Alumni - Sar Gwynne

BA Modern Languages (French and Spanish), 2021. Assistant Producer for unscripted television and film.

Alumni - Sar Gwynne
I am a freelance Assistant Producer working in unscripted television and film. I always wanted to work in documentaries but it seemed really unlikely that someone like me with no connections would manage to break into the industry. I’m from Derry but I thought I would have better networking opportunities if I came to study in London. I thought that studying languages would make me a useful asset on international shoots if they ever came along and I dreamed of making documentaries that required inter-cultural connection and translation.

I started my career in TV on the Channel 4 Production Training Scheme which is a year-long placement at an independent production company with training and support provided from Channel 4. I found out about the scheme through the UCL Careers email newsletter and when I saw the scheme advertised I jumped at the chance. It’s really competitive – more than 3,000 applications for only 18 places. The day I got the call to say I had made it I almost fainted!

My first TV job was with a production company in Belfast working across TV development and production. My first credit was a six-part observational documentary for BBC Two. I learned everything from compliance to forms to managing contributors, building relationships, how to shoot for broadcast etc. I also worked across other unscripted shows and after my year placement worked at the BBC on Series 2 of their flagship current affairs documentary series where I eventually moved up to Assistant Producer. I then moved into full-time TV development with another Belfast indie and I am currently working on an exciting true crime documentary series for a major streamer in London.

The greatest challenge in this job is the precarity. The overwhelming majority of roles in production are freelance so I always have to make sure to have my next job lined up. When starting out it can be so tough with some contracts only lasting a few weeks. When you’re starting out, spend some time researching companies, channels and understanding the TV landscape so you can talk about it at interview. Go through the credits of the productions you like and see if you can contact the filmmakers or execs. If you really want it and you’re passionate, that will come through. Just don’t give up!