I have worked in TV for over 40-years producing, directing; creating and running companies; consulting on hit shows; hiring and (regrettably) firing. Throughout my time revolutions in technology and practice have swept through the business – mostly for the better. But one element has never changed: teams. The best production teams have always been greater than the sum of their parts and this is as true today as it was in 1970. Every hired person must bring not just brain-power and skill, but something extra that will add to the professional ‘culture’ of the group. This is certainly what I have always looked for, and in my view other team-builders ignore it at their peril.
I am a designer by training. In fact I have just co-created an app design company (http://heuristicmedia.tv/company.html), but I still operate in TV and have always regarded television programmes as quasi-industrial (designed) products. Design and the other great industrial art forms of the 20th & 21stCenturies are by definition group enterprises: the era of the auteur having largely vanished with the craft-based art forms of the 19thCentury. Production groups are the foundations of success, whether creating an iPad, off-the-peg-suits, a new family car or a six-part TV series. So what do I look for?
Oddly, I have never been particularly interested in ‘track record’. The endless ladder of shows with which people prop-up their CV can conceal a multitude of maybes, impossible to penetrate or confirm. This is because roles are so fluid in TV - a PD on one show may have done less than a researcher on another. An Executive Producer often knows less about narrative structure than an off-line editor...and so on. Of course skills are important, it is always comforting to know that a candidate understands the disciplines of post-production, script-writing, how to shoot using prime lenses and so on. And a decent education is a bankable asset. But the key part of a CV for me is the paragraph that candidates usually take least seriously.
It is commonly labeled ‘Interests’: often a ragbag of lazy thoughts at the bottom of a CV mentioning ‘travel, reading, the cinema, socializing and cooking’. Looked at coldly no one hoping to work in any modern industry should be uninterested in any of these pursuits, but to put them on a personal CV as key interests is tantamount to an admission of cultural and functional failure.
If I list my ‘Interests’ (personally I prefer to call them Passions) it goes something like this:
· Rebuilding Italian motor scooters and motorcycles from the 1950s and 60s
· Citroen 2-CVs (their design, construction and legacy)
· American Blues and Jazz from the 1950s
· Modern Architecture
· German Industrial Design (and its influences).
· Narrative storytelling through pictures (Comics, Apps, Animation, etc)
What a list like this can do is trigger delight in the mind of the recipient. It begs questions that the person hiring will want to ask about, so they are more likely to ask for a meeting. It implies that the candidate will bring a cultural dimension to their team that will add more than they pay for. Anything on your CV that is personal, special and involving will do it. It could be carp fishing, writing and playing songs in a band, building radio controlled model aircraft, inventing cupcakes, public speaking, dressmaking or scuba diving. It doesn’t matter, because all share a crucial common feature: the ability to make and employ a ‘cognitive model’.
A cognitive model is simply a way of describing how a person perceives the world around them, but with one extra element – an ability to create or do something derived from that perception. Active, outcome-based interests or passions demand that a person enjoys – possibly unwittingly – the process that loops through a cognitive model.
Here is one schematic (there are many) of how a cognitive model might work:
Many of the ‘passions’ that I list in my CV require something like this model to achieve. But crucially these passions are not in my list of professional experiences: they are personal. I do these things for pleasure - for the sheer fun of discovery and of making and doing. I pursue them simply because I love doing them and, by putting them in my CV, show that I will freely transfer the passion they inspire in me to my professional work.
But a second glance at the schematic shows that it also has a direct application to the making of TV shows. To put it bluntly: if a person can build a 2cv or deconstruct the riffs in Pyramid by The Modern Jazz Quartet they will have the cognitive tools to make a TV show. The model is the same for all of them. So when I look at an applicant’s CV I flick straight through to their ‘Interests’. I look to see whether they are people who can bring passion to my TV project: people who can add more than just track record and skill to my team, thus adding much more value. By doing this what I get is a team greater than the sum of its parts. And what you get is a job.