Runners work in a general assisting role on TV and film productions, carrying out different tasks and working quickly and responsively
As a runner, you'll act as a general assistant, working under the direction of the producer and other production staff to undertake whatever basic tasks are required to ensure the smooth running of the production process.
This role provides the opportunity to gain vital experience and knowledge of the production process, offering valuable networking opportunities, and is often seen as the first step on the ladder for people aspiring to roles in broadcasting media.
Runners may also be known as production assistants or production runners.
As a runner, you'll need to:
- answer the telephone
- deliver post to local clients
- do photocopying and general administrative work
- drive cars, vans or trucks between locations and around sets
- fetch and carry items, such as equipment, tapes, cable and scripts
- get everything in place for shoots
- hand out post and messages to colleagues within the production team
- help set up a location for a shoot
- hire props
- keep the set clean and tidy
- make and hand out tea, coffee and lunches
- make arrangements for staff on location, such as booking meeting rooms or ordering food
- manage petty cash
- look after guests
- order stock
- pick up cast for make-up calls
- sort out the kit bags, for example checking that the camera bag contains all the necessary items
- take messages
- transcribe production tapes
- transport cast, crew and production staff between offices, studios and shoot locations
- transport scripts and hire equipment
- undertake basic research
- use maps, tapes and clapper boards, and other film and television production equipment
- write down shot lists.
- The Broadcasting Entertainment Cinematograph and Theatre Union (BECTU) recommends minimum runner pay rates of £7.93 to £14.15 per hour (excluding holiday pay), depending on the type of production you're working on.
- The suggested minimum hourly rate for documentary/factual TV, entertainment/live TV, scripted TV and feature films, for example, is £10.59 excluding holiday pay and £11.87 with holiday pay.
- Recommended minimum daily rates (10 hours) including holiday pay range from £88.90 for short films (student films and not-for-profit collaborations only) to £193 for commercials.
Employers may pay more than these rates, depending on your skills and experience.
Overtime rates are applied to extra working hours.
Income figures are intended as a guide only. For more information on suggested minimum rates, see BECTU Rates - Runners.
Working hours tend to be long and unpredictable, often up to six days a week during production. Broadcasting is a 24-hour operation and the working style reflects this. You may have to work nights, weekends and public holidays.
Film and TV shoots often want to make the most of the daylight for filming, so early mornings and late nights are common.
What to expect
- Work takes place in offices and/or studios, as well as on location.
- Runners are expected to be prompt and efficient. Part of the job is to take the pressure off the person above you by doing things on their behalf and this can make the job quite challenging. However, the work is fast-moving and can be exciting, stimulating and diverse, with plenty of variety.
- The bigger production companies tend to be based in London and other large cities, such as Bristol, Cardiff, Birmingham, Manchester and Liverpool. Production companies tend to recruit runners who live locally or who can be relied on at short notice.
- Most runners work on a freelance basis and are employed on full-time, short-term contracts. Short-term contracts and long hours can have lifestyle and financial implications. It's a good idea to line up your next piece of work, while still working on the current project.
- Travel within a working day is common. You're likely to spend a lot of time travelling to and from locations, picking people up from places such as airports and train stations, making local deliveries and doing any shopping that is needed.
There are no specific educational requirements for becoming a runner. However, a relevant HND, degree or postgraduate qualification, particularly one with a practical focus, may increase your chances of success, as it can equip you with an understanding of the industry, practical skills, a work experience placement and useful contacts.
Relevant courses include:
- drama or theatre studies
- media studies
- media and communication
- broadcast, television, film, media or radio production.
Getting a position as a runner is often a combination of luck, timing and networking. The industry looks favourably on you if you have experience and contacts.
Postgraduate study isn't essential, but if you want to take a postgraduate qualification, speak to people in the industry first about whether it will improve your chances of success.
It's also possible to get into the role through an apprenticeship. Try ScreenSkills for more information about these and other training courses.
When researching qualifications, look for a course that uses industry-standard equipment, is industry-accredited and ideally includes a work placement. Establish where previous graduates have gained employment and what sort of links the education provider has with the industry.
- strong communication and interpersonal skills
- excellent time-management and organisational skills with the ability to work to tight deadlines
- flexibility and the ability to think on your feet in order to find practical solutions to logistical problems
- the ability to prioritise efficiently
- good research skills
- initiative and problem-solving ability
- physical stamina and resilience
- teamworking skills
- the ability to network with a range of people (including actors, directors and caterers, among others)
- the ability to remain calm and perform well under pressure
- a proactive approach to work
- an understanding of the industry
- enthusiasm and motivation
- a driving licence and your own transport - is usually necessary
- a current first aid certificate and a qualification in health and safety - can give you the edge over other candidates.
