Interviews – Media – Laura Hamilton-Wargent

Laura Hamilton-Wargent has wanted to be in TV since she was 15. Since August she has been working as a runner at Channel 4, whose trainee scheme has been so popular it is already completely oversubscribed. She gives her perspective on how to break into a fashionable but crowded arena

What is your role?
I am employed as a runner but I’m also shadowing the floor manager when I have free time, and on my days off. I am training as an assistant floor manager to give me a greater knowledge of production. Assistant floor managing is a good step up from my current position, but long term I’d love to pursue a career as a presenter.

How did you get your job?
I’d completed various work experience placements including working for the BBC, as well as Sugar and TV HITS magazines. I have also been involved in voluntary work for a hospital radio station. In October ’99 I sent my CV off to a variety of TV companies and heard back from Channel 4 in February who informed me that there’d be positions coming up in the future. After attending an interview in April I was offered the job.

What do you do day-to-day?
Running is basically hospitality for clients. This involves meeting and greeting clients, taking them to the studio or the edit suites and making sure they’re comfortable. If they require anything you are likely to be the first person they will ask. Runners are also involved in helping out with a lot of general tasks. This gives you the opportunity to experience first hand how things operate and most importantly make contacts.

What kind of prospects are there?
A lot of people start as a runner as a way to get into the industry; Gail Porter started as a runner. The opportunities come through the people you meet. The saying, ‘who you know not what you know,’ can sometimes be very true in this industry! However some people on the technical side like editors, and others in post-production, often have a lot of specific training for their jobs before they break into the industry.

How many hours do you work?
It works out as an average of 37 hours a week. However I work on a three-week shift pattern, and I really enjoy this as it gives you a bit of variety even if you do have to work weekends.

What’s your favourite part of the job?
I’m very lucky in that I get to see both sides of the equation because I’m a production and post-production runner. I really enjoy working in production, being in the studio is a completely unique experience. I have met so many great people and worked on some great productions.

What kind of characteristics do you need to be in the TV industry?
You definitely need determination and enthusiasm and it is really important that you don’t take things to heart when people are stressed, and deadlines need to be met. This also leads to the skill of learning when to ask and when not to ask questions. Organisation is another important characteristic – runners often get asked to do a lot of things at once, and you have to try and keep as many people as happy as possible! So always keep your head high.

Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?
I would love to present, that’s always been my ambition, but I don’t think that I will be able to move from a runner to presenter…well unless somebody who sees my showreel thinks that I would be ideal for a programme! I’m getting a few tips from the presenters I’ve met, I really appreciate that. Before I started working at Channel 4 I thought that I would like to be a researcher but when you are actually in the industry you get to see the variety of jobs people do, and so I changed my mind. I hope to be a studio assistant or a floor manager.

What advice would you give to graduates looking to get into the industry?
You’ve got to understand that whether you’ve got a degree or not, you have to start at the bottom. Be prepared for that. But you need to get as much work experience as you can, normally unpaid, so write to companies and offer yourself, that can lead to a paid position. And don’t give up – just keep applying.

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