"I stood on the same escalator as Steven Moffat" or Why You Should Go To The Network

April 28, 2018

So you’re interested in TV, film or media and want to explore your options before settling on a path? You’ve gone to uni but have realized that it’s not an automatic “in” into the industry? You were told about this programme by someone and aren’t sure whether it’s worth it?

 

 

Spoiler Alert:

 

It is.

 

I went to The Network 2017 and this is a post all about why (and how) you should apply.

 

For those not in the know, The Network is a free entry-level scheme to help you start a career in television. It takes place in August in close conjunction with the Edinburgh International Television Festival. There are no age or education restrictions, you just have to be over-18 and able to start working from September 2018. So if you’re in your final year of uni, or are wanting to switch over to a career in TV, this one’s for you!

 

I was told about The Network at uni. Our lecturer presented us with a Powerpoint, and the only thing that really registered with me was one of the programme’s sponsors: YouTube. I’d been making YouTube videos for about half a year at that point, so seeing that name definitely peaked my interest. I wrote down the info, then proceeded to forget about the whole thing completely. A few weeks later, our lecturer sent out an email: “Two weeks till The Network deadline!”

 

I watched the overall trailer for The Network and was curious. I was at that point of university where you start thinking about The Great Beyond, and this seemed like a comparatively easy application process. Also it was free. I have always known that I want to work in the creative industries, but I still feel the pull of several different directions and choosing is hard. However, TV is definitely one of those directions and this was the first opportunity for post-grads I found that I was actually interested in.

 

So I decided to apply. True to form however, “applying” sat on my to-do list for the next two weeks. OH YES, I’m one of those people. Finally I sat down at about 10.30 pm on deadline day and filled out the application as best I could.

 

 

Some quick tips:

 

Number 1: You have to answer three questions. These are very simple. This is intentional, it’s so that you take the lead and give your response personality. The people behind The Network are not interested in hearing cookie-cutter answers, they want you. They want to know why you think the way you do and what fresh perspective you might bring to the table. So don’t think about what they’d like to hear, write what you feel, what your honest opinion is.

 

I remember that one of the questions was to write a brief review about a TV show you’ve either loved or hated in the past year and, true to form, I couldn’t decide. So I wrote about Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life, which I had love-hated with the best of them. If you don’t believe me, check out my video reviews here.

 

But anyway, that’s just an example of how to make your response your own. Rules are meant to be interpreted, so interpret these questions your way.

 

Number 2: I should also mention that you can submit either a written or video application. I procrastinated too much to be able to submit a video application, but if you’re confident on camera, can edit well and all that jazz, this might be the way for you. The point of any application is to stand out of the crowd, so putting your face in front of the coordinators is a great way to immediately make an impression.

 

Number 3: YOU WILL NEED A CV FOR THIS APPLICATION. They state this now on the website, I’m not sure if they did last year or whether I was just too blind to see it, but don’t make my mistakes. Don’t realize with 50 minutes to go that you need to upload a CV, heck, that you need to make a CV for this.

 

Needless to say, the CV I uploaded was a little rough around the edges. I downloaded a template and filled out the separate fields as best I could, but looking back on it now makes me severely cringe. It was four weird blue squares for different categories spread across a page, with a strange structure, lots of decorative elements that I decided to remove...seriously the whole thing was just a mess. But hey, it only took 25 minutes to make, so I guess I can be proud of that.

 

Anyway, those are just the main three tips. If you decide to apply and want more advice, I’d be happy to help out. There’s also a ton more advice on The Network page, lots of FAQs and guides to the questions.

 

 

Looking back, I think it’s funny just how much I bumbled through the process. I applied, forgot about the whole thing, then freaked out when I got the email about the Glasgow assessment day. I left the application day grinning, having made a good impression and met a lot of cool people, then started doubting that I would ever be accepted. Next, I was baffled when I was invited to a London assessment day – which I knew NOTHING about initially – and once again enjoyed the experience of going to London, making amazing friends and getting rather tipsy at the top of the BT Tower. After a hasty goodbye and a sprinted return to King’s Cross for the train home, I was certain of two things:

 

Number 1)=: The Network is awesome.

Number 2) If I don’t get in, I’m gonna cry.

