‘How I became a BBC TV Producer’: Meet Adam Hunt

Adam Hunt is a pretty cool guy. He “hustled” (his word) his way into the TV industry. He’s worked on Mock the Week (we’re jealous) and now he’s a BBC TV producer working on The One Show (impressive, right?). Yep, he’s made it.

We caught up with Adam to find out how you can break into the industry too. Before making it at the BBC, Adam got his start in TV via The Network. This is a free scheme designed to help anyone over 18 kickstart a career in TV – no experience necessary. It’s free and involves taking 50 people up to the Edinburgh TV Festival for 4 days to learn about the industry and attend intensive practical masterclasses with some of the best from the TV world.

Alumni from The Network are now found working at Blue Peter, Eastenders, The X Factor and pretty much all the big broadcasters and production companies. Adam is one of those alumni.

This is his inspirational story…

1. How did you begin in the TV industry?

I hustled myself into any job where I could make tea or coffee around the right kind of people. Every single job is just a stepping stone, you never quite feel like you’re in. I guess that says a lot that you need to always be thinking about what’s next. The trick with TV is that it’s not how you get in, it’s how you stay in. So many people come to their next job and take something that’s more concrete but a give up on trying for something more fun.

2. Is that how you pitched your new show – by thinking ahead?

For The One Show, which I’m working on at the moment, we turn around shows in the course of four days. My team works on what we think works and then I pitch it to our editor – he’s the uber-brain that decides whether it’s really any good.

3. How long have you been on The One Show?

As a producer I’ve been there since September but I started on the show itself back in April last year. I’d been a producer somewhere else and then I was an assitant producer at The One Show and then clawed my way up to being a real producer.

4. What do you think of paid work experience? In the TV industry a lot of young people feel as if they’re being exploited.

I’ve never done it but that’s not because I’m in any way privileged. Any experience that you get, you need to be getting more out of it than the person who’s asking you to do it. Let’s say there’s a production in comedy you want to work on and you do a day of shadowing. Once it goes beyond that, it’s exploitation and realistically taking away a paid job from a runner. If a production can’t afford all the hands of deck, you can’t afford the production to happen. That said, work experience is valuable and you can’t get anywhere without any – there’s a fine line. When you’re doing work experience and you find yourself at a loss for things to do, you’re in a good placement because they’re not taking the piss.

5. What kind of things do you do in your day-to-day job?

Right now at The One Show my day-to-day can be a number of things. We have four days to put together and put out a 30 minute live show. Of that half an hour, 16 minutes are already filmed and could be about absolutely anything. It could be about the history of clowns – literally anything. Someone has gone about making an interesting film which gives you loads of places to go with in terms of content. All I really have to do is fill the space between those films. You’ve got four films, a celebrity guest and you throw it all together with chat.

The first day is ideas day and then you pitch those and then, with your teams, you do the real leg-work and actually put in the research to find out if these can happen. Then you slowly move it from an idea with lots of bullet points, to a full script. On day four you’ve got your script meeting where all the changes happen. You then fix the script before the presenters come in, they then rehearse it straight away. They’re in the studio, we’re in the control room and from that point onwards it’s all about making sure it happens!

6. You sound like you love your job!

There are a lot of jobs I’ve done which sound great on paper. If I tell people I’ve worked on Mock the Week they’re amazed. But working on The One Show is actually the most satisfying job in the world because you can do whatever you want! There’s a completely blank page.

7. Do you think starting out as a Youtuber is a good start to get into TV work?

I would say that doing anything creative is a great starting point. What I would like is that the people who want to get into TV don’t just to start vlogging but use Youtube as a platform to put out anything creative. If you want to be a presenter, keep vlogging. But if you want to work behind-the-scenes, think about what skills you might need. One of things that stood me in good stead is that back when I was at university I learned to edit at my uni TV station. I don’t want to be an editor, but knowing how to edit means that I’m much better at helping editors do what I want them to do. The people who really do well are the ones that want to do it rather than the ones who want to say they do.

9. Have you had any weirdos trying to get a job with you?

If you want to try and get a job, you need to network, you need to get in touch with people. There are two ways of doing it. There’s the annoying way and the understated way. If I get someone getting in touch with me who genuinely has something in common and shows a genuine interest and I’d like to help them, I will. If I get emails from someone who just copied and pasted the same sentiment-less email, it’s a waste of time. Think about what the person you’re contacting would want to help you for.

10. In TV, do you get sent showreels or is a CV better?

If you want to work behind-the-scenes, don’t show me your face. Even a CV with a face on it, if the words can’t sell you then nothing will. A lot of the people who want to attach a picture, usually are willing to slum it behind-the-scenes but really want to be presenters, again, no interest. If that’s what you want, don’t tell me that. Whoever you’re talking to, tailor your approach to them to what they can help you with.

11. What would your three tips be for getting into the TV industry?

1) Know what you want to do

2) Network but don’t be a dick about it

3) Keep plugging away and always have something else to go back to because, at the start, you’ll get short-term jobs and you won’t necessarily get your next job straight away. Have another way to pay the bills, whether it’s writing on the side or working in a bar. Always be ready to do those things even if you don’t need to.

The way to deal with getting a job is not being competitive is to just compete with yourself. As a freelancer, all you need, is at 4 points during the year, you need someone to give you a 3 month job. Also, if you can help people out, even if they’re going for the same job as you, they’ll return the favour.

12. What can we expect from you in the future, a jump to the film industry?

That’s very unlikely since that is a whole other discipline, one that I’ve got no skills for. I think I’m in a weird position where I’m really enjoying what I’m doing and it’s come as a bit of a surprise. The thing is you go from runner, to researcher, to AP and you can go quite quickly or quite slowly but when you get to producer there’s quite a ceiling that you can’t go much further until you’ve got more experience. I’m at the early stage of that. The next three or four years will be trying to be a better producer and getting good enough that I can even think about that and just making sure I enjoy every job that I do!

Are you interested in getting into the TV world? Apply to The Network (it’s free!) and you have until April 4. You can also follow The Network on Twitter – @TheNetwork_TV