Interviews – Media – John Fitton

John Fitton, 23, works for The Lab – the experimental low cost TV production unit set up by LWT in January 1999. Fitton is a graduate of St Catherine’s College, Oxford, where he gained a first class honors degree in English. He gave us a few tips on how to break into the industry

What does your job involve?
I’m a member of the production team at The Lab – London Weekend Television’s multi-skilled production unit. I work on programmes at all stages, including researching, shooting and editing my own pieces.

How did you get the job?
After graduating, I spent three months at The Lab on work experience and was even able to get involved in programme making. At the end of my work experience, I was given a proper contract.

Is there an established way to get into television production?
The traditional way is to do unpaid work experience for a TV company and then perhaps to get a job as a runner. Having said that, everyone seems to get in in a different way. There are very few graduate recruitment schemes specifically designed for television production, so you really have to make your own opportunities.

Do you need to be a certain type of person to work in television industry?
Not really. However, you do need to be quite sociable and easy-going as much of the job depends on getting on with people – whether colleagues or contributors – and getting the best out of them. And you’ve got to keep coming up with ideas all the time.

Is it easy to progress up the career ladder?
Yes, reasonably. Hierarchies tend to be flexible and people will always give you more responsibility if you show you’re keen to take it.

What are the high points and low points of the job?
Highlights are easy to think of. It’s a very exciting job and you’re always doing something new. I suppose my greatest satisfaction so far was when a piece I had researched, filmed and edited all by myself was broadcast.

The hours are the main problem – they can be incredibly long and so unpredictable that it’s hard to make any firm plans outside work. Most people love what they’re doing, so they put up with it. The pay isn’t great either, particularly in the early stages.

What do you see yourself doing in five years?
It’s hard to predict, as at the moment I keep doing (and enjoying) things that I hadn’t expected to. But eventually I want to produce and direct arts programmes.

Any tips on getting into the industry?
Just keep at it. It’s an industry that rewards commitment and enthusiasm. Watch lots of television and practice thinking critically about the programmes you’re interested in – and remember to think about the stories and pictures. Try never to forget any idea you’ve had – keep a notebook or a clippings file.

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