Our guide to television production
Alistair Stafford

Our guide to television production

First published date November 19 2013 Amended date November 19 2013

We all sit down and watch our favourite TV shows on a regular basis, but do you realise just how many people’s hard work behind the scenes it takes to get that programme on air? Chances are it’ll be far more than you think (just look at the number of names on the end credits next time you watch a show). So even if you’re not going to cut it as a star performer, there are still plenty of ways of getting involved in television production.

Think you’ve got what it takes to become the next award winning producer? Or perhaps you fancy trying to forge a career out of television? Whether you’re a keen cameraman looking to turn your hobby into a career, or just a TV geek who dreams of helping to make the next BAFTA winning series, then a television production course is for you.


What to expect

A television production course will give you an oversight into all the key skills needed to produce TV. Being shown how to film with specialist equipment and edit footage on video software is common, as is been taught how to write exciting television scripts. Course programmes are likely to include a mixture of classroom sessions and hands-on practical experience, giving you a chance to work in all areas of production. A longer course is likely to cover the differences between different television genres, so you’ll then be able to demonstrate how the production work for a documentary differs from that of a news programme or a sitcom.


The different roles

As we mentioned earlier, there’s often a huge team of people that work behind the scenes to make our favourite programmes, but who does what? Well, we haven’t named every television production role there is, but here are a few of the most commonly found:

. Director – As the person in charge, the director is effectively the manager of the programme being made, as they take responsibility for every part of the production process. As the person in charge, they usually take the plaudits if the programme is a success (nobody will remember the director’s name from a programme shelved after one series).

. Producer – Like the director, they are involved in the whole production team, just without as much responsibility. The Producer will have an involvement in all stages of both the preparation and filming.

. Production assistant - The title makes the role quite self explanatory, as your job will mean you’ll be assisting the producer and director with the production of the programme. This can include logging the different shots being recorded and working out the different timings that are needed.

. Researcher – Depending on the size of the programme being made, there may be several researchers on one project, with roles based on experience. As the title suggests, the job requires researching different aspects of the programme, whether that be interviewing possible guests or fact finding. 

. Runner – A common way for people to break in to television production, the role sees you assist in all stages of the production process in a variety of ways. You may not get the most glamorous of tasks (things like photocopying and making cups of tea are common), but it’s a first step on the television career ladder.


Standing out from the crowd

If you’re taking a television production course with longer term career ambitions in mind, then it’s well worth checking the course accreditation, as being on an industry recognised course will significantly boost your job prospects.

Many television production courses are accredited by the Creative Skillset, an industry body who develop and improve not just the television industry, but several other creative areas. Similarly, for broadcast journalism, check to see if the broadcasting courses are BJTC (Broadcast Journalism Training Council) accredited. By taking a television journalism course, it will develop your interviewing and presenting skills further.


What next?

If you would like to study the art of television production full-time, then a degree in broadcast journalism or film and television will allow you to work in a subject you love every day. For those who already have a bachelors, a postgraduate qualification in television journalism or television production can kick-start your production career.

Even if you later decide that a career in television isn’t for you after all, then you’ll have gained plenty of new technical skills that could be useful in other industries. Need some further inspiration what to do next? Our careers guide can help. 

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