Television floor managers are the vital link between directors and those involved in a television production on the studio floor

As a television floor manager you'll organise both people and equipment, making sure that programmes run according to a set plan and that people taking part know their particular roles and how these fit in with the bigger picture.

It's up to you to make sure that sets, props and technical equipment are safe, ready to use and in the right position prior to filming, and pass on cues to presenters and guests to ensure timings are met and the broadcast goes smoothly.

The work is mainly studio-based but may also include outside broadcasts, depending on the production.

Responsibilities

As a television floor manager, you'll need to:

  • attend planning meetings to get an understanding of the programme
  • read through the script for the programme, in advance where possible, to get to grips with the details
  • check that equipment, e.g. microphones and earpieces, are working before the show
  • liaise with other departments, such as sound, lighting and props
  • brief and look after those involved in the programme
  • seat the audience (if in attendance)
  • refer to floor plans
  • assist guests on the show
  • relay instructions from the control room to the studio floor using a talkback system
  • keep the director and producer informed of action off-camera
  • rehearse live shows
  • give cues and time counts to presenters, actors or guests
  • organise runners to make the best use of studio time
  • look ahead in the programme schedule to anticipate any changes to the set, or to see which props are required later in the show
  • deal with any technical problems
  • control the studio and halt production if necessary
  • liaise with public relations staff to agree who will be interviewed, for example at sports matches
  • pass information and progress reports from live events to studio presenters
  • adhere to health and safety regulations, e.g. keeping 'safe areas' and fire exits clear of equipment.

Salary

  • 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'll be working on. For example, dramas typically pay more than documentaries and the news. As a general guide, day rates can range from around £120 to £400.
  • Salaries in permanent positions start at around £21,000, rising to £45,000 for senior television floor manager roles.

Your 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 as regular.

Income figures are intended as a guide only.

Working hours

Working hours can be long and irregular, often including evening and weekend work. Hours are usually dictated by studio booking times and you're expected to stay until the job is done.

A typical day may involve starting at 1pm, filming three episodes of a game show and having an hour's break before filming another two in the evening. Two very long days may be followed by a day off.

What to expect

  • The work is mainly studio based, but floor managers may work on location, particularly when covering sporting or news events.
  • Jobs with independent production companies and facilities houses are mainly in London and the South East, but there are also opportunities in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. An increasing number of production companies are setting up in the North West, particularly Manchester and Liverpool, and the BBC has relocated many of its London services to Salford.
  • The work can be pressurised, particularly when working to tight production schedules and strict studio booking times.
  • 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.

Qualifications

You can enter this area of work with any degree, foundation degree or HND, but the following subjects may be particularly helpful:

  • drama or theatre studies
  • media studies
  • media and communications
  • television, film, media or radio production.

You won't go straight into a television floor manager role and must be prepared to take different posts within television first to gain knowledge of the industry as a whole. Most graduates, for example, gain experience working as a runner, assistant floor manager or in a technical sound or lighting role.

Entry without a degree or HND is possible 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.

Skills

You'll need to have:

  • the ability to foresee, solve and avoid problems under pressure
  • 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
  • organisational skills and the ability to multitask
  • a flexible approach to work and working hours.

A driving licence is also useful.

Work experience

In order to realistically compete for jobs, you'll need several years of broadcasting experience. Floor managers may have previous theatre experience but are more likely to have worked in television and gained experience either as a studio runner, assistant floor manager or in a technical sound or lighting role.

When working as a studio runner, make sure you observe the floor manager to get a feel for the role and how the bigger studio team works.

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.
  • Network, make contacts and promote yourself - try using social media such as LinkedIn.
  • Read the media press, such as Broadcast.

Arrange to meet producers and directors. You can find potential contacts by looking at programme credits.

Employers

Most television floor managers work on a freelance basis, moving between employers on contracts that can last a few days or months at a time. Once you've established a good relationship with a director, they may request your services for their next programme. However, there are some regular jobs available.

You may be able to find training opportunities with the major television companies but competition is intense. The BBC, for example, runs a number of training schemes, including the Production Trainee Scheme - see BBC Careers - Trainee schemes & apprenticeships.

Some independent production companies (known as 'indies') have graduate opportunities, which operate on an individual company basis. Some of the main ones include:

Look for job vacancies at:

Many vacancies are never advertised, so you'll need to network hard to build up a pool of contacts.

Targeted speculative applications can also be useful. Look for contacts in specialist directories such as:

Professional development

Training is usually carried out on the job, under the supervision of more experienced colleagues. You're most likely to enter the industry in a junior 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 may help you to develop relevant practical skills. ScreenSkills - the industry-led skills body for the UK's screen-based creative industries - funds, supports or quality marks a range of courses and career development schemes. Find out more at ScreenSkills - Education & training.

Other organisations that offer training in the media industry include:

Courses in health and safety, and first aid are also useful.

You'll need to take responsibility for your own professional development throughout your career. If you're working as a freelance floor manager, you'll have to cover the cost and time of attending courses yourself. Make the most of any opportunities to learn from more experienced colleagues.

There are also options to study at postgraduate level in areas such as television production. Search postgraduate courses in television production.

Career prospects

You'll need experience working in television before you can become a floor manager. This can be gained in positions such as studio runner or assistant floor manager.

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.

By establishing a good track record of work and building your reputation, you'll open up opportunities for promotion and progression. Excellent interpersonal and networking skills will also help you gain recommendations for more work.

There may be opportunities to specialise in a particular type of programme, such as sport, children's entertainment or outside broadcasts. A reputation for excellence within your specialism can lead to higher fees and more work.

Advancement to producer or director may be possible via an assistant role.