Television floor managers make sure that sets, props and technical equipment are safe, ready to use and in the right position prior to filming.
They have a liaising and coordinating role, acting as the link between the director and the many people involved in a production on the studio floor.
It is the floor manager's responsibility to pass on cues to presenters and guests to ensure timings are met and the broadcast goes smoothly.
They make sure that events go according to a set plan and that people taking part know their particular roles and how it fits in with whatever else is happening.
The work is mainly studio-based, but may also include outside broadcasts, depending on the production.
Duties carried out by a television floor manager include:
- checking that equipment, e.g. microphones and earpieces, are working before the show;
- seating the audience (if in attendance);
- referring to floor plans;
- assisting guests on the show;
- relaying instructions from the control room to the studio floor using a talkback system;
- keeping the director and producer informed of action off-camera;
- assisting in the planning and preparation of productions;
- overseeing the work of other departments, such as sound, lighting and props;
- rehearsing live shows;
- giving cues and time counts to presenters, actors or guests;
- organising runners to make the best use of studio time;
- looking ahead in the programme schedule to anticipate any changes to the set, or to see what props are required later in the show;
- briefing and looking after those involved in the programme;
- managing the audience, e.g. explaining safety requirements, show timings and what will happen during filming and when the programme will be aired;
- dealing with any technical problems;
- controlling the studio and halting production if necessary;
- liaising with public relations staff to agree who will be interviewed, for example at sports matches;
- passing information and progress reports from live events to studio presenters;
- adhering to health and safety regulations, e.g. keeping 'safe areas' and fire exits clear of equipment.
- The majority of floor managers work on a freelance basis and salaries can be paid on an hourly, daily or weekly rate. You must expect to negotiate fees according to your experience and the type of production you will be working on. As a general guide, day rates can range from £150 to £400.
- In permanent positions, once established, you may earn over £25,000 but it is likely you will need to start on a lower salary in order to secure work and gain experience.
Salary will vary according to location, company, experience, duration of contract and demand. Freelance work may be more highly paid than employment as a member of staff, but work may not be consistent.
Income figures are intended as a guide only.
Working hours can be long and irregular, often including evening and weekend work. It is not uncommon to work a 14-hour day. Hours are usually dictated by studio booking times and a floor manager is expected to stay until the job is done.
A typical day may involve starting at 1pm and filming three episodes of a game show, having an hour's break and then filming another two in the evening. Two very long days may be followed by a day off. When working freelance, you will be expected to work the hours demanded by the production company.
What to expect
- If working on a freelance basis, periods of unemployment may occur in some instances, while you secure work on another production.
- The work is mainly studio based, but floor managers may work on location, particularly when covering sporting events.
- Jobs with independent production companies and facilities houses are mainly in London and the South East. Although many BBC and independent television jobs are also based in the capital, there are opportunities in the UK's larger cities, particularly Manchester since the BBC moved some of its services to Salford.
- The work can be pressurised, particularly when working to tight production schedules and strict studio booking times.
- Dress code is usually casual, but a smart appearance may be required when working on outside broadcasts, e.g. sporting events.
- Outside broadcasts and location shoots involve working away from home on a regular basis or for fairly long periods of time, either in the UK or abroad.
- There may be opportunities to work abroad for foreign production companies.
You can enter this area of work with any degree or HND, but the following subjects may be particularly helpful:
- media studies;
- drama/theatre studies;
Entry without a degree or HND is common and many floor managers have worked their way up to this position from a more junior or related role.
In many instances practical experience counts for more than qualifications.
Direct entry is not possible and you should be prepared to take different posts within television to gain knowledge of the industry as a whole.
You will need to show:
- the ability to foresee, solve and avoid problems under pressure;
- a friendly disposition and an air of calm authority;
- excellent communication skills to receive, interpret and convey information accurately and concisely;
- interpersonal skills, in order to quickly judge how to get the best out of different people;
- good organisational skills and the ability to multitask.
A driving licence is useful. Foreign language skills are helpful if you intend to work abroad.
Pre-entry experience is essential. Floor managers may have previous theatre experience but are more likely to have worked in television and gained experience either as a runner, assistant floor manager or in a technical sound or lighting role.
