The professional life of a runner may not be the most glamorous in the film or television industry, but for most people, it’s an essential step towards bigger and better things. Essentially, a runner is a general dogsbody, who provides vital assistance to senior figures within a film, television or video production company.
The job title ‘runner’ has not been chosen at random. Indeed, if you’re lucky enough to become a runner, you will spend your time ‘running’ around and making sure everything is ‘running’ smoothly. Got it? Good.
For most people entering the film or television industry, working as a runner is a way to gain valuable experience and get your foot in the door. This is an entry-level position, so don’t worry! It’s incredibly unlikely that you’ll stay working as a runner for the rest of your career.
Typically, you’ll be expected to perform a wide variety of tasks, some more menial than others. For instance, you may be required to deliver messages, run errands, carry equipment, conduct basic research, carry out general admin tasks, and drive actors and other members of staff around from location to location.
If someone needs something done, and doesn’t have time to do it themselves, you will be their go-to guy or gal. You might be picking up people’s lunch, answering the phone, distributing post and helping the production team set everything up ready for filming.
Get ready for long hours, hard graft, and lots of running around. It’ll be worth it though! Working as a runner gives you a great chance to network and build up a list of contacts in the industry. If you pay your dues early on, you will reap the rewards later as you progress in your career.
Salary & benefits
Typically, runners aren’t paid an annual salary. Instead, they tend to receive an hourly rate somewhere between £6.50 and £10.
As you gain more experience, your pay may increase slightly, but not by much. Unfortunately, that’s the nature of the beast. Runner jobs are incredibly competitive and therefore it’s not in a film or television company’s best interests to offer higher wages.
The thing to remember, though, is that this is an entry-level position, and once you progress into a role with more responsibility, you will begin to earn a much more sizeable wage.
If you decide to become a runner, you certainly won’t be clocking off at 5pm every day. Expect to be working long, irregular and unsociable hours. The nature of television and film production means that filming can take place at any time of the day. You may even be required to work at the weekend from time to time.
You will also usually find yourself working in a variety of different places, such as in studios, offices and on-set in remote locations.
Anyone can become a runner, irrespective of their academic background. Indeed, you don’t even need a degree to get your talented foot in the door of the television or film industry.
Most runners, however, do tend to have a degree of some sort. A relevant film or media-related degree could even boost your chances of finding work, as it’ll demonstrate your passion for the industry in a tangible way.
Entry into this line of work is all about good fortune, timing and networking your socks off. It’s also a good idea to get some relevant work experience. Get involved with film projects at university or college and find work experience in your holidays. Anything you can do to stand out from the crowd will help your cause!
Training & progression
Working as a runner is all about learning ‘on-the-job’. There are no graduate schemes for runners. You will be dropped in the deep end and will be expected to pick up skills and develop your knowledge as you go along. It’s sink or swim! It’s up to you to figure out the best way of doing things.
Many runners go on to do great things. Your next step up could be into a researcher position. Alternatively, you might become a production assistant or a head runner. Eventually, you might even find yourself working as a producer or a director.
The sky’s the limit – and working as a runner is the first step on the ladder.