John Loydall is a TV Casting Researcher at ITV. He got into the industry as a runner at 18, and has been making headway ever since, working on well-known shows such as 'The X Factor' and 'Britain's Got Talent'.
You've had an impressive number of runner/assistant jobs on big TV shows in the last couple of years. Tell us more about your current job and a typical day at work.
I've done a fair amount of running work in the past couple of years. I've been lucky enough to work on some big shows such as 'The X Factor', 'Britain's Got Talent' and 'The Apprentice'. I've also made contacts during my time as a runner which led me to getting work on a concert recently. Currently though, I am a casting researcher at ITV, for one of their daytime shows. A typical day for me is being at my desk on the phone, looking for people to come on the show. We get phone numbers, emails and texts, which us researchers will call and then pass onto our producers if we think they're suitable for our show. Once we've found our contributors, we do lots of notes with them and paperwork, then do cue cards for the presenter. It's a long process with long hours, but it's very rewarding once we're in the studio filming.
How did you gain entry into television after leaving school? At any point, did you have to work for no pay, and do you think unpaid experience is necessary to progress in media?
Leaving school I went to college to do a BTEC Diploma in FIlm & TV, purely because most companies told me I had to be 18 for health and safety reasons - otherwise I'd have gotten in the industry as soon as I could! I spent months looking for work and it felt like I was never going to get a job, until I got an email from Thames TV and was offered day running in one city on 'The X Factor'. I was asked to do more cities and then throughout the year I worked for them on pretty much all stages of the competition, from the start of the auditions, up to the final. My second job was unpaid work experience which did give me good contacts whom I'm still in touch with today, but it is hard work when you're only young and not in the best position financially. However, it was something to add to the CV and to see as an investment in my future.
You haven't got a university degree, but seem to be making headway in the industry without one. This is a debate a lot of people have - what's your take on this, and do you intend to get a formal degree eventually?
I see a lot of arguments about this question! Personally, I'm glad I haven't gone to university. As I said above, I wanted to get working straight away, I was sick of education! I'm a more creative person and would much rather be out in the field gaining experience and learning on the job, than sat in a lecture theatre trying not to fall asleep! That's not to say that I disagree with those who go to university, however, most of us do start in the same place as a runner and I've never been asked about qualifications in any job interview. So at this moment in time, I have no intentions to get a formal degree. However, I am only 20, so five years down the line I may have a completely different outlook.
Overall, what do you think you've done well to get ahead of your peers so far?
I wouldn't say I've gotten ahead of my peers, as it's not a race. I'm incredibly supportive of all my friends in the industry and am always happy to see them doing well. I think what I can say is that what I'm pleased with, is my determination. I've never given up on the search for jobs, no matter how much it got on top of me. I've always made the effort to go to interviews and reschedule things with friends (to their disappointment) to make sure I could get myself to an interview if it was not nearby. I guess I've just been quite lucky in terms of getting the experience at an earlier age by working my socks off!
You can follow me on twitter. I'm more than happy to give advice: @JohnLoydall