In order to realistically compete for jobs, several years of broadcasting experience is necessary.
The following activities can help you get a foot in the door and secure your first paid job:
- Look for work experience with a production company or in local television to build up skills and make contacts. The minimum wage legislation can make unpaid work experience a grey area, but Skillset has published Creative Industries Work Placement Guidelines, which may help.
- Network, make contacts and promote yourself.
- Read the media press, such as Broadcast.
Telephone and arrange to meet producers, directors or other appropriate individuals; potential contacts can be found by looking at programme credits.
Training opportunities within television companies are linked to operational needs and while companies, including the BBC, may aim for annual recruitment, this is not guaranteed.
The BBC runs a number of training schemes, including the Production Trainee Scheme and Production Talent Pool - see BBC Careers: Trainee Schemes and Apprenticeships.
Posts are advertised in the BBC staff email newsletter Ariel, available via subscription, although many are filled by qualified staff internally.
Some independent television companies have graduate opportunities, which operate on an individual company basis. These are likely to be advertised on their websites, in the local press or in The Guardian and Broadcast magazine.
The development of satellite and cable television has created more opportunities throughout the industry as a whole, but current trends in programming mean there is less demand for floor managers.
When opportunities arise, appointments are made for each production on a freelance basis. Freelance floor managers may spend periods of time out of work.
Independent television companies employ small numbers of floor managers. The BBC employs a handful of floor managers directly, and they are used as first choice for any programme it is producing. When necessary, they will use freelance floor managers to cover any programmes their own staff cannot manage.
Other employers include:
- satellite, cable and digital broadcasters;
- local television;
- news specialists.
Most floor managers are freelance, moving between employers on contracts that can last a few days or months at a time.
Once you establish a good relationship with a director, it is quite common for your services to be requested for their next programme.
Look for job vacancies at:
Like most jobs in the media, many vacancies are never advertised and are secured through persistent speculative applications and effective networking.
Specialist directories are available that provide contacts which are useful for making speculative applications. They include:
Training is usually carried out on the job, under the supervision of more experienced colleagues.
It is likely that you will enter the industry in a more junior or role and will pick up skills and experience, which will allow you to progress to the role of floor manager.
There is no professional qualification specifically aimed at floor managers, but there are a range of short courses that can help new entrants to develop relevant practical skills.
Organisations that offer training for those who work in the media industry include:
- BBC Academy includes the College of Production and offers courses and online training in broadcasting and new media;
- Broadcasting Entertainment Cinematograph and Theatre Union (BECTU) - holds an annual freelancers' fair and run various training and events relevant to media;
- Creative Scotland public body that supports creative industries in Scotland and distributes funding;
- Creative Skillset: The Sector Skills Council for the Creative Industries - has a pool of money to subsidise training for creative professionals;
- Cyfle - the training body for creative industries in Wales.
A variety of HNDs or postgraduate courses in subjects such as creative media production are also available. You can search for these courses in the Creative Skillset Courses Directory.
You need to have substantial experience within television before you can become a floor manager. This can be gained in positions such as runner or assistant floor manager.
You can also build up experience in a technical role, such as sound or lighting. This can be particularly helpful in securing more work as a floor manager, as the two roles can sometimes be performed simultaneously, helping to reduce production crew costs. This practice is becoming more common.
Assistant floor managers work with the floor manager, who will delegate tasks to them. They may be in charge of props for the show or look after the audience, while the floor manager looks after the presenters and guests.
Experience in an assistant role allows you to make an impression in order to progress to floor manager.
As with initial contracts, opportunities for promotion and progression can be boosted by networking (many jobs are found through word of mouth).
Whatever your role, whether at the lower or higher end of the career ladder, it is vital to make a good impression. Excellent interpersonal and networking skills will help you gain recommendations for more work.
It is possible to specialise: some floor managers prefer to work in sport; some enjoy children's entertainment; others are especially skilled at outside broadcasts. A reputation for excellence within your specialism can lead to higher fees and more work.
Advancement to producer or director is possible via an assistant role.