Case study

Assistant producer — Sophia Slater

Sophia studied BA Film and Media Studies at the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) in Preston. She's now assistant producer (AP) at television production company Nine Lives Media

How did you get your job?

I reached out to Cat Lewis, CEO of Nine Lives Media regarding work experience and she mentioned that they were looking for a suitable apprentice to take on through the Creative Access scheme. During my work experience, I had an interview and the rest is history.

What's a typical day like?

It usually consists of:

  • casting and chatting with prospective/existing contributors
  • checking in with the team to discuss and share documentary ideas
  • drafting shooting scripts
  • fact-checking and collating background research
  • generating editorial leads
  • negotiating access to people, places and organisations
  • writing interview questions
  • call sheets, protocols and risk assessments.

On location, the AP is the key point of contact for contributors and locations, our responsibility is to assist the producer director editorially and technically while keeping them well informed during filming.

What do you enjoy about your job?

I love having the opportunity to connect with people from all walks of life on a deeper level and tell their stories. Working on TV also offers a constant flow of learning, the opportunity to educate others and challenge perspectives.

What are the challenges?

Making documentaries on sensitive topics can be difficult to cast - however, they feel all the more rewarding. The fast turnaround of projects can lead to a highly pressurised environment, so ensuring all parties are happy and supported is vital.

In what way is your degree relevant?

My degree enabled me to apply all of the research skills to my job. Factual accuracy is a huge part of programme-making and getting this wrong can be detrimental to a project.

Dissecting TV and film gave me a deeper understanding of what does and doesn't make a great story. University encouraged me to network with others and reinforced the importance of working collaboratively and adapting to different work styles. The degree provided a solid insight into audience engagement and the role of the media.

How has your role developed, and what are your career ambitions?

Since starting as a development research trainee, I've since progressed to assistant producer level with hopes to become a producer director.

How did Creative Access support you?

Creative Access provided my first point of entry into the television industry and have always been a strong source of support - including putting on masterclasses, offering advice, providing access to a network of creatives and the opportunity to join their advisory board.

How do I get into television production?

  • Apply for apprenticeship and trainee schemes.
  • Contact companies directly to enquire about work experience.
  • Ensure your approach is tailored to what's on their slate - generic emails won’t cut the mustard, so make them personal and express why you want to work in the industry.
  • Join TV-specific Facebook groups for runner work and entry-level roles.
  • Get creative - come up with ideas and request a meeting to discuss them further/forward your proposal on to the development team or production manager.
  • If you're an avid shooter, create a showreel of your content. Equally, if your background is journalism, showing evidence of a few pieces you've written will give you an edge.
  • Attend networking/talent pool events.
  • Sign up to TheTalentManager.
  • Send your CV to talent managers.
  • Seek a mentor through your university's alumni, as that will provide you with some direct guidance.
  • Be enthusiastic and go the extra mile to help the team while on work experience - it makes a huge difference.
  • Be persistent and keep checking in with companies about any upcoming opportunities.

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