Unscripted TV

Floor assistant

Also known as: Assistant floor manager, AFM, Assistant stage manager

Floor assistant

What does a floor assistant do?

Floor assistants work with the floor manager on a studio production, to help them run the studio floor and make sure the rehearsals and programme recording go smoothly.

They do a similar role on an outside broadcast, helping the floor manager at the location, whether that be a football stadium, field or cathedral. The difference is that on an outside broadcast they are working in a less controlled environment, dealing with weather and the public and any number of unforeseen situations.

Often the floor assistant is delegated specific jobs such as checking the presenters have arrived safely and, if necessary, have been to make-up ready for rehearsals. Or, depending on the programme, they may be responsible for checking all the props are in position for each set-up.

If it’s a very big show, such as a long comedy fundraising programme like Children in Need, there may be a number of floor assistants, as there could a huge number of presenters, guests, pops bands and dance teams to look after, and they all need to be in the right place at the right time. Floor managers can’t leave the floor, so they depend on the assistants to chase up late-comers.

In very big studio productions, or perhaps on a large outside broadcast, such as in a football stadium or stately home, floor assistants might need to cue some of the presenters.

Assistant floor managers need to be polite yet firm and able to think quickly and assess complex situations. A presenter might be trying to hide their nerves, or a pop band might be proving difficult. If so, the floor assistant needs to alert the floor manager discreetly - well away from the many live microphones on set. 

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What’s a floor assistant good at?

  • Multi-tasking: work with several lines of responsibility simultaneously, listen and follow the instructions whilst also using your diplomacy to keep people happy
  • Staying calm under pressure: think quickly in an often live, fast-paced and changing TV environment
  • Being friendly: greet everyone - experienced presenters, politicians, talent - in a way that gives them confidence
  • Reading a situation: know when people are nervous or unhappy, be tactful, pacify heightened moods, choose the right words at the right time
  • Learning quickly: listen and watch carefully, communicate clearly, understand the different production roles and their different requirements

Who does a floor assistant work with?

Floor assistants report to floor managers, often representing them when the floor manager can’t physically be there, as is often the case in multi-camera productions and outside broadcasts.  They work closely with presenters and guests to make sure they have everything they need, and also help floor runners.

How do I become a floor assistant?

Floor assistants often start off as a floor runner and work their way up. There are also opportunities to move from being a camera assistant to helping the team.

At school or college:
You can take A-levels or Highers in any subject you’re interested in.

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

  • 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 
  • 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. You’re unlikely to find an apprenticeship in floor management as such, but you might be able to find one that gets you into broadcasting or production. To find out more, go to what’s an apprenticeship?. Go to where can I find an apprenticeship?to learn how to find apprenticeships in your region, or approach companies directly.Find the major broadcaster schemes using theapprenticeships filter in information and resources.  

Volunteer:
Entry-level positions may still require some experience. Put yourself out there and try to get any experience you can. Maybe volunteer to be a stage manager with an amateur theatre company or an assistant at a festival.

Get a degree:
You don’t need a degree to be a floor assistant, but if you decide that university is the right path for you then don’t be afraid to study a subject you really enjoy.

If you want to focus on TV production, have a look at ScreenSkills’ list of recommended courses and select one in unscripted TV. 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 the BBCITVChannel 4Channel 5Sky and the PACT Indie Diversity Training Scheme.

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 production manager or talent manager, depending on what kind of role you prefer. 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 logger or personal assistant in the unscripted TV industry. You might also be interested in being a floor runner or production runner in the film and TV drama industries.

Further resources