The path to employment within television can be a long and tortuous road – but one Edge Hill University student is going the right way about forging a potential career within the industry.
Elizabeth Perkins has gained valuable placements with two established, award-winning companies and as she prepares to complete her studies in Ormskirk, she feels she is well placed to make a mark in her chosen career path.
Educated at Queen Elizabeth’s School in Kirkby Lonsdale, it was where she first got a taste for the industry via her sixth form Media Studies course.
But it was the open day words of Dr Elke Weissman, Reader in Television Studies at Edge Hill, which encouraged her to pursue a degree in Television Production Management.
“Perelandra Beedles, Joy Monks and Elke have always gone out of their way to make sure we get the most from the course. We have been assessed regularly for time in the studios, where we meet and work with seasoned industry professionals, said Elizabeth.
“We have also had the opportunity to visit Media City and network with members of The Production Guild at Warner Bros. studios in London – something Pere worked so hard for, so our course can be affiliated with this group.”
Inspired by the aesthetically pleasing work of Baz Luhrmann and Wes Anderson, Elizabeth gained work experience in her second year with Hat Trick Productions, a big industry player for over 30 years and who make the renowned, long-standing BBC comedy panel show, Have I Got News For You.
“Work experience can be hard to get without any TV experience, but you just need to be persistent until someone to gives you the break, I wasn’t ignored without reason.
“I must have fired off 50 emails at once trying to get some work experience, and Hat Trick were the only ones to get back to me with an opportunity”, Elizabeth recalls. “Getting Hat Trick felt like a major success after 50-odd defeats.”
For many students considering work experience in the capital, the process of being able to afford travel, accommodation and living costs can be a problem, particularly for those without contacts. Fortunately, help was at hand.
“I couldn’t afford the accommodation and to spend time off from my part-time job because I get the lowest maintenance loan a student can have. It was Pere who encouraged me to apply for the Student Opportunity Fund. It covered my accommodation and train costs, while family helped feed me!”
Expecting the staple ‘making tea and coffee’ experience, Hat Trick buoyed Elizabeth’s enthusiasm, offering an insight into different areas of the business.
“As well as general office tasks I transcribed interviews with Megan McKenna and Bobby Cole Norris, updated IMDb profiles and worked as a Runner on Have I Got News For You.”
More behind-the-scenes exposure came via a different avenue in the form of The Curve Fashion Festival, held in Liverpool, following a talk given at the University by company owner, Zoe Ellis-Pennick.
“The role as a Backstage and Model Runner was so fast paced, the skills learned from Production Management were so transferrable. If something goes wrong, you take the initiative to fix it, you make sure your models and other staff are safe and you work hard keeping to timings.
“It was a breath of fresh air to learn about that industry and it felt amazing to see how useful our degree has been, if one day we decide TV isn’t for us.”
Elizabeth’s biggest break so far came with LA Productions in Liverpool, following up on a contact – with whom she was quickly given the chance to work as a production office runner for Channel 5Star show, Clink.
“It was my first paid role in TV, I had a very specific job to do and I wanted to make sure I did my best”, she states. “I was able to spend most of my day with the Production Coordinator and Production Secretary, who were so kind and answered every one of my questions.
“I handled Risk Assessments, Unit Lists and Invoices to get an idea of the production process, and I was also their data wrangler so would visit the unit base to collect rushes, giving me the opportunity to connect with camera, sound, make-up, the actors, the ADs, Production Manager, Producer and Director.
“It was made easier knowing I had the skills in place that I’d learnt from my course, and all of the crew were so warm and welcoming.”
Programme Leader Perelandra Beedles believes helping students gain industry experience offers far more than CV content.
“When we arrange placements, students often feel that they have very little to offer other than a willingness to help out. What they consistently report back is that it quickly becomes evident they already have a skillset in Production Coordination, which makes them an incredibly valuable member of a TV Crew.
“This not only boosts their confidence but also reinforces just how employable they are once they have completed our degree.”
Future opportunities are yet to be finalised for Elizabeth, although she is positive that there is the demand for young people to forge a career, whether locally or in the south east.
“Because I’ve grown up in such a small area, London has always been an ambition”, she admits. “There might be more jobs but there will be more fish, too. TV is starting to make its way up north more, and with companies such as LA Productions and shows like Peaky Blinders being filmed in Liverpool, I don’t think there’s the same pressure to make the big move down south anymore, for anyone.”
To find out more about studying Television and Production Management at Edge Hill, see: https://www.edgehill.ac.uk/courses/television-production-management