Unscripted TV

Production secretary

Production secretary

What does a production secretary do?

Don’t be deceived by the title – a production secretary in unscripted TV isn’t a traditional secretarial role. They are responsible for the smooth administration and running of the production office.

Production secretaries work in the production management department and, depending on the type of programme being made, could be office-based, out on location or the person at the director’s right hand. On large projects, production secretaries support production coordinators, but on others may support production managers, producers or whole teams.

Their role is varied and can include organising the production contacts list, making and taking calls, monitoring stock, ordering stationery and processing paperwork such as contracts, release forms and invoices. They manage timesheets, research and book travel, transport and accommodation, book meeting rooms, take minutes and arrange couriers, shipments and storage.

Production secretaries can work full-time for broadcasters or for TV production companies but are often on a fixed-term contract. 

Watch and read

What's a production secretary good at?

  • Learning quickly: observe what’s happening, listen, use own initiative and ask questions at the appropriate time
  • Organisation: be able to plan, multi-task and prioritise to meet deadlines; work calmly under pressure.
  • Communication: maintain effective relationships both internally and externally, have a professional, approachable manner
  • Knowledge of TV production: learn and understand different production processes, particularly financial
  • IT: be able to create spreadsheets for data entry to include budget and monitor spend; be able to quickly adapt to new systems and software

Who does a production secretary work with?

Production secretaries help production coordinators and production managers. They work with the entire production team.

How do I become a production secretary?

Start work in an entry level role in the unscripted TV industry such as runner or receptionist. Gain experience on the job, and then apply for production secretary roles.

At school or college:
A-levels or Highers in English, media studies, maths and business studies are particularly relevant to this role. Or you might just want to study whatever interests you most.

If you want to go straight into a job or apprenticeship, the following Level 3 vocational qualifications will equip you:

  • OCR Technical Diploma/Extended Diploma in Business
  • BTEC National Diploma/Extended Diploma in Business
  • AAT Advanced Diploma in Accounting
  • Diploma in Production Accounting for Film and Television
  • IAO Diploma in Accounting
  • BTEC National Extended Diploma in Creative Digital Media Production
  • Aim Awards Diploma in Creative and Digital Media 
  • OCR Cambridge Technical Diploma in Art and Design (Photography)
  • OCR Technical Diploma in Digital Media (Moving Image and Audio Production)
  • BTEC National Diploma in Film and Television Production
  • BTEC National Diploma in Photography
  • UAL Diploma/Extended Diploma in Creative Media Production and Technology

Get an apprenticeship:
Apprenticeships are jobs with training. They’re a great opportunity to earn while you learn. Some of the major broadcasters offer apprenticeships. Check out the schemes with the BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Channel 5 and Sky.

If you can’t get an apprenticeship with a broadcaster, it might be worth trying to find one outside the TV industry that uses similar skills, such as in business or accountancy. This could help you develop your skills and find your way into film and TV drama at a later point, as long as you keep up your interest and develop your contacts.

These are the relevant apprenticeships that might be available throughout the UK:

You might be able to find degree-level apprenticeships through the following standards and frameworks:

Before taking any apprenticeship, check what you’ll be learning with your prospective employer and college, so you can be sure it will give you the skills you want. Go to where can I find an apprenticeship? to learn how to find apprenticeships in your region, or approach companies directly.

Get a degree:
It is not essential to have a degree to become a production secretary, but in order to get this role and progress further in production management, it may be beneficial to have one relating to TV. Have a look at ScreenSkills’ list of recommended courses and select one in unscripted TV and TV production. We recognise courses with our ScreenSkills Select award where they offer training in the relevant software, dedicated time to building a portfolio and have strong links with the unscripted TV industry. You may also consider a degree in communications or marketing.

Get work experience:
Try to get work experience by writing to local production companies and asking if they offer any. Keep an eye out for work experience opportunities at the BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Channel 5, Sky and the PACT Indie Diversity Training Scheme.

Take a short course:
If you want to progress to more senior roles than production secretary in production management, you can hone your skills in accountancy and budgeting by taking a specialist course. Go to the list of training courses recommended by ScreenSkills to see if there is a relevant one. Also, get qualifications in health and safety. Filter ScreenSkills’ list of training courses by ‘health and safety’ as listed under ‘skills’.

Network:
Get to know people in the unscripted TV industry by attending events. Meet professionals and ask them questions about their work, while demonstrating interest in and knowledge of the industry. Offer to provide them with your professional contact details and try to stay in touch with them. Go to how to network well to learn how to do this.

Network online:
Create a LinkedIn profile. See if there are Facebook pages or other social media groups for people making unscripted TV in your area. There might even be groups for runners and trainees. Join them. Create a ScreenSkills profile. There are a lot of crewing agencies that will charge you to be on their books. Sign up to the free ones initially. Wales ScreenNorthern Ireland Screen and other areas offer free crew databases. Find a film office near you and get connected. If you do sign up to paid sites, make sure they specialise in the areas in which you’re interested.

Search for jobs:
Research unscripted TV production companies that you’d like to work for and watch the programmes that they make. Regularly check their websites and job listings websites to see if they are advertising for roles. You can also send in a short speculative letter with your CV to the head of talent. Register your CV on websites like The Talent Manager, which is used by most broadcasters and independent production companies when looking for staff. StartinTV offers tips on creating your CV and attending interviews, as well as some advice for your first day working in TV.

You might also be interested in...

Being a production coordinator in the unscripted TV industry. You might also be interested in being a production coordinator in the film and TV drama, visual effects (VFX) or animation industries.

Further resources