How To Actually Get Work As A Runner
As a freelancer, your career is entirely based on yourself. The only thing that will get you work is you and in all likelihood, you’ll never get ever a job handed to you on a plate. Basically, you need to put in work before you get actual work and you do this by treating yourself like a business.
Businesses have plans and so should you. A company will research and source potential clients, they make plans on how to target them, they promote their services, they network, they look out for trends and events that could benefit their marketing strategy. You can do all these things as a Runner and it will help you get work. Instead of a business plan, I like to call it plan of attack because sometimes it feels like you have to attack this industry and hack your way into it!
So how do you create your own personalised plan of attack?
You need to do a lot of research and really think about what it is you actually want to do. Spend some time researching the different types of Runner, productions and the filming hotspots in the UK. Think about what’s best for you and/or what you're most interested in.
Do you want to be a Production Runner? What job role would you like to have in the future? Do you want to work in Natural History? Do you have a preference to where in the UK you work?
Why is this relevant? Well, if you’re interested in potentially becoming an editor in the future, then a Post Production Runner job could be perfect. Alternatively, if eventually you want to be a 1st AD then you should start by being a Floor Runner. Bristol is an excellent place to be if you’re interested in Natural History so it might be a good idea to base yourself there. On the other hand if big, feature films are what you’re after then London is the place to be.
It’s a good idea to narrow this down so at least you have a place to start with your research. Don’t worry if you’re interested in anything and everything at this stage, but I think its useful to have an idea of where you need to start or where you’d like to be in the future and work backwards.
As the old cliché goes, it’s not about what you know but who you know. Unfortunately this is still true and perhaps even more so in the film and TV industry than in others. You’ll need to utilise your contacts and find out who you know who can help you get work, could recommend you to a colleague or even just give you some advice.
Every time you get work you should keep hold of the employers contact details for future reference. Then when you’re next available drop them an email letting them know you’re looking for your next job and if they know of any opportunities, you’d love to hear about them. Keep the email short and include the latest version of you CV.
Similarly, if you get on particularly well with a crewmember, ask if you can get their email or if it would be ok to add them on Facebook. Even if they can’t directly get you work, they might know about a job that’s going to give you the information to apply for it.
If you don’t know anyone in the industry (or at least think you don’t), make a diagram of people you do know. Then draw a line from each person and list who they know. You might find you have some 3rd party connections; perhaps your university lecturer knows someone at the BBC or your friend’s mum is a Camera Operator. It’s worth looking into, as it’s always better to contact someone you know or are connected to in some way. If you email an employer saying someone you both know recommended you contact him or her, they’re more likely to give your email some thought than a cold email.
Set an afternoon aside to search the hell out of Google. You want to search for companies that are relevant to your interests and make a list of all the places that you can speculatively send your CV to.
Have your awesome CV and cover letter ready (see my Runner's CV post) and remember to amend your cover letter each time you send it, as well as including the company name and name of the person you’re emailing if possible. I also recommend explaining why you’re approaching that particular company, E.G, “I’m writing to you at Mammoth Screen as I’m particularly interested in working on period dramas and I particularly enjoyed your recent productions Poldark as well as And Then There Were None”. This shows you’re genuinely interested in that particular company, have done your research and know what they’re about.
On a side note, don’t cold call companies. I’ve had a few cold calls recently for work experience and Runner jobs and both its annoying and disruptive. Stick to an email as the employer can read it when they have a moment and it won’t interrupt their workflow. Also, a phone call asking for a job doesn’t give me any information about you or your experience. I’d much rather read a well written CV and cover letter at my own pace than an awkward phone call at 9am on a Monday morning.
Just to be clear: cold emails are acceptable, cold calls are not.
There are plenty of great Facebook groups out there posting paid work and there’s no excuse not to make the most of them. Check the groups as often as possible and look out for relevant jobs. Some long term media jobs are shared on Twitter so keep an eye on that too, although Facebook is where you’ll find the most information. LinkedIn is a good way to connect with people and stay in touch with employers and colleagues.
Revisit your friend Google and research networking opportunities, training and events in your area or specific to your interests. When I was starting out I took part in The Network, The Script Factory’s Script Lab and volunteered as a steward at the Edinburgh TV Festival which were all excellent opportunities for meeting other newbies as well as established industry professionals. Attend TV events, film festivals, workshops, TV training schemes; anything you can find where you will be able to mingle with other like-minded people or even better, potential employers.
Keep at it.
Unfortunately, there is no fool-proof way to get guaranteed a job as it all comes down to you and your willingness to put in a lot of time and effort. Even so, I genuinely believe doing the things I’ve listed above will help increase your chances of standing out and getting work, or at least it works for me.
Be patient and don’t get disheartened. This industry is harsh and its frustrating but annoyingly common for people not to reply to your emails or job applications. Even recently in my own experience as a Production Coordinator, I speculatively emailed around 30 production companies and only 3 replied. But hey, that’s just the way it is. It doesn’t mean you’re doing something wrong, in most cases the employer is just too busy to reply at that time or there aren’t any job vacancies available so your speculative CV goes to the back of their mind.
When that happens, move on and forget about it. Don’t email them again a day later asking if they got your email. Go back to your plan and find more people or companies to contact. Look for more networking opportunities. Drive yourself crazy sending emails. Scroll through every job group you can find on Facebook.
Keep at it and eventually you will get work. And once “you’re in”, its a lot easier to keep getting work then it is to get your very first job.
I’m always happy to receive feedback or try to answer any questions you might have, so please feel free to get in touch.