 

I was fully convinced. If you get to London, it means you’re one of the top 100 applicants, and at that point you kind of want to make it all the way. So I continued my summer, every day hoping and hoping for that last email to come. Finally, I was just leaving a plane in Germany when I got the email – I GOT IN!

 

My friend Marie didn’t know what was happening when she got an armful of happy, jumping Xenopus, screeching at the top of her lungs about some kind of “network”.

 

I just love telling this story. The point of it all is that it’s a confusing and daunting process to apply – as all cool things in life are– but it’s so incredibly worth it.

 

Throughout the application process you are already exposed to a myriad of wonderful, creative, interesting and like-minded people, so even just applying is worth your time. While on the actual scheme, you talk to so many people who find themselves on similar life paths to you, who are interested in where your career is going, who may even have specific aid they can offer you. You learn, not just how to establish these kinds of relationships with other creatives, but also what a variety of career paths is available to us, and how we can all support each other moving forward.

 

I am absolutely terrible at capturing life so I have very little record of the actual four days in Edinburgh. This is basically the only good photo I took and one of only two times I pulled out my vlogging camera.

 

 

This was mainly because, while on the scheme, your time is not your own. I’m generally a pretty independent person, so I do wish I could’ve had more time to explore different events of the TV Festival, but I chose to think about it this way:

 

I applied to get onto a scheme with a specific purpose – to get me a career in television. As such, I chose to trust the organizers that they had given us the best choice of events and managed to fill our time with as much information, networking and fun as possible.

 

Our first 1.5 days were filled with CV clinics, masterclasses, panels and an opening night quiz. On the second day we were introduced to our workshop groups – you get to choose which of five areas of TV you’d like to focus on – and set about our respective group tasks. I remember looking at the schedule and realizing that I would probably only be getting about 4 hours of sleep every night. That held true, except on the last night when it was only two hours.

 

BUT IT WAS FINE!

 

Genuinely, at the end of it all you wish you didn’t have to go home. After everyone has left and you’ve slept off your exhaustion, the sentimental Facebook posts will start, making you wish you could go back and do it all over again.

 

If you want to see what kind of work you will engage in as part of scheme, check out The Network Live below, the show we did on the last day, where each group presented in some manner what they had spent the last 36 hours creating or practising. I went the Creative Development route, which meant that each of our groups got to pitch a new format to SkyOne Commissioners, with one of the groups winning an internship at the end!

 

 

Now then, to wrap this up. I have to admit that I drifted through the experience a little. At each juncture, I didn’t spend a lot of time thinking, I just did. I took a chance and it paid off big time. I had one specific moment when the whole magnitude of what I was doing occurred to me. It was, as you might be able to guess, on an escalator, when I spotted a familiar-looking head a few steps below. This was a head I had seen many a time, but never in person, and belonged to the showrunner of one of my favourite TV shows, Doctor Who.

 

I was standing about 3 meters away from Steven Moffat. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to speak to him (which is the only regret I still have about the experience), but it did make me realize just how close I was to where I’d always wanted to be. Being on The Network teaches you many skills, introduces you to many people, but above all it provides you with one key thing: access.

 

It gives you access to an industry that can be really hard to break into, and it does so in a supportive, inclusive and actually helpful way. It makes you part of a group, a suspicious club as Charlie Brooker put it, and that membership will open doors for you. At the very least, it signs you up to their alumni scheme, The Network at Work, which will get you access to job offers, internships and the likes that could provide you with the next step on your career ladder, and then the next, and then the next.

 

And suddenly, you’ll have a career in television, and not even realize how it all happened.

 

And yes, I got all this from seeing the back of someone’s head. Wow.

 

So now that you’re super pumped to apply and get started, I have one last thing to tell you. In your application, you will be asked how you heard about The Network. In that field, be sure to select “Alumni Recommendation” and write in my name. If you get in, that could get me a free ticket to the TV Festival as well, which would make all my dreams come true!

 

Well. It wouldn’t quite get me a cat farm, but it would still be really damn cool!

 

The deadline's Monday, 30th April at 10 AM so get applying! Again, if you need any help with applying or have any questions at all, please do ask me in the comments and I’ll get back to you. I am a fountain of wisdom at your disposal.

 

For now, thank you for reading and I hope to see you at the Festival and see your name among the ranks of our illusive organization – The Network!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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©2018 BY XENIA FOERTSCH AND FROG@INKWELL

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