Professional Studies: The Freelance Life

For our first subject specific Professional Studies lecture, Morgana Pugh spoke to us about her life as a freelancer. Morgana graduated from Bournemouth University in 2006 and started off as a junior researcher for Touch Productions before becoming a freelance producer/director.

One of the things Morgana talked about was how, as a freelancer starting out in the industry, and as a student looking for work experience, you must choose the companies you work for carefully. She described television as “an industry built on relationships” and recommend pursuing smaller production companies in order to show off your skill. As someone starting out in the Television industry, trying to plough straight into a larger company, such as Endemol or the BBC, may not be as beneficial to you in the long run. Proving yourself and standing out in a smaller company could allow you to create the kind of identity and networks you need to move forward in your career, that otherwise might be lost in a larger organisation. With the relationship-heavy nature of the television industry you are very much playing the long game, and shouldn’t expect to get exactly where you want to go straight away. Morgana put it very concisely, saying it’s important to be “in control of your career. It’s not just a race to the top”. I had not previous looked at the entry into television in this way and will bare Morgana’s insights in mind when looking for work experience later this year.

Another interesting point that was brought up in the lecture was regarding how you use social media as a freelancer. As a freelancer you are constantly selling yourself and creating a professional persona on social media sites like Facebook or Twitter is essential to that. You should be very mindful about the sorts of things you post or photos that can been seen on your Facebook profile as potential employers will undoubtedly seek it out during your application process. You must make sure that you monitor your privacy settings and ensure only the things you are happy for employers or colleagues to see are made public.

I found Morgana’s views on LinkedIn particularly interesting as they went against many of the things we had been told in our previous professional studies day and work placement/CV lectures. Morgana does not believe you should publish your full CV onto a site like LinkedIn as people other than your potential employers might see it. She told us of how a potential contributor for a documentary changed their mind about being a part of the programme after looking up her profile on LinkedIn and seeing she had worked on a programme they did not agree with in one way or another. This was a way of thinking about LinkedIn I had never considered before, particularly when working in factual television. Although not a pressing matter for me at the moment, I will be sure to keep this interesting caution in mind as I (hopefully) get to be involved in more professional productions.

Professional Studies: Intensive Day

Our Professional Studies unit began with an intensive all-day workshop with keynotes and discussions on a range of topics from guest speakers Rhian Griffiths, Tim Wright, Serena Cullen, Martin Lee and Helen Zaltzman.

At the very beginning of this intensive day, Trevor introduced the Professional Studies unit to us and spoke about what it means to be professional. The idea of a ‘professional’ is something that we instinctively think we understand, it’s a term we come across on a near day-to-day basis, but it’s not until you try to put it into words that you realise it’s hard to define. To borrow a phrase from Christian Metz, the idea of ‘what is a professional?’ is “difficult to explain because it is easy to understand” (1974). The thing that stuck with me most from this introduction was a quote from journalist Alistair Cooke that said, “A professional is someone who can do his best work when he doesn’t feel like it.” To me, that summed up succinctly what it means to be a professional and represented a way of working that I have always strived to.

In everything that I do, whether at work or university, I try to hold to this idea of professionalism, to do the very best that I can no matter what the circumstances. In my work as a freelance photographer there have been many times when I have to go and shoot an event at the end of a busy week, after a full day of other commitments, when the last thing I want to do is drive an hour out to spend all evening  in the cold with my camera. As a professional it’s your job to turn up on time, leave your own interests and problems behind (it’s not the client’s fault you’ve had a busy week after all) and be ready to throw yourself into the work before you. I see it much like performing on stage: you may have done this scene a dozen times before but there is a paying audience out there who haven’t seen it, so you’ve got to put your own grievances behind you and give a fresh performance every time.

Rhian Griffiths has worked as a Line Producer for many years, working on shows such as ‘Fresh Meat’ and ‘Scott & Bailey’, and is currently Head of Production at Big Talk Productions. She spoke to us about the Line Producer’s role in production and the challenges she has faced in getting where she is today. One point Rhian made that caught my attention was that “you’re only as good as your last job”. This relates back to my previous point about what it means to be a professional, in that you can’t afford to let your professionalism slide in this industry. Success in television owes a lot to networking, and if you don’t give a project your all or you don’t conduct yourself in a professional manner, you may not be asked back again.