Looking to get your start in the media? Here’s what you should be doing.
I was recently invited by the University of Northampton to be an external panel member for the periodic subject review of their journalism and media course.
My role was to advise on whether the course was adequately preparing its students for the working world after they graduate, (TL;DR, it definitely is!), so I thought I’d compile some of what I learned that day with some of my own insights that might be of interest if you’re looking to start a career in the media.
1) MAKE STUFF
So first and foremost, and I can’t emphasise this enough, is Make Stuff. Every week I receive emails from people looking for work who have never made anything, or perhaps at most, they participated once in a project with a team of other people at school or college.
This just doesn’t cut it. If you truly have a passion for filmmaking, then why aren’t you making films? The chances are you own a phone that shoots at least High Definition video (if not 4k, super slomo, timelapse…) a halfway decent laptop or desktop can run editing software, or you can access it through your school or college. Filmmaking is practice. Your first attempt will be terrible. Your second a little better, third… you get where I’m going. Make stuff. Build a showreel. Make your friend’s band’s music video. Film and edit a little promo at your local nature reserve. But have something that you can show a potential employer when they ask what have you done.
2) GET EDUCATED
Second is get educated. I appreciate that university isn’t for everyone, and we’re very lucky in this day and age to have a vast array of resources available online where we can learn about the different aspects of filmmaking. So if an undergraduate course just isn’t for you, then I do encourage you to explore the heck out of YouTube tutorials and Facebook groups to find out what you want to know.
However, I would strongly recommend that if circumstances allow, you get yourself on a good media degree course at university. They will have the kit, the resources, the tutors; and you will have the time, the hands-on experience, and loads of likeminded people to collaborate with. Your CV will be stronger for it and so will your knowledge.
At Northampton I was really impressed with the students I met: they were ambitious, articulate and above all, work ready. The media course at the University has a real focus on employability, and so students get to work on live client briefs. Actual real world projects!
I was bowled over when one student described how he spends his time jumping on trains to go and visit clients to chat through their requirements and shape their projects. He basically described my job! (Not sure whether I should be worried about being put out of business tbh!)
But that sort of experience is exactly what any potential employer is going to be looking for and would definitely get you to the top of the hiring pile.
3) BE SEEN
The third thing you need is to do is put yourself out there. And it needs to be more than just sending out a few speculative emails outlining what a creative self-starter you are who also works well in a team. If your email gets read at all, it will be read by someone with a million other things to do, and you’ve not given them any reason why contacting you should be added to that list.
Research your company, find out who you should be speaking to, follow them on Twitter, like and RT their posts (flattery works! ;-)). Then actually call them to speak to them direct. Better yet, pay them a visit. We gave some running work to a young lad that actually hand delivered his CV to us one day. Make yourself noticed. Don’t be the person who sends a few half-arsed emails out then wonders why they don’t hear anything back.
On that note; be active. Are there youth groups, community groups or volunteering opportunities in your area you could join? Not only are these good things in and of themselves, but they often have links to media companies, or will be a good resource for a media company that happens to be making a film about such and such. And suddenly, there you are helping out or hanging out with the very people you need to be helping and hanging out with!
Ultimately, your success or otherwise in this industry will come down to you. Sure, you might be one of the lucky ones who has a door opened for them, but if you don’t prove yourself once inside it, you won’t last very long. Make your own opportunities, be persistent, and don’t give up at the first obstacle. Because you can rest assured, if you’re not trying everything you can, someone else is.
Written by Neil Garrett
Head of Production, OMG Media