Unscripted TV

Talent manager

Also known as: Head of talent

Talent manager

What does a talent manager do?

Talent managers aren’t people who sit at a desk behind a big buzzer auditioning new singers and dancers for the latest entertainment show. They deal with people who want to work in TV rather than on TV.

Talent managers are responsible for the recruitment of all freelance editorial (creative) staff and sometimes production (organisational) roles. They have an enormous contacts book and much of their time is spent keeping track of the people in it, so if a suitable job arises in their production company, they know who’s suitable and who’s available. Talent managers are also passionate about finding new people. They watch programme credits to see who’s worked on a show and if they don’t know them, will often ask to meet them. They also meet people recommended to them by others.  

When a new show is commissioned, talent managers meet with the executive producer and production executive to discuss what they need to make the programme. They talk about the skills and experience required, how many staff are needed, when and for how long. Talent managers put in calls to people who are already on their contacts list and prepare and post adverts on various recruitment sites. They sift through and shortlist the applications to pass on to series producers and production managers to arrange interviews. Depending on the size of the company, they may also negotiate rates and terms and issue contracts. They are often called upon during a production to find extra staff to help meet a deadline or to provide holiday or sickness cover. 

Talent managers are usually staff and have worked their way up to very senior production roles themselves before working in recruitment, so they understand the skills and experience required for every job. Depending on the company and the type of programmes they make, they may specialise in certain genres. There are talent managers in most larger production companies, but not always in smaller companies, where the role may be done by senior production managers or producers.

Watch and read

What's a talent manager good at?

  • Building contacts: know people in the unscripted TV industry, keep their contact details, have good relationships with talent managers in other production companies and staff at all levels
  • People skills: be good at spotting potential and recognising relevant experience, interviewing, listening and negotiating
  • Knowledge of production: understand production roles, required skills, the different challenges of working in offices, studios, on location and in the edit
  • Multi-tasking: be able to juggle recruitment for different programmes with different skill bases at various stages of production – all at the same time
  • Problem solving: always have a plan ‘B’, find staff quickly when needed

Who does a talent manager work with?

Talent managers work directly to the head of production and with executive producers, production executives and series producers. Depending on the size of the company, they may manage a small team of talent assistants and talent executives. 

How do I become a talent manager?

Talent manager is a senior position, so you need to have considerable experience working in TV production before becoming one. You can look to work as a runner, receptionist or personal assistant as a point of entry into production in the unscripted TV industry. You can go on to become a talent assistant and then talent executive before becoming a talent manager.

At school or college:
A-Levels or Highers in English, media studies, maths and business studies are useful for 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
  • Diploma in Production Accounting for Film and Television
  • BTEC National Extended Diploma in Creative Digital Media Production
  • Aim Awards Diploma in Creative and Digital Media
  • OCR Technical Diploma in Digital Media (Moving Image and Audio Production)
  • BTEC National Diploma in Film and Television Production
  • BTEC National Extended Diploma in Creative Digital Media Production

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.

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:
Consider getting a degree in management, marketing or public relations (PR). Or have a look at ScreenSkills’ list of recommended courses and select one in unscripted TV or search for "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.

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 ITV, Channel 4, Channel 5, Sky and the PACT Indie Diversity Training Scheme.

Look outside the industry:
Once you have a grounding of experience and knowledge in TV production, it may be useful to gain experience working in recruitment in a different industry and then return to work in unscripted TV.

Take a short course:
Improve your understanding of TV production by taking a specialist course. Go to the list of training courses recommended by ScreenSkills to see if there is one in TV production.

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. 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 executive, head of production, series producer or executive producer in the unscripted TV industry. You might also be interested in being a producer or executive producer in the film and TV drama or animation industries.

Further resources