Launching my TV production career in midst of pandemic

January 27, 2021

Collage created by Hannah with images by Imageworld from Pixabay

Hannah Phelps lands her first industry job on BBC Children in Need 2020

The global pandemic has made it harder than ever to find work. For recent graduates like myself, it’s especially difficult to land a job, to finally get a foothold in a much-desired career after years of study.

During November 2020, I got a job on my first ever TV production, as a runner. This was for live TV to be aired on prime time Friday night with a very high production budget.

The BBC Children in Need 2020 appeal show is a remarkable charity event, which raises money for vulnerable children in the UK and around the world. The programme filled with entertainment was going to include various comedy sketches and performances.

There would be a live link performance from Shawn Mendes with his debut hit Wonder and live in the studio Andrew Lloyd Webber and Carrie Hope with Bad Cinderella from Lloyd Webber’s latest musical Cinderella.

I felt so fortunate to be given this amazing opportunity, which admittedly I had worked relentlessly to find. It took a few days to sink in that I would soon be working on live television production. My first job post-university.

The weeks leading up to filming are the pre-production stage. I was emailed numerous schedules; running orders, call times for crewmembers along with rigorous health and safety details. I needed to sign and complete a form, which stated that I had not been in contact with anyone who had Covid-19, nor was I displaying any symptoms.

I imagined social distancing, in mask and gloves, would be incredibly hard to maintain on a live TV studio set with lots of people busying about, so I was interested to see how everything would work on the day.

I arrived at the studios at 6:30 am; it was barely light, which added to my apprehension and anxiety

As a runner, my responsibility was to assist various crewmembers within the production. I would be working with another runner who had more experience and would show me the ropes. I was feeling nervous and excited.

The day of filming was here. I arrived at the studios at 6:30 am; it was barely light, which added to my apprehension and anxiety. My details were taken through a screen and an access pass was made and laid in front of me. My temperature had to be checked before I was allowed into the site. If it had been too high after two attempts, I would have been sent straight home.

It was a pretty surreal experience with figures dotted about, illuminated only by bright white face masks and gloves as the sun came up.

Face coverings had to be worn at all times in the studio, in the gallery as well as in the corridors. There were several hand-sanitising stations scattered strategically around the place.

To start with I was given a tour of the studios and shown the one-way walking system. The studio space wasn’t as big as I was expecting which made me feel less overwhelmed.

My main task would be working on the tea and coffee station, bringing drinks to those working in the gallery. This included the lighting and production teams plus the engineers.

Wearing gloves we had to place the drinks on set tables a couple of metres away, alerting the person that tea was served!

When the show went live, I was expecting more chaos behind the scenes, but it was relatively calm. I was even allowed to watch some of the show on my break and sit in the audience seats, which were of course empty.

Before I could take stock, filming was over and I was winging my way home, exhausted but content!

Maintaining social distancing within a busy studio, having no live studio audience, and wearing masks (not very conducive to chit-chat) did make the atmosphere a bit stilted and strange for me at first.

However, as the day rolled on the Production Coordinator introduced me to various crewmembers. Despite the rigidity and clinical quality created through the regulations, everyone I met was so welcoming and friendly. It seemed that the crew were adapting well to the new restrictions.

The time went very quickly. I had worked a 10-hour shift. Before I could take stock, filming was over, we were off air and I was winging my way home, exhausted but content!

Overall, this was such an incredible experience. I learnt so much and made connections with people who I hope to work with again in the future.

These new adaptations to our lives are everywhere, attempting to keep us safe.

Hopefully with these stringent restrictions in place outbreaks of this virulent virus will be reduced and there will soon be a future free of Covid-19.

I’m looking forward to when we no longer always have to work from home and social distancing rules are lifted. Most of all, I can’t wait to see my friends and family, to enjoy films at the cinema, enter other worlds at the theatre, dance at music festivals and much more!

Hannah is a BA Film graduate from Bournemouth University. She has been involved with various Exposure projects over the last few years which have helped to build her confidence and experience as a filmmaker. She loves to collaborate with talented individuals and aims to reflect this within her work and future career.

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