To the young lady who asked, and anyone else who needs advice on becoming a researcher; as promised I asked a researcher and here is what he said.
“What’s the best way to become a TV researcher? What types of things should I be doing? Where should I be applying? Is it necessary to have TV experience eg being a runner, or can you apply based on your research skills?
Lastly, are there topic/subject-specific roles and where would I can find these? For example, I have a background in psychology so would be most interested in applying that knowledge to related programs”
It can seem like a daunting task full of catch-22s! A week or two of work experience as a junior researcher is definitely worthwhile as a first step. Find the production companies that make the kind of shows you like to watch, factual entertainment, comedy, and natural history. Send emails to as many as you can asking them if they are looking for a junior researcher for a week or two (or longer!) paid or unpaid. Some companies will give you one week unpaid and the second paid. It can at least get you a line on your CV and a reference if you need that, and it will be useful hopefully if you’re keen and ask lots of questions (easier said than done sometimes if everyone is super busy!) Some of the smaller indies will be more interested in showing you the ropes so don’t overlook them.
The industry can be very opaque. It’s a terrible cliche but getting a job in TV is based on who you know sometimes. Most companies don’t advertise for positions at all and ask for recommendations from colleagues or bigger companies have talent managers, so join any online and real networks for TV professionals. If you have any friends or distant family in the industry, get in touch with them. Getting a job in TV is not always a meritocracy sadly but the people who are in the industry won’t mind you reaching out to them. Most people will want to help you if you’re keen.
There are jobs advertised still on websites like Talent Bases, and Talent Manager and on the Facebook groups such as. https://www.facebook.com/groups/tvfreelancerjobs or maybe https://www.facebook.com/groups/peopleintvrunners
Sometimes junior researcher jobs are posted on the runner’s group for those with a couple of running credits and looking to step up. Screen skills is also an excellent website full of lots of free training which you can also put on your CV to get you more ready to be a researcher.
“Is it necessary to have TV experience eg being a runner, or can you apply based on your research skills?“
I think most people do a bit of running either on location or as an office runner. You can also do this at post-production houses, and it can help you get a credit to your name.
I’ve known a few people who have done a Masters’s degree after their BA as a way to beef up their research skills. If you want to show off your research skills, doing a postgrad will be a good way to do this. Directors and producers just want to know you can find reliable academic sources and summarise these quickly with clear references.
If you’re hoping to get into factual TV a lot of research is quite broad, you could be looking for statistics on 20th-century fashion one day and the next day searching through journals about palaeolithic archaeology of the Middle East.
Lastly, are there topic / subject-specific roles and where would you find these?
For example, I have a background in psychology so would be most interested in applying that knowledge to related programs
This might take a bit of research to find the production companies making obs docs where psychology plays a big part. But on the other hand, I think psychology could fit with being a casting researcher quite well, if you’re a good judge of character and have a sense of how people will react on camera that skill will be really valued when casting for almost any series, so that could open up any lots of different shows (dating, reality
Once you find them it’s really a case of sending them an email to say how much you genuinely loved the recent series and see if they’re looking for an office runner or junior researcher/casting researcher.
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