8 Useful Things I Learned Working in Television Production

8 Useful Things I Learned Working in Television Production
Design by Judy Moore in Canva
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Working in television production can be a great learning experience.  It may not always be pleasant, but you can learn some valuable lessons.

I enjoyed my time working on TV shows, but it was not without its challenges.  It’s a fast-paced, unpredictable work environment where things can change at a moment’s notice.

Working in television can be a great job if you can handle the pace, politics, and unpredictability.

Here are eight useful things I learned working in television production:

  1. Things change when a show is a success.

When a show becomes a hit, things change.  The main actors and the above-the-line people get big raises, while department budgets usually get cut.  The scripts often get more complicated, too, requiring the departments to do more with less.

Attitudes towards the crew on the part of the producers often change, too.  The show you loved working on the first season may be the show you want to leave in the third season.

  1. You can never get too comfortable on a show.

Things can and do change overnight.  One show I worked on spent a small fortune on an elaborate still photoshoot promoting the show on a Friday.  The following Monday, the network pulled the plug on the show, and everyone was out of a job.

I had a choice of three different shows I could have worked on that season.  Unfortunately, I chose the one that got canceled.

As freelancers, we just can’t let ourselves get too comfortable on any show.  We always have to plan for the ‘what if’ and stay aware of what’s going on.

  1. When the producers direct an episode, the workdays will be longer.

Somehow overtime magically appears when producers direct an episode.  Other directors scramble to make their allotted time, but the producers always seem to have carte blanche for their directing schedules.

I’ve seen this happen again and again on shows.  It’s exasperating because the producers often aren’t the best directors and wouldn’t be getting the chance to direct at all if they weren’t producers on the show.

And that often means they’re writers who aren’t particularly good at directing actors.  I could go on and on about this, but suffice it to say that when a producer directs an episode, clear your schedule because you’re going to have some very long days.

  1. You can never let up on your networking.

This ties into number 2 above.  As freelancers, we have to be ready for anything in our careers, both good and bad.

It’s easy to get too relaxed about keeping up with our contacts but trust me, sooner or later, you’ll need to find a new job on short notice.  It’s not personal; it’s just the nature of the business in which we all work.

Learning this the hard way can mean a more extended period of unemployment than you’d like, so keep up with your networking.  It’s our business to know what our colleagues are up to.

  1. You have to learn to delegate.

Television production moves at a rapid pace, much more so than on a feature film.  Often, you have to work faster and harder with fewer people to help.

When I was a trainee, no one had a problem delegating mountains of work to me.  It was a good learning experience, not just for the work itself but for the need to delegate part of it to someone else.

The burnout rate in our industry is high enough without making it worse by trying to do everything yourself.  Delegate part of the load and take time to breathe.

It will preserve your sanity.

  1. It pays to be extremely well-organized.

I can guarantee you’ll work twice as hard if you’re not well-organized.  Take notes, make lists, do whatever you need to do to stay on top of things.

There’s nothing worse than scrambling at the end of the day because important things fell through the cracks.

In the old days, we ran around with note pads (real ones, not digital ones.)  Now it’s easy to have all you need on your phone.  Make use of it and stay organized.

You’ll be glad you did.

  1. Learn to work fast.

Television production is all about speed.  Every department must be able to work fast.

Anyone who can’t master doing their job quickly as the day jumps from scene to scene probably shouldn’t be working in television.

The actors have to get through makeup, hair, and wardrobe quickly in the morning.  The a.d.s must set the background actors quickly.

Working at that pace isn’t for everyone.  But if you get bored easily and like a fast-paced day, you could thrive in television.

I did, but some people prefer the slower pace of feature films.

  1. Make your desires known to those above you.

A former a.d. who’s now an executive producer told me that.  He said that many people do their jobs for years on a show without ever mentioning their ultimate goals to anyone.

His point was don’t be shy about stating where you want to be in the industry.  No one can help you if they don’t know your goals.

We often have the attitude that no one will help us get to where we want to be.  This isn’t necessarily true.  You never know who’s willing and able to help you take the next step.

And if anyone mocks you or says it will never happen, it may be time to move on from that show.  There are people out there who will support your goals.  You just have to find them.


So those are a few things I learned in my years of working in television production.  If there’s one thing we get from being in our business, it’s an education.

Working in television isn’t for everyone, but it can be a satisfying career if you work on the right shows.

And with all the shows streaming now, there’s more work than ever.  Just be prepared for a fast pace and some long hours.




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