Not signed up to The Light Lounge? Register on our homepage for regular opportunities and competitions direct to your inbox!

Industry Salary Survey

It’s possible to earn a very good salary in the TV industry. But it’s much tougher to do so if you are a woman, over 45, or at the bottom of the career ladder. Tim Dams reports on the TV industry’s salary secrets…

The Runner

A Runner is literally someone who runs errands; you will be an all-in-one messenger, handyman, tea-maker and cleaner. However, Runners are actually essential to a shoot running smoothly, and most people start off in the industry at this level, whether or not they have been to university.

Don’t see this as a position that’s beneath you but look upon it as a great opportunity to learn more about all the roles available and make contacts with those around you. If you show willing and initiative, it is likely that you will move up the rungs fairly quickly.

Here are First Light’s top tips for Runners:

  • Always show enthusiasm and good grace, no matter what the task assigned
  • Be observant and use initiative and common sense – find things to do without having to be asked first
  • Be flexible and willing to work long/unsociable hours
  • Whilst you don’t need any formal qualifications to be a Runner, a full driving license will go a long way
  • Whilst it may seem more exciting to get work on bigger sets of well known films/programmes, working on smaller projects will often give you more experience

How to find runner jobs

A lot of the time, runners are recruited at the last minute, so more often than not positions aren’t advertised in advanced on job sites. Here are other ways to find out about openings:

  • Networking – go to networking events, give out business cards and follow up with contacts (don’t pester, but dropping someone a line to thank them for their time can go a long way)
  • Social media – last minute opportunities often go out on Twitter
  • Speculative CVs and covering letters to prospective employers (see our top tips on CVs and interviews)
  • Work experience (see our internships page)

If you have any experiences/stories/tips of being a runner that might be useful to share with young people just starting out, please email them to

Tips for freelancers

More and more film and TV professionals are going freelance, but there are both pros and cons to being a freelancer, and it is something you need to think about carefully before diving in. Whilst your holidays and working hours will be more flexible, you need to be financially savvy, a people-person and be able to cover yourself legally. Our top tips are below:

  • Learn to negotiate your salary, research what is reasonable
  • Network and maintain contacts – attend networking events, stay in touch with existing contacts, even if there is no work for you at that time
  • Market yourself: business cards, social networking, a blog?
  • Don’t forget insurance for your kit in case of damage/theft
  • Keep all contracts/receipts/payslips and try to put aside a third of your earnings for your tax bill
  • Don’t know whether to register as a sole trader or limited company? Click here

How to find (and keep!) a professional mentor

Professional mentors can be a great way to progress your career in the industry when starting out. Before you start your search though, think about exactly what it is that you want (and can realistically get) out of the relationship. Guardian Careers have some great tips for finding and keeping a mentor.

Useful careers sites:

There’s loads of really great production advice available on the BBC’s College of Production website. It’s packed full of really useful technical advice, information, hints & tips alongside job profiles from across the organisation.

The Guardian
Useful forums, CV clinics and Q&A sessions

With the latest film & TV opportunities, events and news

Jobs & advice for new entrants

My First Job in Film

Most people, even graduates, have to start off in the industry as runners. There are some great tips for making the most of your runner positions on the Unit List website

For careers in games:

Blitz Academy

There’s also a good Q&A session with industry experts on The Guardian site here

For careers in animation

Check out these interviews with the Commerical Directors of Aardman Animations here and the Co-Founder David Sproxton here


If you are thinking about a career in animation or special effects it is a good idea to create a 90 second showreel of the best bits of your work, which you could upload to vimeo or youtube. Make sure you keep it short and engaging.