December to send out your CV and then cry with dismay 'there is no work!', get proactive and start letting people know your availability from about 6 weeks in advance.

I promise you - if you head to any TV company you will not find desolate corridors and offices with a sense of eeriness. You may however find a lot of TV types abusing the 'festive season' and indulging in wine and mince pies of an evening!

The workflow is steady and productions occur - but there will be lesser 'new roles' on the market. The best way to ensure you are hot to trot for employment over Christmas if you are out of work for a wee while, is to (IMO only!) do the following:

1. Utilise your new found free time to do a CV overhaul and cover letter update
2. Do not wait until you start to see adverts in the New year for roles before you re-establish contacts at firms you have previously worked - I spoke with a Head of Talent for a leading TV company just this week about this and she advised that they would rather know you are available about 4 - 6 weeks in advance and be able to avoid going through an active hunt for crew. Recruitment is time consuming and expensive - so do let people know when you are free to work (although - not to work for free!)
3. Rather than leave blanks on your CV for a significant period, see what other things you can do with your time - for example courses, attending networking events, getting involved with (legal) voluntary media events,  and writing for media publications
4. Keep yourself busy - you will not be at your best for New Year/spring interviews if you have spent 8 weeks dwelling about your lack of work or letting 'the fear' take over. Keep positive - stay busy - and be happy. You will shine and feel much more confident when the roles do start to come back up.

And remember.... in the words of Miss Carey, all I want for Christmas is youuuuuuuuuu. Well, not literally me, but someone will want you - there is still some work there - just be wise about subscribing to it in plenty of time.





Wednesday, 8 August 2012

#TVMINGLING ROUND 2!

So my lovelies... what I am wondering next is what you would like from the next edition of #TVMINGLING

I can confirm that our rescheduled summer (yup - I thought we might actually have one!) event will be launched soon and will be happening in late September. We will also have a Northern leg - in Manchester city centre.

The last event was a resounding success for all - well, all but me... I definitely had too many tequilas to calm my nerves and left the evening a little more tipsy than planned!!!

What I want to ensure that the next event is just as positively received - and what better way to ensure that than to a. take on board the feedback to date and b. open the floor to you all for suggestions

#TVMINGLING will remain a free event - with a focus on informal 'mingling' and networking. An opportunity for people across all levels of television to interact and have a fun yet informative evening.

We intend to keep the expert panel Q&A session - however this time, the ticket registering system will enable you to post your question as you sign up to the event - so that you don't have to send a separate email.

There will be a broader range of experts 'mingling' - to help people across all levels, genres and roles in TV. I intend to initiate a badge system which makes peoples area of expertise more evident - so that you can, if you so wish, target who you network with.

There is going to be a new fun element to the evening - as the ice breaker - which is more interactive, and will hopefully enable more of you to have the opportunity to talk to more people across the evening.

There will be - of course - the popular happy hour drinks prices, and nibbles too - to soak up all the booze!

So - please take this opportunity to a. start getting excited again - you have to love a bit of #tvmingling and b. to use the comments box below to make suggestions as to who you might like to meet, what we might do to encourage you to come back and where the focus of discussions might go to enable new paths of discussion from the panel.

Don't forget - #tvmingling is open to all. It is a free event designed to enable those of us slogging away in the industry - or to get into it - the opportunity to put face to name, to have a glass of vino and learn from each other. After all - caring is sharing






Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Location shoot etiquette!

You find yourself on a location shoot... long days... a long time away from home... lots of temptations in the form of never visited local bars/clubs/hotel mini bar/a member of the team... a sense of freedom you don't always have when in the office or on the 'regular job'. Boundaries between roles get blurred - the runners to the execs mingle freely. The 4 walls of your hotel room are claustrophobic and you want to escape. What can you and should you do? What are the 'do's' and 'don't s' of a location shoot?!

There are no fixed rules really. I feel that common sense should simply prevail. I have however been asked for some tips on a. what one should do as part of their role on location and b. how to deal with social and awkward situations when on location (although, one imagines they could crop up anywhere really) so - here goes...

JUNIOR STAFF V SENIOR STAFF: Knowing your role

It is easy to assume, on the road, that everyone knows what they are doing and what their purpose for being there is. Usually it is explicit - you are the locations manager or the cameraman 'on tour' or the team runner. You have a JD (job description - not Jack Daniels - that would not be appropriate during the working day...) and largely are simply expected to deliver it.

It is not however always that simple. A member of the team can often get taken along seemingly 'for the ride'. There doesn't appear to be a particular job for them - and they can end up feeling lost. If you find yourself in this position - thrown into the chaos of a locations shoot but without a role on the call sheet other than your job title - ask, and get proactive.

