Steve Saul graduated with a BA (Hons) in Film, Television and Theatre Studies in 1998. He worked his way up from a Runner on Crimewatch, through researching and writing jobs until finding his niche in social media for large productions, including The X Factor, Nevermind the Buzzcocks, Britain's Got Talent and Russel Howard's Good News. He is presently the Social Media Creative Lead for the BBC's EastEnders.
You graduated from York St John's University with a BA (Hons) in Film, Television and Theatre Studies - what was the transition from being a student to a professional like?
Steve: I did GCSE Media Studies. Then A Levels. Then a degree. Then I bagged my first production... as a Runner on Crimewatch when they were filming in my home town of Lincoln! The transition was pretty straightforward because I always focused on doing practical production work from that first role on. I was possibly the worst Contestant Researcher in history... but that lead to my move from Entertainment TV production and to the more creative world of writing and producing for BBC Online. The rules are always the same:
1. Work hard.
2. Be good to work with.
3. Whatever your role... always make a nice cuppa for your team when the going gets tough.
You initially worked as a Runner and then an intern - what was your experience of these positions? Do you have any tips for current new entrants looking to apply for these types of roles?
Steve: If I could earn enough to be a Runner forever, I probably would be! Work hard, get on with the team, make the perfect teas, lift the lights, help with the camera kits... and you can talk to EVERYONE on the production team and learn how it's done. It depends how badly you want to get in. Get as much practical experience as possible. Focus on that. Volunteer. Make your own projects. Sell yourself. Chase producers, but don't stalk them. Now that I'm (hopefully) on the other side of all that, it really is amazing how much the practical experience counts - so get working on that. In my day I had to blag free production equipment - these days your phone is a mini production studio. There's no excuse to not make fun stuff and create content that astounds middle-aged producers who're eagerly looking for young geniuses to make their projects amazing.
Can you give us a brief description of your current job, and what a typical day involves?
Steve: There's no typical day! I'm currently a Social Media Creative Lead for EastEnders. This means making sure the day-to-day content is as engaging as possible; finding new ways to enhance the show on social media platforms. Constantly plugging for Awards show votes.
You worked on many high profile shows - X Factor, Britain's Got Talent, Nevermind the Buzzcocks, which are very much audience-led and entertainment focused. Is working with EastEnders - a soap opera - also different?
Steve: EastEnders is very different in that you can go from comedy to heartbreaking in minutes. It's a murder mystery one week, and a powerful domestic drama another. It's all about working with the brilliant story team to make sure we are in tune with the stories that are being broadcast and the feelings our audience will have about them. Audiences watch talent shows, panel shows, documentaries and dramas online in real time. The skill is focusing on real time reactions and providing the most intuitive and human content to enhance those responses.
Working in social media, in what ways do you think media students, graduates and jobseekers can perhaps best utilise online platforms in order to make themselves more appealing to potential employers?
Steve: Find the big new social media platforms and become an expert on them. That's the best way. If the new Vine launches, master it. Own it. People will want to work with you pronto. I put years into practicing writing gags... into mastering Twitter... and then the next year I was invited to work on The X Factor. That was what changed my career... but I started working with Twitter because I loved it and it seemed like a meritocracy - all new social apps are, at first. Right now, Periscope is a good place to focus on.
You can follow Steve on Twitter: @stephensaul