TV Executive Producer – Ruth

Describe your job in a couple of sentences:
I work with my partner (s) devising entertainment and factual-entertainment formats (TV show ideas). We are currently working on projects with the BBC, ITV and Channel 4.
When did you know what you wanted to do?

The first time I visited a live TV Studio (in the 90s there was a daily morning show on Channel 4 called the Big Breakfast. I was 23, had recently started my career as a journalist and was sent to interview the host, Chris Evans. As soon as I set foot on set, I realised this is what I wanted to do as a career and wrote to the production company, Planet 24, asking for a job as a researcher. I was very lucky that they said yes!

Did you go to university, go straight into the workforce or do an apprenticeship?
What did you study?

I studied History at Bristol University and then did a post-graduate degree in Newspaper Journalism at City University, London. I was sponsored by the Guardian Newspaper and via their Graduate Trainee Scheme, worked at the Guardian and two other regional newspapers in the same group while I was studying.

 What was your first job?

does it relate to what you do now?

My first job was the Features Editor at Rex Features, a press agency which syndicated photos and news stories (my bit) to newspapers and magazines around the world. It doesn’t relate directly to what I do now but it taught me how to write copy (news stories), which helps when I’m writing format ideas now. I answered an advert in the media press as I was finishing my journalism degree and had to do two interviews to get the job.

Have you done other jobs in your life – if so what were they:
Did they have any influence on what you do now?

Before I got into TV, from sixth form until University, I did all sorts of jobs from office temping to babysitting to waitressing. Office temping, probably my least enjoyable job, nonetheless taught me about graft and resilience – you can’t always do fun jobs all the time. I absolutely loved waitressing – as well as being brilliant fun, it taught me about teamwork, hard graft, handling long hours and how to deal with all sorts of different people.

How did you find out about your job (how it existed)?

I worked as a TV producer on a range of different shows full time before having children and always loved the development process – coming up with ideas, working them up from a piece of paper to on-screen so it made perfect sense when I went back to work after having children, to focus on my favorite area of TV – developing new ideas and TV formats.

How did you get the job you wanted- steps and process?

Passion for the subject. I didn’t have any formal training in TV but my journalism training taught me rigor, deadlines, how to tell stories and how to research and deliver information. So, it wasn’t too hard a switch from newspapers and magazines to the TV screen as the disciplines were very similar. TV jobs tend to vary in length depending on the length of the production period (the time needed to make the show, the number of episodes etc.) So, some jobs were stepping stones to the ones I really wanted. I worked at the BBC for a while making daytime quiz shows. That was a brilliant stepping stone to working on a primetime quiz show which I then got to produce all round the world. I’ve also made documentaries, reality shows and factual shows. My favorite is unquestionably live studio – it’s so exciting and anything can go wrong at any time, which keeps the adrenalin pumping.

What qualities do you need to have to be successful in your field?

You need to have original ideas, think on your feet, enjoy working as a team, manage stress and deadlines (keeping calm, on the outside at least), love hard work, long and sometimes anti-social working hours, and be flexible enough to deal with last minute changes – which always seems to happen when making TV shows.

Give 3 tips for someone hoping to follow in your footsteps:
  1. TV shows come in many forms. Really think about the type of TV you enjoy watching and do critiques on some of those shows: what do you think works, what would you do differently etc.
  2. Research which production companies make the shows you love and write to them. As many times as you need to: It’s very competitive so you have to show you stand out from the crowd.
  3. Think of some TV show ideas of your own. What kind of show would you like to see on TV? Would it have a presenter? Where would you set it etc.
Who Inspires You?

My first ever TV boss, who is now a great friend. We have worked on and off together for 25 years and she never fails to inspire me. She’s funny, fiercely clever and is always ahead of the curve when it comes to new ideas and new ways of working.