Intense competition for television floor manager jobs means most graduates gain prior experience working as a runner, assistant floor manager or in a technical sound or lighting role

Working as a television floor manager, 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.

You'll 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 your responsibility to pass on cues to presenters and guests to ensure timings are met and the broadcast goes smoothly.

You'll 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.

Responsibilities

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

  • check that equipment, e.g. microphones and earpieces, are working before the show
  • 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
  • assist in the planning and preparation of productions
  • oversee the work of other departments, such as sound, lighting and props
  • 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 what props are required later in the show
  • brief and look after those involved in the programme
  • manage the audience, e.g. explaining safety requirements, show timings and what will happen during filming and when the programme will be aired
  • 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 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.

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 consistent.

Income figures are intended as a guide only.

Working hours

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 you are 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.

Qualifications

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

  • drama/theatre studies
  • media studies
  • photography/film/television.

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.

Skills

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.

Work experience

You will need pre-entry experience. 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:

Arrange to meet producers, directors or other appropriate individuals; you can find potential contacts by looking at programme credits.

Employers

You can find training opportunities within television companies but competition is intense.

The BBC runs a number of training schemes, including the Production Trainee Scheme and Production Talent Pool - see BBC Careers - Trainee Schemes and Apprenticeships.

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

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 they will request your services for their next programme.

Look for job vacancies at:

Like most jobs in the media, many vacancies are never advertised so you secure them through persistent speculative applications and effective networking.

Look for contacts for speculative applications in specialist directories such as:

Many television floor managers work on a freelance basis so it's worth finding out more about self-employment.

Professional development

Your training is usually carried out on the job, under the supervision of more experienced colleagues.

You are 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 can help you to develop relevant practical skills.

Organisations that offer training for workers in the media industry include:

You may choose to go on to further study, so look for vocational courses in the Creative Skillset Courses Directory or search for postgraduate courses in television production.

Career prospects

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.