ITV Executive Anna Fern on getting started in TV, on-screen diversity and The Network

When you’re younger, getting into the TV industry seems like the most impossible thing in the world. We grow up in this weird sphere of thinking wherein we convince ourselves the working worlds of TV, film and music are unachievable. Anna Fern is here to tell us that getting into TV is more accessible than you think.

Anna Fern works in the Director of Television’s office at ITV, as Channels Executive. Having ascended through the ranks of ITV for nearly a decade now, Anna Fern has a wealth of great industry knowledge we couldn’t help but dig into, here is our conversation with her.

1. Can you tell us a bit about yourself, what you do and how you got there?

I act as a project manager across Commissioning and Programme Strategy, and I also make sure the Director of Television has everything he needs to get through the day and is fully briefed on any issues.

I have worked at ITV for a while now, since 2007, and I have been very lucky to have been supported by the business during my time here. After being selected for their Fast Track scheme in 2009, I moved into the Digital Channels and Acquisitions team, as Digital Channels Executive, performing a similar role to my current one, but for our digital channels portfolio.

2. Are there any popular misconceptions people have about working in TV?

I think some people may feel like it’s only possible to get in if you or your family have connections in the industry. I didn’t know anyone before I started out, and schemes like The Network help with this – once I had it on my CV, I was considered for work experience placements. Anyone can apply for The Network, and it’s a level playing field – it makes no difference what kind of background you’re from, or if you know anyone in the industry or not!

3. What is the most exciting project you’ve worked on and why?

Probably launching the Social Partnership at ITV. It is ITV’s four-pillar approach to social responsibility, including on- and off-screen diversity. I project managed it, with a brilliant group of people from around the business, and I’m really proud of what we achieved.

4. Inversely, what has been the most challenging part of your career so far?

I’m going through a challenging phase at the moment, as I work out where my career might take me in the future. Like lots of people in the industry, I had a great time in my professional life in my 20s, moving from role to role as things came up for me. However, I didn’t have a particular path in mind. My advice to anyone starting out would be to choose people you admire and research their career path, and see how they got where they did. Speak to senior people at your company, and ask them how they have achieved what they have.

5. Where do you see your career path moving to in the future? Do you have any interest in exploring other parts of the media sphere?

I love working in the broadcasting side of TV, and being aware of the commercial and strategic pressures of the industry, as well as the creative aspect. For those who are starting out in the industry, sometimes it can seem like production is your only option, but there are lots of exciting opportunities in the channels side, from marketing, to legal, to finance, to scheduling, to acquisitions…

6. Can you tell us a bit about The Network and how you feel about it generally?

The Network is an incredible opportunity. It’s known and respected within the industry, and I would urge anyone interested in television to apply. Not only do you meet and hear from amazing senior figures, but it also helps you start to create a network peers who are starting their careers at the same time as you, helping you to start building up industry friends and contacts.

7. Finally, can you give your top three tips for any young people looking to get into the production/TV/media industry?

I’d advise anyone starting out to make sure they’re well informed. Keep up with industry news; make sure you can speak confidently on your television tastes; find out about roles you might be interested in, what they involve, what the titles are, and how they relate to the rest of the team; and research programmes, people, and channels that you love. And finally, I don’t think there’s any great secret to making it in television. Be polite, be interested, be pro-active, be helpful, listen to and learn from those who are more experienced than you, work hard, and maintain your passion for TV.

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