Make sure you seize opportunities to gain experience at university, for example on campus newspapers, radio or TV stations. If you're interested in the technical side, you can get involved with sound or lighting for university stage productions and concerts.
Outside university, you could work on hospital and community radio stations, for local and specialist newspapers, or as an usher on studio recordings of entertainment shows.
Competition for work experience is fierce, so you need to be prepared to work hard to get it. Try to develop a portfolio, showreel or soundreel of your work (e.g. film shorts, photographs, radio recordings, newspaper articles) that you can send to companies to illustrate your talent. You can also get yourself noticed by entering competitions and showcasing your material at festivals and other events.
Other ways to give yourself an advantage include:
- keeping up to date with changes in technology
- finding out what's in pre-production and production
- getting hold of in-house newsletters
- attending workshops and talks by people in the industry.
Networking is essential and you should send your CV to as many production companies and post-production houses as you can. Follow this up with a phone call at a later date to show your enthusiasm for the role. For specific industry-related advice about how to market yourself check out the ScreenSkills resource Branding Yourself.
Find out more about the different kinds of work experience and internships that are available.
Typical employers are mostly broadcasting, film and video production and post-production companies. There are also a small number of opportunities in animation and interactive media.
Runners are employed by large broadcasters such as the:
- Channel 4
- Channel 5
Many TV companies, for example Channel 4, Channel 5, Sky and Virgin Media Television, outsource the majority of their production operations.
There are also hundreds of independent production companies in the UK. These include:
- EndemolShine UK
- Hat Trick Productions
- RDF Television.
Look for job vacancies at:
Smaller independent television, film and video companies offer additional opportunities and sometimes advertise on their websites.
Relatively few runner positions are advertised, so you need to network to gain access to the majority of vacancies. Most people find work through word of mouth and speculative applications. Look for contacts in specialist directories such as:
Many runner jobs involve working freelance, so find out more about self-employment.
Being a runner is generally considered to be a training position for progressing to other roles. You gain vital entry-level experience and a broad insight into all areas of the industry.
Once in post, you'll receive on-the-job training and will learn from more experienced colleagues. You'll find that you pick skills up as you go along and learn through repetition. It's a good idea to take every free opportunity to shadow staff in your area of specific interest so that you can watch and network.
There are a range of short courses that may help you to develop relevant practical skills. ScreenSkills - the industry-led skills body for the UK's screen-based creative industries - fund, support or quality mark a range of courses and career development schemes. Search for training courses.
The broadcasting industry runs very few training schemes for new entrants and even fewer targeted exclusively at graduates. Given the competition, you will need to demonstrate substantial commitment and many candidates will already be working in the industry. Find out more about the ScreenSkills Trainee Finder scheme that helps place talented and creative individuals on film, high-end TV and children's television across the UK.
There is no set time for how long you can expect to work as a runner, but you may well be in post for a year or two before getting a real break. Some employers, particularly in film, feel that two to three years is the norm to gain adequate experience.
Having learnt the basics and gained exposure to a range of production areas, you can then decide which area you're interested in and pursue it. However, it's important not to specialise too soon and to appreciate that you may have to be flexible in the beginning, in order to gain the necessary experience.
The next step up from a runner is to researcher. Many students view research as an entry-level job, but in larger companies this is rarely the case, although smaller independent production companies may sometimes advertise for researchers or junior researchers. These are roles which may combine runner and researcher tasks and for which a recent graduate with some work experience may be suitable.
Further progression may include a move to the role of production assistant, then assistant production coordinator to production coordinator. In the film industry, runners tend to progress to become head runner before moving to third, second and then first assistant roles.
In production, higher-level jobs include assistant producer, director and producer. If you're interested in moving into a management role, it's worth considering a management course, along with training in health and safety and first aid.
Promotion may be more structured in larger companies, but in smaller production companies there is generally no defined career structure, just more responsibility and a rise in salary. Runners have excellent networking opportunities and there is good scope for career development, with people often moving between different areas of broadcasting.
Most people in the industry work as freelancers. Being business-minded, entrepreneurial, focused on the direction you want your career to travel in and good at self-promotion will be key factors in your success.