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Documentary Producer/Director: Inspire Me

UCL Careers10 March 2015

As part of our #UCLInspireMe series, Matt Pelly, Documentary Producer/Director talks to us about how he got started in the Documentary Production  sector.

I’m a documentary producer/director for BBC and Channel Four, making things like 999: What’s Your Emergency and Routemasters. I always wanted to work in TV/Film, and made lots of rubbish films as a kid with my brothers. I studied Drama & French and university and got my first job as a runner on Bargain Hunt at the BBC a year after leaving University.

How do I get in to a role like this?

There are two ways in. One is to make your own films until someone realises how brilliant you are, but they are difficult to fund, it can take years, and you’ll need to get lucky or have rich parents.

The other, and more common way, is to start at the bottom as a runner making tea. As they say, the cream will rise, and it generally does. Apply to everyone and anyone, but more importantly meet people, get work experience and keep going til someone gives you a job.

You need to have passion to make films/tv programmes professionally. Its hard work and long hours, and you won’t survive if you don’t really care about it. Don’t do it for the glamour. It is fun but it takes a toll on your social life, and there’s more than a few single 30 & 40-somethings out there in TV world. Make student films, and learn how to make them better. Make it your business to know the sector, and meet people making the kinds of films you love. Keep moving and keep learning. Don’t be too proud to work hard and make the tea. Be nice to people, have a ready smile, and show passion and interest. People will remember you and help you if you’re good to have around.

What are the pros/cons of your role?

Best things are I get to be self-employed, be creative, work with creative people, musicians and sometimes actors, meet/interview famous people, and travel the world. But that’s all gloss on the whole; the best thing is I get to make films which i love.

Getting in is hard, but it’s hard all the way if you don’t want to be pigeonholed, so you have to be focussed on what you want to do. It’s hard and not for everyone, but it beats the 9-5 in my book.

And one thing I read in a magazine once: the hardest thing is knowing what you want, the easy thing is doing it.

Good luck and enjoy.

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