Professional Practice & Employability
- What research you undertook into the job market for your work experience and for gaining a commission for Individual Audio Project.
Over the past three years, I feel that my ‘ideal’ career path has been put on a rollercoaster and has taken a three-sixty. This is due to many factors, but I believe this is a result of my work experience opportunities and placements within the radio and audio industry. When I joined Westminster in September 2016, I was considering a career as a radio presenter in music radio. But throughout the past three years, I have educated myself about other jobs available in the radio and audio sector, consequently, this shaped my choice in work experience and gaining a commission for my individual audio project.
During my second year at University, the digital storytelling module taught me how audio could be in the form of an extended piece or even turned into documentary. This excited me as I had never been exposed to radio documentaries before, as growing up my parents would only listen to stations, as such as Magic, Heart and BBC Radio 2. I really enjoyed the process of researching something topical, that could be explored through a range of contributors to hear a scope of opinions. Mixing a documentary allows producers to spend more time on the overall sound, adding layers of atmos, sound effects or music. Which helps to shape the audience’s listening experience. An edited audio piece is an enhanced listening experience for the listener as, they are able to interpret the audio with their minds eye, which is an immersive adventure.
I have been working at talkRADIO for over two years as a technical operator, assistant producer and cover studio producer. So I have bundles of experience when it comes to live speech radio, but I looked into seeing if the Wireless group produced audio documentaries, as I thought I would be able to gain some work experience. After searching online and speaking my work colleagues, I came to the realisation that talkRADIO hadn’t yet ventured into producing radio documentaries. So the search continued and I discovered that most of the documentaries produced for BBC stations are created by independent production companies.
(http://www.fallingtree.co.uk/) were three of the top searches for production houses in London. Folded Wing and Wisebuddah produced a lot of content for BBC Radio 1 and Radio 4. Whilst Falling Tree Productions focused more on documentaries for BBC Radio 3 and 4. I tried emailing Wisebuddah and Folded Wing through their ‘contact’ section on their website, but I wasn’t very successful.
Although after Natalie Holiday (ex-student and Head of Voices at Wisebuddah) came into the University to give a talk, I was inspired to try again and push for some work experience at Wisebuddah. I emailed Natalie shortly after meeting her and she was kind enough to pass on my CV to Kat Titteral, who is the Head of Operations. Kat invited me to have a ‘coffee and chat’ in May 2018. She instantly asked me what I knew about Wisebuddah and what I hoped to gain from a placement with the company. She was obviously trying to gage what initiative and creativity I could bring to Wisebuddah, to make sure I would be an asset to the team and wouldn’t waste her time. After chatting for half an hour, she offered me a two week work placement in August 2018. The work experience was unpaid, but they would be willing to pay for my travel expenses and allow me to work in each department, over a fortnight period. I knew that this work experience was vital for my future career progression as, Wisebuddah are a leading name when it comes to producing high quality audio content for big clients.
As I decided to create an audio documentary for my individual audio project, my work placement came in handy, as I was lucky enough to have met some creative producers during the summer of 2018 at Wisebuddah. I initially contacted Gabriela Jones, who was one of the content producers for Wisebuddah’s creative team. I thought she would be a good match in commissioning my work, as she had previously worked on real briefs for BBC Radio 1 and this was my projects target audience.
As well as this, I also completed more research into finding other audio producers to commission my work, as I was on a tight deadline. (See Appendices for an Excel spreadsheet of contacted producers). I received a response from Hana Walker-Brown who is a producer at Falling Tree Productions and a executive producer at Audible. She was more than happy to be a commissioner for my project, as she had bundles of experience in producing audio content for well established clients.
- What you learned from your work placement and what you learned from working with an external commissioner for Individual Audio Project?
The personal development and growth journey i’ve been through in the past few years has surprised me, as I have achieved more than I ever thought would have be possible. Especially during my work placement at Wisebuddah as, I learnt to have more self-confidence in my creativity. I believe I am a creative person and on reflection, I wish I had let that shone through more on my work placement. Looking back I know I was overwhelmed by the amazing environment and opportunity as, It was a scary yet exciting place to work in. Although I didn’t contribute as much as I would have liked due to nerves, by my second week I was a lot more comfortable with the content department environment. Therefore I feel like the research and transcriptions of audio, really helped producers with a live brief for BBC Radio 1. (I had to sign a official disclaimer at the start of my work placement, therefore I don’t want to go into full detail of what projects I was working on.)