An example of someone who didn't - the 'researcher' who was taken on location and had never been so before. Nobody advised him what was required of him and he had no idea what he was expected to do. There was little 'research' work required (other than the post wrap coordinates for the closest pub). He spent his days 'hanging about' and occasionally made the odd cup of tea and booked some local cabs (having called back to the office to ask them to find numbers...). He had a nice time. He didn't upset anyone and he came back several days later having enjoyed some tasty evening meals and having gained the experience of watching a shoot take place.

WHAT A WASTE. He could have gained so much more. The more senior crew deemed him disinterested and the production office assumed him lazy when releases etc were not properly filled in.

What could he have done? This: 1. asked. Made it known to his Line Manger that he had never been away on a shoot before and therefore was uncertain what his role was and what was expected of him. 2. Been proactive - provided the services of a runner, helped with set up and de-rig of kit, taken over management of releases and offered to support with  directing.

You only take away from an experience what you aim to - and if you are too embarrassed to ask for help or direction, then you are in the wrong industry. Equally, if you are too lazy to create a useful role for yourself, you probably won't get asked along next time.

'So what' said the researcher - for he had been on location and seen what happens. Why did he need to go again? Did you know that it is a key skill of a good AP (the role post researching) to be able to self shoot? All those hours the researcher 'hung about' on location, he could have taken full advantage of familiarising himself with the camera, taken the responsibility for logging the tapes and asked to be shown how to data wrangle or even set up the camera itself etc. No. He just hung about. Useful that...


Senior staff - keep an eye out for your junior staff members - don't assume they are confident in their purpose. Equally just try and enable those that do show the will to learn to be able to do so. On a recent locations tour, I ensured each runner and Prod Sec/ Junior Researcher had the opportunity to go in and watch what was happening at each stage of the process we were touring with. They left with a full understanding of what happens on location - and an inspiration to continue working hard towards their goals. I left with no skin off my nose. It wasn't difficult to arrange - and I was happy to because they were genuinely interested.

I guess that the story here is to:
a. DO ensure you are clear on what your role is and then deliver not only to it but above it where possible
b. DO become invaluable and help out wherever possible - do not become defined by your job title
c. if you have expert knowledge and a bit of free time, and you notice a junior member of staff hanging about, DO offer them the opportunity to shadow/watch/help
d. DON'T sit back and watch and never muck in or offer to help
e. DON'T be confined by your own interpretation of your job title
f. DON'T be lazy - i.e. if you need a number look on your call sheet or google it

ALL STAFF: Social behaviour on location

I am more frequently asked about what is and isn't appropriate socially on location - and how to manage a situation if it feels uncomfortable...

Common sense must not go out of the window - it is vital that you remember that whilst you might be away, and everyone relaxes in the evenings, that you are still at work - and as such, must retain some degree of appropriate behaviour.

There are no hard fast rules of what is and isn't 'OK' socially (in the working environment). Generally speaking the following apply:

  • DON'T sleep with contributors, cast or crew
  • If you do sleep with one of the above - DON'T discuss it the next day 
  • DO NOT get drunk and then come to location the next day late/with a hangover/unable to deliver on your duties/smelling of alcohol
  • DO NOT get drunk and forget good manners (it isn't wise to tell the exec his shirt does not match his trousers...)
  • DO NOT join in with drinks and not pay your contribution of the bill
  • DON'T fell compelled to drink alcohol at all - some of us don't get out as much as we'd like to and definitely take advantage of the hotel bar on location - this isn't because this is the 'done' thing in TV, it's cos we (and by that I mean I) are getting older and still want to have as much fun as physically possible on those rare nights we are away and thus don't have to do everyday stuff such as to finish paperwork/do the housework/go to the gym/etc. It doesn't make you fit in. Only drink if you want to and enjoy to.
  • DON'T get caught up in gossip and back stabbing
  • DON'T exclude people from your peer group in a bid to impress your seniors
  • DON'T take stock/notes/releases/etc out on the town - always keep data safely stored in a confidential, lockable space
  • If someone has to stay in on 'data duty' or to look after kit, etc - DO offer to get them some food or a drink. It's just polite.
  • DO give people space - it is really easy to get excited about the opportunity to spend social time with someone you have been trying to impress (in a bid to get a foot up that ladder) but remember, they have had a long, hard day too - and if they appear to be having a in depth conversation with a glass of red and a peer at the bar, DO NOT go over and interrupt or hang about on the edge of their conversation
  • DO remember when you return from location that whilst you all spent a lot of time together in the evenings whilst away and probably had hoots of fun, it was mainly because you had no other option (unless you are a fan of room service and TV for one). That isn't to say the good times weren't real - but remember when back on home turf, that people have partners, non work friends and families - and it isn't the done thing to suggest team drinks Every. Single. Day.
The 'awkward' scenario on location -  tale of two sides...

