Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Life's a Treat With Shaun the Sheep

I've been told off in the past by friends and parents for doing voluntary work in the industry. However, as I have only recently moved to Manchester, giving a day or two of my time every now and again to a worthy cause can be good for my soul, it gets me out of the flat and gives me an opportunity to work with people in the industry.

As soon as I moved to Manchester at the start of November I was constantly badgering the BBC to help out with Children In Need until eventually I was pointed in the right direction and added to the list of volunteers. When the day came around, my designated job was chaperoning Pudsey Bear around MediaCity and also helping out with a teddy bear's picnic event put on for two sets of pre school kiddies. This however was over by 11am (and Pudsey had been whisked away by someone else) so I set about finding other things to do. The guys from Aardman Animations had some rather exciting games going on outside on the Plazza including Welly Wangling and  Championsheep competitions which involved running around an obstacle course rolling a sheep that was a metre and half in diameter and a coconut shy type welly throwing thing. It was all crazy fun and although they had designated people working on the games I helped out here and there  inbetween selling Children in Need merchandise. At the end of the day I helped them pack up all their gear and just happened to be there when the lady in charge passed round a piece of paper so we could write down our email addresses for any other future Aardman events and thought nothing more of it.

Fast forward four months and out of the blue, in amongst all the spam that Linkedin send me on a daily basis, I found an email in my inbox from the very same lady from Aardman who was looking for people to work on an event for a week over the summer down near Luton. My initial thought was "it's too far away" and then remembered that one of my best friends lives not so far away from there who hopefully wouldn't mind putting me up for a week and a bit. Then I read to the bottom of the email and saw how much they were willing to pay for me to stand in a field and have and awesome amount of fun (with extra money for travel expenses) and I thought that I needed to do it no matter if I have to live in a tent for the duration . Basically, with my really pathetic temping wage I would get the same amount for nine days work as I would sitting behind a reception desk for a month so it's a no brainer really. It has only taken me four years of working really low paid jobs whilst trying to fit it around slightly more secure mind numbing temping jobs and trying to scrape together enough pennies to pay rent and bills but this is my first paid job that I can comfortably afford to live off that will last longer than a day. I know it might not seem like much (after all it is only going to be for nine days) but I feel it's one huge giant leap in the right direction towards an actual career for me and it's a very exciting thought.

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Scan Girl's Proudest Moment

Love Life starts tonight, Thursday 15th March, 9pm on ITV1

For almost two years of my life I was temping for a company where my entire day consisted of scanning an endless amount of paperwork and saving it onto the company's network drive. It was a rather pitiful existance at the time and the only variety in my day was hanging out in the smoking hut, eating lunch and a whole hour of bliss where I sat on reception and flirted outrageously with contractors. I soon developed the nick name of Scan Girl, the lamest super hero the world has ever seen but one who will smoothly and efficiently rid your office of excess crap. I was the fastest scanner in the west, so much so that I developed a most ingenious way of pulling out staples really fast by spreading a huge pile of paperwork out like a fan and then wizzing over it with the staple muncher. It was so effective that I gave myself repetitive strain injury as a result which was highly ammusing to the rest of the team but then they all got quite jealous when I ended up with a beautiful technicoloured electronic stapler and ergonomic staple remover after making a stand for my rights.

I worked there for a year then they got rid of all their temps including me and then they begged me to come back to them nine months later because nobody else was prepared to do the scanning in my absence. I then stayed on there for another eight months until the next round of redundancies happened. After that I decided to stop wasting my life away in Chester and move to Salford to be more proactive with infiltrating the television industry. I admit that another big reason for me moving was so that this company (lovely as all the people in my department were) couldn't come crawling back to me for a third time. I had nightmares of being in that role for years and years and then one day realising that I had scanned my soul away.
I moved to Salford in November so that I could better my chances at making a successful career for myself in the television industry. Outside of London, Greater Manchester is the place to be. With the BBC moving a load of departments up here this has attracted other broadcasting companies into the city and strengthened the ones that were already based here. Besides which, the people are friendlier, renting a flat is a lot cheaper and you  can actually use your mobile phone on all public transportation systems.

At the start of the year I was offered a couple of weeks work experience with Red Production Company. They are a very highly renowned independent production company and make some amazing television dramas. During my time there, I was asked if I could scan a copy of all the actor agreements (along with some other bits and pieces) for a drama called Love Life which was in its last stages of post production at the time. I found it quite ironic that I had moved to pastures new only to be faced with the thing I was running away from. However just to put it into some sort of perspective, this scanning took half a day rather than 20 months.

