Live Ask An Agent/How to get a job in Shoot Production
Lisa recently hosted Live Ask an Agent at Somerset House, London as part of World Photo London.
Inspired by Ask an Agent, a monthly feature on the LPA blog and photography’s first agony aunt, the live Q&A session answered 6 preselected questions about the photography business. As promised we are posting each of the questions and answers here on the blog . Question number 3 comes from Ashton Fitzgerald, a photography student at University for the Creative Arts, Farnham.
I am graduating in the Summer, and want to get work in an agency, mainly within production. My main concern is transitioning from a student to a professional. How can I get people to notice what I have to offer, and not just be seen as a recent graduate?
What you need to do is to find is a graduate opening in a production agency, send an impressive CV and covering letter and wow then at the interview, simple!
Seriously though, a lot of companies actively seek to employ new graduates. There’s nothing wrong in being a recent graduate and there are many opportunities specifically for recent graduates, albeit at entry level. In fact there are probably more jobs on offer for you than someone at a more senior level, so you probably stand a better chance than I do of getting a job right now!
As well as being an agent and shoot producer myself, I’ve also been an employer for the last 10 years. I've read hundreds of CV's and covering letters and interviewed a lot of people for shoot production jobs. So let me tell you what I how I think you should go about getting a job, what to do and what not to do.
Firstly, consider if shoot production is for you. When you produce photoshoots you act as the hub to a whole production crew, the photographer and the client. It can be a tough job at times often working long hours to seemingly impossible deadlines. You need to be an organised multitasker and a very good communicator, you also need to be quick thinking, diplomatic, possess a thick skin and an unflappable nature and have vigorous attention to detail.
If this hasn’t put you off, you now need to get some work experience. Aside from being able to see first hand what a producer does it really helps if you can include some work experience on your CV. When I advertise for a vacancy for a producer at LPA we usually get 100's of applicants. Aside from a concise, convincing cover letter and a neat and nicely laid out CV the thing that initially stands out for me is relevant experience.
The basic entry level job in a production company is a runner. Research websites to find production companies and get in touch with them offering to do some free 'running'. Places to look for listings of production companes include , AOP Photo services Directory, Production Paradise ( for stills) Kemps and Mandy ( for film)
Utilise all your contacts to get experience, I'll be honest and tell you that people connected to friends of mine or who I have met somewhere stand a better chance of getting work experience from me than people I have no connection with. (Just as you are being given work experience because we met at Live Ask an Agent as you had the intitiative to ask a question and be involved in the event!) Internships and work experience opportunities are also often advertised on blogs and twitter so follow your dream list of production companies via social media. Also look out for work experience opportunities on AOP Job Shop and The Advertising Producers Association.
When you do secure work experience, just because you might not be being paid it’s still really important to create a good impression as you might need these people to give you a reference and it's very small world.
The next step is to to apply for a job and send in an good CV and impressive cover letter.
I am always genuinely shocked by the standard of many of the CV’s and covering letters I receive and quite frankly don’t know how many of these people ever find employment ! I often get cover letters that include a large copy/pasted section from a dissertation on some random subject such as the influence of Renaissance Philosphy on Contemporary Photography. Am I meant to be impressed?
Apply to each job like you just want that one job and demonstrate that you have researched that particular company. For example, I own a small company, so don’t start your letter to me with ‘To the Human Resources Department’. It’s likely I will be making the key staff decisions so ‘Dear Lisa’ is fine. Likewise make sure you know what job you are applying for, for a recent vacancy I advertised I had several letters expressing a desire to work in my gallery – some quite decent applications, problem is I don’t have a gallery!
Do not make any spelling or grammar mistakes, it's my complete pet hate and probably many others share my feeling. If you can’t get your basic English correct in an job application what's to say you'll make more of an effort when corresponding to clients. And get to the point in your covering letter. We all have a million other things to do, so convince us in a succinct couple of paragraphs that you have something worthwhile to bring to the show.
The CV needs to be concise, organised and well laid out. There’s lots of tips online on how to lay out a CV and what to include so read up. Include anything that’s relevant and interesting. It’s fair enough to include that you go kayaking or worked in a bar for example as they show an outgoing, sociable nature. Again , please, no typos or grammatical errors.
And finally, get ready for the interview. Brush up on your interview skills, some interviews are more informal but generally you are going to be asked questions to assess your personality , transferable skills, and enthusiasm for the job. Aside from the usual questions about strengths and weaknesses I like to liven things up a bit with questions like ‘If you were invisible for the day what would you do?’ and ‘If you were an animal what would you be?’ ( tip: if you ever find yourself being asked this question don’t say ‘fluffy bunny rabbit’!)
At the end of the day employers are looking for three things.
• Aptitude for the job.
• Genuine enthusiasm and desire for the job. We invest a lot of time in new employees ( I had a guy that worked for me once who decided he wanted to be a 'film director' after only a few weeks in the job, I wasn’t that surprised when a year later I had a request to write a reference for him for a rather dull administration job in the City)
• Personality. Most employers know within the first 5 minutes whether you will be a good fit, and by the same token you might prefer the culture of one company to another.
For each job I’ve interviewed for, even though I get hundreds of CV’s , and usually interview around 20 people I can honestly say there are always just 2 candidates that I would consider employing each time , that’s not just me being extremely selective, its based on the 3 things above.
So, hope that helps. Anyway, well done for taking the initiative to ask the question and come along to Live Ask an Agent, I will be in touch very soon about your work experience with LPA!
The regular Ask an Agent monthly spot will return on the 2nd July and thereafter the first Monday of each month. So please carry on sending your questions to email@example.com and we'll answer as many as we can.