Recently I spoke to an old Exec who I got on famously with - he was so much fun and very inspirational in his work -  I was lucky that he quite liked me too! The wine was flowing and we were having a good old natter about our time away on location for a show we had both formerly been away on location for. He asked me how I 'tolerated' all the runners inviting themselves along to drinks in the evenings. He said it drove him insane. I remembered feeling really awkward on that job - because I like to be inclusive and welcome all, however I appreciate after a long day, staff often just want a quiet drink with close peers. At first I assumed that he was saying the runners joining us drove him insane because of a hierarchy thing - you know, he was very senior, they were very junior... but actually it tuned out that it had nothing to do with that at all (and I was a fool to even think it - he was after all a bloody legend); it was actually that their motivation to talk to him was the kind that was really keen to impress him and network, and to hopefully secure a future role on his shows, rather than for general chat and banter. Fine - I do get this craving from a junior point of view - but as he very rightly pointed out, this was his 'free time' and he did not want to network. Understandably. It made it really awkward to the extent that a staff group meal on the final night of our time on location ended up being cancelled due to 'team exhaustion' but actually, in reality as I subsequently found out, it was because the whole thing had snowballed and all the crew involved ended up wanting to come - and the exec could think of nothing worse than having to make small talk about a career in TV to a group of junior staff desperate to secure their next position. He just wanted to get shit faced and have a giggle (as did most of us).

The 'awkward' situation we were discussing is what is one to do in that scenario? He pointed out that he felt awful about it all and at no point wanted to generalise the group and say 'no runners allowed' on socials; but equally, it was only the runners that were approaching him about his career and work after shoot hours (the rest of us I am sure were interested but too busy propping up the bar - we were after all, secure - at that point - in our jobs!).

I think he makes a really valid point when he said to me, quite simply, 'I love my job and I love those with a passion to learn - but I love my down time on location and enjoy nothing better than a good old show biz gossip, or a politics debate with a large glass of red. If anyone hassles me with work questions I just want to tell them to bugger off'. 

I don't think anyone should have to feel awkward in a social situation when 'stuck' away on location with colleagues. I would recommend this:
  • If you are a more junior member of staff invited along - or just in the same bar/restaurant - to an evening with the rest of the crew, do not talk shop. Smile, be friendly and be remembered for knowing how to switch off. Yes, by all means, join in with tales of funny things that occurred throughout the day - but do not try and pass your CV across the dinner table or follow a shot of tequila with the dreaded words 'have you got any jobs?'
  • If you are someone with experience who has had a long day and post wrap just wants to sink a cold beer or a large glass of red, then upon arriving in the bar where all crew are hanging out, make it clear at the first mention of future work that for tonight you are simply here 'to relax'. A quick, firm indicator that you are not open to talking careers should nip any such conversation in the bud.
This of course works on all fronts, as in the junior staff being made to feel 'awkward' by the senior too - I recently heard about a poor young lady who was on location in the ass end of nowhere, with some more senior members of the crew. There was literally nowhere to go but this one pub they found themselves in about twenty mins away from their dwellings. Keen to make a good impression the next day on the shoot this wise owl kept off the booze. The same could not be said of the more senior staff, who guzzled down the beers like a pair of schoolboys on their first trip to Kavos. The conversation she found herself in quickly turned to 'memorable shags' and 'fittest bird you've f***ed'. Not being hugely comfortable with joining in on this banter, she sat and patiently sipped her juice. She felt she couldn't leave as she didn't want to be impolite - plus it was a tenner in a cab back to their hotel, and on a runners wage, that was too much. She nodded and smiled and giggled along (nervously), and secretly wished the ground would swallow her up. She asked me retrospectively what she should have done in that scenario. I have two hats: Lou - just me and Lou the giver of (personal but professional) advice. My answer was this...
  • Lou the giver of (personal but professional) advice would have made a firm but polite comment along the lines of 'right gents, I am off to the loo, when I get back I hope we can talk about something a little more inclusive?'. If they didn't take the hint and continued to be crude I would have said goodnight, taken a taxi and claimed it from petty cash the next day. You would be absolutely entitled to given the circumstances. I would not for second worried about seeming rude - as I said above, at night time people just want to chill and wind down (and sometimes tell dirty tales), nobody will be offended if you choose not to join in
  • Lou - just me would have said something much stronger along the lines of 'listen you pair of dirt bags - you are both on the wrong side of 40, overweight and drunk. You are clearly reminiscing about former best shags cos you don't get much now. Put the beer down, do some sit ups and wash your filthy mouths out. Then maybe the talk of memorable (i.e. yonks ago) sexual activity will have a chance of ever becoming current activity.' PLEASE NOTE - I do not recommend this line of chat - I just thought I would let you all know what I would have secretly been thinking...
So anyway... there you have it... common sense prevails and all that.

I wonder why anyone finds themselves in a situation where: they don't know what do, come across as off the mark, feel out of their depth, behave inappropriately, annoy others or just make people feel uncomfortable. If you find yourself in one of the above situations - which hopefully you won't as they are rare, speak up. Ask. Say no. Say yes. Watch. Listen. Learn. Drink. Don't drink. Be inclusive. Smile - when all else fails a smile goes a long way!