How to become an executive producer “Make your own luck”
This guest post ‘How to become an executive producer‘ is written by Maria Williams, a women with tons of experience in the media industry. Not only is this article packed full of great advice and inspiration, Maria also reminds us to have a personal life too! Having a personal life!? That’s crazy talk, everyone says WORK HARD – well keep reading to find out why having a personal life is so important.
How to become an executive producer by Maria Williams
Good question. How DID I become an Executive Producer?
I started out in BBC Local Radio. Not for long as there weren’t any jobs going. But I did lots of late night shifts, watched Producers who were REALLY good at what they did, and made lots of notes about how to make myself indispensible…
Then I managed to talk my way into Network radio in Birmingham, and just as I was about to get a Producer’s job, I resigned to go and live in London for love. It probably looked like career suicide at the time, but I’ve always tried to have a life as well as a career. Which actually makes practical sense too. How can you be truly creative if you’re always in the office?
In London I wormed my way into Radio 1, first as a Researcher, then Producer, and finally an Executive Producer and Commissioner. It was a brilliant place to work because being young wasn’t a barrier. I was effectively an Exec at 27 years old. And in retrospect I don’t think any other BBC Network radio station would have chanced that, or given any of us the freedom to experiment in the way we did.
With all that why would you leave? I stayed for nearly 10 years in total, but then, needing new challenges, went to Radio 4 as Deputy Editor of Woman’s Hour. It’s important to move around I think, to prove yourself to new Controllers or Station Managers. Because you are only as good as your contacts, and ultimately you don’t get to impress people who could help your career without working with/for them. After Woman’s Hour I was asked to launch a Saturday morning show on Radio 4, which became Saturday Live with Fi Glover, and won us Sony Gold for Best Speech Programme. That doesn’t hurt on your CV either…
Click to watch – How to get into the media industry
I loved the show. I loved the team. I loved Fi. But I’d only ever really worked for the BBC and was starting to feel institutionalised. So when Wise Buddah asked me to join them as their Head of Programmes I said yes. I wanted to understand the whole radio market. Indies, commercial, community… the bits of the BBC I hadn’t touched. So I Exec Produced everything from Cbeebies to 1Xtra, Kerrang! to Heat, 6Music to 5Live. I was asked to be a Sony judge, and met the people who mattered across the WHOLE of the radio industry. And I suddenly realised what it took to succeed.
Reading this you might think I sound very ambitious. I’m actually not. I’ve made most of my career decisions on gut instinct. I’ve turned things down that just felt wrong – even when they looked good on paper. And I’ve taken things that looked a bit of a risk if they felt right. I don’t think ‘listening to your gut’ is as random as it sounds. Your gut is processing all your 5, 10, 20 years of experience and giving you the benefit of its professional opinion.
Luck is an interesting word too. I firmly believe that you make your own luck. You have to get yourself in the right place at the right time. Meet the right people. Offer ideas and be incredibly resilient and pro-active. But in hindsight I can see that a dollop of luck did come into my career. When a much sought after Researcher’s job came up at Radio 4, I got it partly because of a holiday job I’d had aged 16. Who’d have thunk it?
Watch Maria talk about being an executive producer and why women are not being successful in radio
I hope this is helpful to you and wish you a long and happy radio career. And if you only do four things in becoming an executive producer, my mantra would be:
Listen to your instinct
Hang on to a personal life at all costs.
Because that Sony Gold’s not going to keep you warm at night…
Such an interesting read! What a great women, truly inspirational with great tips and advice about how to become an executive producer. Maria Williams is an independent Executive Producer, Trainer, and Founder of Sound Women
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Did you find this article useful? Are you now inspired to keep on working towards your dreams? If you did please comment below and let me know