Communication is key when working in a busy production house like Wisebuddah, as I witnessed this first hand. During my first week on the placement, I had a day working with the front of house / studio team. This involved a lot of running about and answering calls for when producers and external clients needed drinks, snacks and equipment. I needed to have clear communication with the other studio runner, as we delegated a range of tasks between us throughout the day. If we didn’t make a plan, it would have been easy to have got muddled and confused, which could have ended in us both running around doing the same jobs twice. Or confusion for the receptionist as, we worked closely with her to arrange when studios needed clearing out or equipment changes.
A runner role at Wisebuddah trains you to be a sound/ studio engineer and takes a year to complete, you would then go onto work with clients in producing audio programmes. The runner experience gave me a brief taste of what that would feel like to work in that position for a year. After some thought I don’t think that career path would be for me, even though I have a tech op background. I know I love working in a live studio environment, and I didn’t seem to warm to the studio engineer role. Although I was introduced to Pro tools software and that’s something I would like to try my hands at and learn how to use. As not only did the studio engineers record sessions and mix audio, but the content producers made programmes using the software. It’s a skill I think my career would benefit from, as It seems more companies are investing in that software and could help to boost my employability.
Patience is something that the work placement and external commission taught me in its own individual ways. For example, after meeting with Kat Titteral in May 2018, it took nearly three months to finalise the two week work placement. This is due to the fact that Wisebuddah is a popular place for many young people to have on their CV. It was definitely worth the wait and it gave me a great insight in how different departments make outstanding radio and audio content. I now understand why Wisebuddah win a lot of awards and get commissioned by the BBC to make programmes, It’s due to their high quality standard producers and production staff.
The external commissioner taught me to have patience, as I came to the conclusion that everyone in the audio industry is VERY busy, with their own deadlines. Even though I had met Gabriela in person at my work placement, she was still slow at replying to emails. I understand she was very busy and did eventually agree to commission my work. But without patience and sending a polite reminder email now and then, I feel like I wouldn’t have bagged the commission.
Over the individual audio project period I learnt to never give up and always have a back up plan. That’s why I formed my data base with a range of producer contacts and didn’t rely on just one person to get back to me. As without my organisation skills I could have potentially ruined my grade and knew I wanted to make a individual audio piece with the support of a industry producer. My second commision with Hana Walker-Brown is evidence of my determination to succeed in this module as, I knew a commission was vital. Not only that, It was a great experience to get a second opinion on my documentary proposal. Especially as both Women were audio producers from different production companies and with different backgrounds.
- Where you hope to go next, what sort of career you are aiming for, drawing on your work experience and Individual Audio Project, and FIVE practical steps which you will follow to help you on the next phase, post-graduation.
The work experience and individual audio project gave me time to reflect on a career in making long form audio pieces, and it’s definitely something I am considering. It was cool to see how a simple idea could be explored into a audio documentary, which is full of such colour and texture, formed by contributors, actuality, archive audio and music. I hope after graduation an opportunity in Wisebuddah’s content department pops up or a window opens where I could go back and immerse myself in the environment again, as I would like to show them what I’m capable of.
The two years at talkRADIO have taught me that I really love working in speech radio, but news / current affairs really isn’t for me. Speech content can be so much more than just news and I would love to focus on working in more specialist speech content. If that’s at talkRADIO, in podcasting or producing documentaries for a production company then that’s where my journey will continue.
As graduation quickly approaches, here are my five practical steps which will help me post-graduation:
- Continue working as a freelance technical operator at talkRADIO, during weekends on specialist speech programming. (This tends to lead to more week day cover shifts and could lead to a more full time position in the future.)
- Invest in my own audio equipment, to make my own mini documentaries. (This will help to extend my portfolio work to future employers.)
- Use my current contact book to explore further work opportunities / internships. (I know a lot of people working for Wireless, Bauer, BBC, and Global ect…)
- Apply for radio and audio roles when advertised online.
- Explore other media careers within the next few years, by attending networking events in and around London. (I would like to explore TV and know a few people working as researchers for GMB, This morning and Loose Women at ITV).