I was going to start this blog by saying that being a runner is like competing on a series of Australia’s Next Top Model…and then I came to the conclusion that it was probably a bit of a stretch BUT bear with me here. There are a lot of things that make your experience working as a runner feel a little bit like being on a reality show; with challenges (thrown at you daily), rewards (there are lots of perks in telly) and even eliminations (the looming threat of being weeded out if you’re not up to scratch) along the way. While you may not be judged on your posing, runway walk or for having the best photo, the way you perform on set will be judged in a lot of ways and how you match up with other runners, has the potential to lead to lots more opportunities OR have you packing your bags and leaving the model house for good. I’ve put together a list of some of the things you can do if you “wanna be on top” of your game and get the call back.
1. BE ON TIME
Working in TV means that you could be working in a different location each day. Always give yourself plenty of time to get to set, allow for traffic, wrong turns (if you’re like me and have the sense of direction of a shoe) and parking conditions – sometimes the parking may be situated a fair walk away from location. Aim to arrive 5-10 minutes early so that you can make your way to the production office and be on comms, ready to go by your start time.
2. BE PROACTIVE
If you are ever on set and find yourself lost for something to do, check in with your production coordinator to see if there is anything you can help with. There is nothing that stands out more on set than a lazy runner. A good runner will always be busy because there is always something that needs to be done on set. Sitting down when it’s not a scheduled break, trawling Instagram or chatting amongst a big group of runners isn’t a good look. It doesn’t always seem fair (especially when you see a bunch of producers doing it) but as a new runner to the industry, you have to hold yourself up to a higher standard. Perception is everything in TV!
3. GET IT RIGHT THE FIRST TIME
If you’ve been given a task that you don’t quite understand, then don’t be afraid to ask! There is no point bumbling your way through something when you don’t really know what you’re doing. TV is a fast-paced industry but make sure you take the time to clarify what is required of you so you can get it right the first time…it’s going to work out a lot better than if you have to redo something because you’ve misunderstood.
4. KNOW THE WHO’S WHO
You should always try to get to know the names of as many people as you can on set, especially people that you’ll likely need to report to and assist throughout the shoot. Over 300 new faces can be pretty overwhelming (especially if you’re bad with faces like me – the struggle is REAL) so read your call sheet before you arrive on set and start by familiarising yourself with the Executive Producer, Series Producer, Director, Heads of Departments, ADs and names of Production Co-ords. Once you know names, it’s easier to put the pieces of the puzzle together when you get to set.
If you’re a casual runner, it can be tricky because you’re not on set every day but a good tip is to talk to the main production runners and ask them to point out who people are, whenever you get a moment.
If you know who people are, it will not only help when you need to report to someone quickly for a task, but it also means that people will be more likely to know who you are, if you’ve made the effort with them and used their name.
5. NAIL THE TEA AND COFFEE
One of the easiest and most often overlooked jobs as a runner is to make tea and coffee for key crew. If it’s your first day on set, ask around to find out whether the EP, SP and Director (and any other heads of department/key crew) need a tea or coffee and how they like it. Keep their preferences on your phone so that throughout your time on the series – you can always have their coffee/tea order ready first thing or at key times throughout the day. That also goes for when you’re tasked by your co-ord to go on a coffee run. Write the orders down so you know what everyone has and then keep the list so you can repeat the order if asked to do so. Try to pick your moments though, use your common sense and if you’re going to offer tea and coffee – avoid interrupting important conversations and getting in the way when someone is in the middle of something.
6. KEEP YOUR RECEIPTS
Whether you’re using a company credit card or petty cash to buy supplies for production, keep receipts for everything. Always ask for a tax invoice – not just the credit card receipt. It’s a good idea to carry a small pencil case to keep all your receipts and petty cash in one place separate to your own money.
7. ARRIVE ON SET WITH YOU PHONE FULLY-CHARGED
Arrive at work with your mobile phone fully-charged so that it lasts you the day. Depending on the type of shoot, you may need to rely on your phone for making notes, taking coffee orders, looking up cafes, phoning in orders and keeping in touch with your team whenever you’re off site running errands. It’s a good idea to bring a portable charger in your bag just in case so that you never have to worry about being stranded with a dead battery.
8. KEEP THE SNACKS COMING
Productions will usually have a selection of snacks on the tea/coffee station but not everyone is always able to get to it throughout the day. If you can swoop in with snacks or a bottle or water at the right moment, the crew will love you for it – you might even manage to put a smile on the face of the grumpiest of cammos.
9. ALWAYS BE PREPARED
The best runners in the industry are always the ones that are prepared for everything! At the start of the shoot, make sure you are armed with a pen, a sharpie, a call sheet and spare comms batteries as the bare minimum (it’s a good idea to wear clothes with pockets for this purpose).
10. HAVE A GOOD ATTITUDE AND SMILE
It does not pay to have a bad attitude as a runner. You’re on the bottom, and sometimes, it can really feel like that on set but the best thing you can do is have a positive attitude. If your plan is to move up the ranks in TV, then acting like you are above making a cup of coffee or collecting the rubbish, isn’t going to get you anywhere. Appreciate that you are working in television to start with, take a look around at what you’re part of and have fun with it. How many other people can say their job involves driving flashy contra cars, mingling with varying degrees of celebrity talent and standing in on set?
So basically, if you want to be remembered as a good runner and first on the list of call backs when a production manager is crewing up…be organised, do that little bit extra and, above all, smile! People are going to want to work with someone who WANTS to be there. Make sense? Congratulations…you’re still in the running to become Australia’s Next Top Runner!
Wondering if your CV for television is making you stand out for the right reasons? Check out my post CV Template For TV: Entry-Level Roles.