TV/Film Runner

The Job and What's Involved

Runners provide essential support in the production of films and TV programme's.

The runner role itself, while varied, is often demanding and unglamorous. Runners are likely to spend a lot of time making tea and running errands. The job provides the chance to gain experience and make contacts and is often seen as the main entry point into a career in the film or TV industry.

The work can vary hugely. Runners may be called on to do almost any unskilled task required to help the production go smoothly. This could include:

  • Keeping studios, editing suites and other areas tidy.
  • Transporting crews between locations.
  • Making teas and lunches for colleagues and clients.
  • Greeting visitors.
  • Ensuring that all team members have up-to-date scripts.
  • Fetching and delivering equipment, tapes or other items.
  • Answering the telephone.
  • Hiring props.
  • Carrying out basic research.
  • General administration work, such as checking invoices and job sheets.
  • Opening the building in the morning and locking up at the end of the day.
  • Standing in for other junior colleagues in their absence.

Runners report to a producer, director or editor. They may respond to requests from all members of the team, including the cast and technical crews.

On the set of a big-budget movie, there may be several runners. Each is assigned to a different area, such as production office, sound, camera and editing. A runner on a smaller production may work across all these areas.

As well as working on the filming of movies and shows, runners are also found in post-production. Here they assist in the editing process.

Runners may be required to use some production equipment. For example, they may be expected to connect up tape equipment, or to help digitise material before editing.

Working hours are long and unpredictable. During production, runners may work six days a week. They may also be required to work on some nights, weekends and holidays, depending on production deadlines.

Shift work is possible and some runners need to be on call at all times. Freelance work and short-term contracts are common. This means runners may experience periods of intensive work, followed by spells of inactivity.

Runners work in offices, studios and editing suites. They also work on location, which can include outdoor work. They spend a lot of time on their feet and may have to carry or lift props or equipment.

Travel within the working day is frequent and a driving licence is essential.

Most runners are employed on a freelance basis. See the website of the Broadcasting Entertainment Cinematographic and Theatre Union (BECTU) for recommended freelance rates.

Salaries for full-time runners may start at around £10,000-£12,000 a year.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

Runners are employed by:

  • Independent film and TV production companies.
  • The BBC.
  • The ITV network of companies.
  • Cable and satellite TV companies.

Companies are based mostly in major cities, such as London, Cardiff, Birmingham, Manchester and Glasgow.

As the runner role is seen as the key point of entry to a film or TV career, competition is intense. Some vacancies may be found on www.productionbase.co.uk or www.mandy.com. Vacancies often go unadvertised. Runners may be recruited from those who have submitted a CV in the past.

It is important to:

  • Gain as much relevant work experience as possible, which may be unpaid.
  • Find out what kind of programme's/films employers make before approaching them.
  • Send CV's and covering letters to suitable employers.
  • Demonstrate a positive attitude, an enthusiasm for the industry and a track record of holding responsibility.
  • Build and cultivate contacts in the industry.

Education and Training

There are no set entry qualifications.

The Diploma in creative and media may be relevant for this area of work. BTEC national qualifications in media production or film and TV may also be useful.

A degree, foundation degree or HND in TV/film production may be an advantage. Degrees in media skills, drama and theatre or related subjects may also be useful. However, this is not essential. Employers are often more interested in enthusiasm and experience than academic qualifications.

For some posts, catering experience is useful. A first aid qualification may also be an advantage.

Some larger companies operate occasional schemes that offer new runners six to nine months of experience in different parts of the business. These schemes are seldom advertised; selection often takes place from those who have previously contacted the company.

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Training is likely to be on the job and runners are expected to learn quickly.

The job offers an insight into all aspects of production. In some companies there may be opportunities to gain experience in particular areas of interest - e.g. by taking on some camera work or editing.

Skillset (the Sector Skills Council for Creative Media) supports a number of short courses for freelances. Organisations such as FT2 and Cyfle run training schemes to equip people with the skills for junior production jobs. Entrants are often already working in the industry.

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

A runner needs:

  • Enthusiasm and energy.
  • Initiative.
  • Excellent communication skills.
  • To be well organised.
  • A flair for building good relationships with all kinds of people.
  • A willingness to learn.
  • To be resourceful and good at solving problems.
  • To be effective in a team.
  • To work well under pressure.
  • Physical stamina.
  • Basic IT skills.
  • An awareness of food hygiene and health and safety issues.

Your Long Term Prospects

Runners advance by earning a good reputation and establishing strong contacts. The role gives them the experience and insight that could ultimately lead to more senior production, direction or technical roles.

In television, the next step up from runner is a researcher role. Sometimes, the two jobs are combined.

Runners in the film industry may move up to the position of head runner. They may then progress to third, second and first assistant director's roles.

After experience in the production office, runners may take on further responsibility and move into production assistant roles. In post-production, a runner may progress to edit assistant and then editor.

In smaller companies, progression is by taking on more responsibility, rather than formal promotion.

Get Further Information

BBC Recruitment HR Direct,
PO Box 1133, Belfast BT1 9GP
Website: www.bbc.co.uk/jobs

British Film Institute (BFI),
21 Stephen Street, London W1T 1LN
Tel: 020 7255 1444
Website: www.bfi.org.uk

Broadcasting Entertainment Cinematograph
and Theatre Union (BECTU),
373-377 Clapham Road, London SW9 9BT
Tel: 020 7346 0900
Website: www.bectu.org.uk

Film and Television Freelance Training (FT2),
3rd Floor, 18-20 Southwark Street,
London SE1 1TJ
Tel: 020 7407 0344
Website: www.ft2.org.uk

ITV Network Centre, 200 Gray's Inn Road,
London WC1X 8HF
Tel: 0844 881 8000
Website: www.itv.com/jobs

Skillset, Focus Point,
21 Caledonian Road,
London N1 9GB
Skillset Careers Helpline 08080 300 900
Website: www.skillset.org

UK Film Council,
10 Little Portland Street
London W1W 7JG
Tel: 020 7861 7861
Website: www.ukfilmcouncil.org.uk

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