I soon discovered that Love Life had some very exciting cast members, Alexander Armstrong and Rob James-Collier (aka Thomas, "the bastard" footman from Downton Abbey) to name but a few. I discovered that scanning in moderation and in the right environment can be quite pleasant and exciting...also it helps if you are as easily amused as I am. I went home that night, switched on Pointless and got quite excited knowing that I had been working for a drama that contained an actor that was there on the telly right in front of my eyes.

Love Life starts tonight, Thursday 15th March at 9pm on ITV1 and I promise you that it will be amazing. It's a three part drama and you can always record Glee and watch that later. I know my part in it wasn't even really a part at all but I will still be watching and getting highly excited thinking to myself that I contributed at least four hours of my life to the programme but hey, this is the industry that I love and even the menial tasks that under any other conditions I would consider gouging my eyes out as a better alternative can give me the greatest satisfaction. As Mary Poppins famously once said, in every job that must be done there is an element of fun...luckily for me I find the fun in practically everything I do within this industry because it's all awesome.

Thursday, 8 March 2012

How to Fail a BBC Interview - part 2

I spent most of yesterday filling out an application form for a Floor Runner position on Russell T Davies' new CBBC drama called Wizards Vs Aliens which will be shot in Cardiff. Whilst I was in the midst of writers block it gave me the perfect opportunity to reminisce about the last time I went down to the capital of Wales for an interview with the BBC back in December 2009. Although it wasn't as horrible and daunting as my first interview experience with the Beeb in Glasgow (you can read about that here), I still didn't get the job and I thought it would only be right to recount the experience to you all.

Since the interview in Glasgow where I completely failed to come across as a normal, rational and competent human being in every way possible, I had been applying for any kind of job within the the industry that I felt I was capable to do. I was still living in Chester but had found some regular work experience with a retired BBC cameraman who lives in the city and covers a whole range of corporate and council run events. I was doing a lot of boom and sound work with him and he was a good laugh to be around. With every job I helped out on, my confidence was growing so I felt more justified to apply for jobs at the BBC, ITV and other larger broadcasting companies. I also have a lot of admin, customer service and reception experience under my belt which helped broaden the range of jobs I felt confident applying for.

Luckily I only had to wait a couple of months for my next BBC interview. This one was for an Information Archive Assistant down in Cardiff and I would be lying if I said I didn't have visions of spending most of my working days being paid to watch Doctor Who.

On the day of my interview it was really cold and there was snow on the platform when I got off the train at Cardiff Central. I was cursing the fact that I had listened to the advice of my friends and colleagues who after much persuasion convinced me that turning up for an interview at BBC Wales wearing a 20-foot-long hand knitted Tom Baker scarf would not be a good idea. I had left myself plenty of time to figure out where the hell I was going and to navigate buses and as such I ended up getting there a whole hour early. Normally this wouldn't be a problem because I would just find myself a nice little cafe to sit in and compose myself whilst drinking my entire body weight in mochas. On arrival however, I soon discovered that the headquarters for BBC Wales was situated right on top of a hill with nothing else in the near vicinity other than some residential bungalow type buildings. Luckily though, the chap on the front desk took pity on me and directed me to the canteen where I could sit and stress in comfort whilst hugging a huge vat of tea.

When it was finally time for someone to collect me I wasn't actually feeling too nervous which took me completely by surprise as I normally turn into a blundering mess at even the most basic of interviews. The panel was made up of two lovely women and the atmosphere in the room was quite relaxed. We had a bit of banter going on between the three of us, they told me about their brief encounters with David Tennant in the corridors and we all had a little collective wishful sigh at the end of that conversation. They didn't ask me any really horrible questions apart from one (give us an example of a deadline that you failed to meet) and I calmly delivered a witty response about trying to knit Christmas presents for my family in time.  I realised I was actually enjoying being there and talking to these women rather than wishing it would all be over as soon as possible and hoping the ground would swallow me up.

I went away from the experience feeling that I probably could have answered the questions slightly better but I didn't really care because my overall emotions from that day were of extreme happiness and joy due to  remembering to take my confidence into the interview room with me rather than leaving it in the foyer, asking it to be good while I'm away and picking it up on my way out. At the time I felt that even if I didn't get offered the job (I found out a week afterwards that I was unsuccessful) I knew that I actually had the power within myself to refrain from turning into a blundering mess as soon as I sat down in front of an interview panel and I didn't have to be the cowardly lion any more.

Read about my first BBC interview experience in Glasgow

Coming up in part 3 - I revisit Television Centre for probably the last time.