Production assistants work on a particular program from start to finish, providing support services for the producer and director. They attend all the program planning meetings, take notes of the decisions made and see that the required action is taken (for example, if a decision is made to change the script during rehearsal, the PA will note the changes and retype the script). Many production assistants do the work of a continuity person (see separate entry). In the final run-through of a television production, the PA sits with the director in the control room and instructs the camera operators over the talk back system. In both television and radio productions, the production assistant times the recordings or takes with a stopwatch. They also provide any information needed by those engaged in post-production work, such as editing.
Production assistants also work on live programs, for example news broadcasts, when the atmosphere in the control room during transmission can be very tense. The job requires excellent organizational skills, attention to detail, calm, initiative and the ability to manage and get on with all types of people.
Producers turn ideas into programs. They head the production team and are responsible for managing the program budget and the scheduling of rehearsal and recording time. They also have a say in the selection of program participants. In radio, the producer often originates and researches the initial idea and records the material, although these duties can be shared with a researcher and a production assistant. In television, it is the producer who will have conceived or contributed to the idea on which the program is based. In some cases, the producer will also direct.
Producers must be receptive to the ideas of others and be able to originate suitable program concepts. They also need to understand the requirements of the network or region in which they are working. Every program has a producer and most producers specialize; for example, a current affairs program needs a producer with a good grasp of the subject and a sound political judgment.
Presenters 'front' or host non-fiction programs, from current affairs to quiz games and chat shows. Presenting jobs are rarely advertised; normally, a presenter will be approached (through his or her agent) by a producer and offered a contract for a specific program or series. Many people have broken into presenting by becoming well-known in another field, such as sport or politics, for example. It is very difficult to generalize about the specific qualities a presenter needs because these will depend totally on the nature of each program.
Case Study - Presenter
Mike Edgar has presented a range of programs on both television and radio for BBC Northern Ireland, including Radio 5's award-winning youth program, Across the Line.
Television presenting and radio presenting are two very different disciplines. Radio makes you think a lot more about what you are doing and what your guest is saying to you; you must make it sound interesting, you must paint the picture and draw the very best out of your guest, because you can't fall back on graphics or fancy camera angles to make it look interesting.
I much prefer radio as a medium, although I have to say that I have had loads of good experiences with TV. The real beauty of television is the exposure and that is a marvelous thing, because it ups your value as a commodity, which is really what presenters are in this industry. Radio presenters can have a very limited TV value. Take Brian Bedhead as an example. He was marvelous, but the chances are you wouldn't have known him if you'd passed him in the street.
I find that the trouble with television is that too many people have a hand in the final product. Researchers, assistant producers, producers, the director, the executive producer, all of them, quite rightly, feel that they should have an input into what you look like, what you say and how you should say we'd like you in a suit, or a tie' so you start conforming and possibly becoming something you're not. Then when you're on air or recording, you'll get someone screaming in your ear piece 'Smile at this camera, smile at that camera!' So you can be a lot more creative,
Comedian and quiz-show host Tom O'Connor offers this advice to anyone contemplating a career in the entertainment industry:
Show business is not all glitter and fairy lights. In fact, the opposite is true. Hard work, determination and, most of all, the ability to listen to criticism are the only ways success is finally achieved.
I suppose the years of grafting, experimenting, dying the death and finally succeeding leave the entertainer with a feeling of permanent invincibility. A case of 'It was a hard ride, but now I'm in the Promised Land - it's time to lean back and reap the rewards'. This is the most dangerous time in anyone's career. The top is not the end, it is only the beginning and at this point an act needs lots of help, lots of encouragement and lots of honest people around.
Family and their support are vital. Managers need to be reliable, reputable and totally in your corner. Unfortunately, I've been the victim of one or two unscrupulous members of the profession and suffered loss of work and money because of their scheming and cut-throat dealings. A good manager, as I have now, can not only lengthen a career, but broaden it. A bad manager, by the very nature of the beast, can not only hamper improvement, but can seriously damage the good work already done.
It's easy to speak of caution from what may appear to be a lofty position, but believe me, I only wish to help, and prevent the problems which have beset many like me.
Listen to family, friends and all who wish to criticize constructively. Watch all dealings done in your name, read all contracts before they're signed and keep a copy. Never assume that all is well even when it appears so - be suspicious. 'Talk softly and carry a big stick,' as they say.
And always remember the first rule of show business: when in doubt - don't!