Louise Quarmby is Assistant Producer on Tipping Point & an ambassador for the charity Changing Faces. In this interview, she gives her top tips for breaking into the media industry.
Can you tell me a bit about your current role as Assistant Producer on Tipping Point?
As a questions AP on Tipping Point I’m responsible for helping write questions and compiling shows – making sure there’s a spread of difficulty levels, variety of subjects and no clashes.
When we’re in studio, I’m responsible for liaising with the graphics team to load our shows into the system and doing a final check for clashes, spelling and grammar. I’m also responsible for briefing our host on questions, including any tricky pronunciations or accepts. When we’re recording, I’ll be in gallery making a judgement call on whether we can accept answers or not and helping to log the game.
What is the best bit of the job?
I really enjoy the variety: getting to write and research about various different topics and seeing your questions used on the show. I also thrive under the pressure of the gallery: it’s always exciting making a TV show.
How did you first get into TV work & what has been your career ladder so far?
I started straight out of university on the BBC Extend scheme, working within entertainment development for BBC Scotland. I was responsible for coming up with ideas for quiz and game shows, and I eventually worked on a daytime pilot we had commissioned. After this I went into radio for a brief period, followed by two years in scheduling. After a while I decided I missed production and went into quiz shows, starting off as a researcher.
What work experience (& extra-curricular activities) did you do while at university?
There was no TV station at my university so I got stuck into the student newspaper, Palatinate, as a sub-editor, and at Purple Radio, the student radio station, as a presenter. Both these helped me gain a place on The Network, a scheme run by the Edinburgh International Television Festival, which helped me gain experience at a local newsroom. Without that experience I think my path would have been quite different.
I know you are also an ambassador for Changing Faces. Can you tell me a bit about that role &how you got into that?
I was born with a cleft lip and palate and it was very difficult growing up with a facial disfigurement. Changing Faces is a charity set-up to help people with a visible difference and their help was invaluable: they made me realise I wasn’t alone and that it was people’s attitudes to disfigurement that needed to change, not me. As a media volunteer, I’m helping them to spread and promote facial equality.
What do you think about the diversity of faces on TV?
TV is starting to become more diverse but it still has a long way to go, particularly in representing disability on screen in a positive way.
What would be your top 3 tips for students trying to get into TV and media roles?
- Be passionate! If you want to work in TV, watch it and work out what you enjoy and why.
- Gain experience at your university radio/TV station/newspaper: you learn key skills very quickly and it shows future employers that you have an interest in working in the media. It’ll also help you gain work experience.
- Be prepared to work short contracts: the large majority of TV production roles are short-term roles (3-6 month contracts; runner roles are even shorter) and involve working long, but rewarding, hours. If you’re looking for something more permanent, scheduling is a great area to get into.
Where can you look for work experience &jobs in this sector?
Network and use social media: Facebook has a few useful groups, including People looking for TV work: runners; lots of employers also advertise on Twitter
Graduate, work experience & insight schemes include:
Shine: trainee schemes
If you need help funding the cost of your work experience, you can apply for a University of Birmingham bursary here
– Ruth Millington, Internship Officer, College of Arts and Law