How to stand out when working as a runner

Do your job

Nothing frustrates people more than a runner who constantly moans that they shouldn’t be running and that they are above the tasks that they have been given. I know you have a first degree and your student film has won awards and you really should be researching art history for high brow documentaries, but you’re not so deal with it. Do each task even if it’s making a cup of tea or running down the road to Starbucks with a smile and a sense of enthusiasm. You might not think it but we see it when you purse your lips and roll your eyes, or look at your fellow runners with the expression that simply reads “oh for f*** sake”.

What really frustrates managers is when they realise that their runners are off networking or hustling for research roles when they still have a million and one things to do. Networking is great but get the day job done. Inform your production manager or co-ordinator if you are off to meet people so it doesn’t just look like you’ve disappeared and you don’t care.

Runners often make the mistake of thinking the only way to impress is to let everyone know that they are not really a runner and can do so much more. That’s great if you can and I’m sure you can, but you need to phrase that carefully as it can look really disrespectful and as if you think you are above the tasks you’ve been hired to do! Remember you chose to be a runner and you were fully aware of what was involved and where this could potentially take you. So embrace it do the best job you can and quit your bitching and your moaning.
No matter how skilled or talented you may be, delusions of grandeur don’t do you any favours!

Get to know people

You need to build relationships naturally and show that you are a great runner. Sometimes by simply making someone a cup of tea or performing mundane tasks can really create a great impression. People really appreciate a good team player.

Don’t frog march yourself to the most senior person in the room and launch into an extensive monologue about how wonderful you are. This is a not a movie where that seems to work, you know “this is what I can do” speech whilst a 90s r n b ballad builds crescendo in the background. In real life it just annoys people. Be aware of other people and what’s going on with them. Nothing is more frustrating and rude when you are in the middle of something to be blind sided by an over ambitious runner. Also be mindful of boundaries and people’s personal space. We are not in a nightclub at 2am about to hook up, so step back and let’s be professional.

Do your job well, ask to help out on shoots, spot things that need doing that perhaps people don’t have time to do, that will really help. Chat causally to people in the kitchen, or the lift or on a night out but always ask them questions, don’t make it all about you. Showing an interest in someone else’s career is not only flattering but is a great way to build a professional relationship.

Let People know what you want to do the right way

Slip casually into conversation that you can self shoot, speak Arabic or have contacts that will get you access to access to inside Wandsworth prison. Remember this needs to be relevant and you need to think as to how this is going to benefit the production. If you see people stressing about booking a translator for example and you speak the language fluently offer your services, it not only shows initiative but can save the production money. In terms of camera skills, productions might be reluctant to let you lose with a camera but don’t take that personally, they will appreciate the offer. If you have a showreel then send it to them, just to really emphasise your skills. Remember though if you are offering your skills up that you are not sherking your runner responsibilities. Keep your production manager involved and if needs be stay late, come in early to get everything you need to do done. It’s all about being a team player, think on this ocassion Michelle Williams rather than Beyonce.. You are supporting the programme being made and helping in every way you can but you are not leading it.

Do stuff – stay late, offer to do weekend shifts but get involved – use your spare time to build up your skills. Show an interest, offer to help out and ultimately show flexibility and keenness.

Love The output or if you don’t fake it like you do

Love the programme you are making or if you don’t fake it, of if you really can’t fake it then smile and say nothing. I’ve heard stories and witnessed runners slagging off the programme and it’s format, whilst it might not be something that you choose to watch you are being employed to work on the programme so show respect. Never ever slag of the contributors particularly within ear shot, and definitely not in the studio. If you all go to the pub and these conversations happen and senior members of staff are leading these conversations then even then I would be mindful of coming across like a bitch. If you can chat about previous episodes, or your knowledge of the format that’s great but be careful you don’t come across too much like a fan. I know on big shows producers are conscious of employing fans as often they feel that they will be distracted from their job by their simple geekdom and obsession for being on the show. I would have been a nightmare if I’d worked on Dawson’s Creek.

Make your own mentors.

Find people that you connect with, maybe people that have been through the runner journey and have now progressed onto more senior roles, and ask them about their experiences. If you are at a networking event and you meet someone, ask them about their journey, and ask their permission if you can keep in touch and meet up. Again be mindful of boundaries but you can do this in a respectful way. People often like to help people starting out in their careers so be open to that, remember to develop the relationship naturally but don’t pretend to be best mates. Pick someone who’s career you want and ask them how they got there.

Don’t throw your fellow runners under the bus

I’ve seen this a lot in television, “oh Sarah was asked to do this but she didn’t so I did it”. Or runners not forwarding in information, sabotaging information, spreading rumours that someone is rubbish at their job and just some general bitchy passive aggressiveness all done with a smile. This does not wash with me. Get ahead on your own merits not by bringing some down. This is not Game of Thrones. Now this has worked for some people and some former nightmare runners have hugely successful careers in the industry, but you yes you were not raised that way and have more self respect. Remember as your career develops so will your peers. If someone was vile to you as a runner then you are not necessarily going to employ them in later life so remember karma. Also managers can often see when someone is being thrown under the bus and when bad behaviour happens. Managers want runners to work as a flawless cohesive team and they will spot any cracks. It’s often the runner that stays out of drama, remains professional and focuses on the job that they remember.

Make a change

Sometimes it can feel that you’re just so good at your job that people don’t want to promote you, or no one is moving on in your team and you feel a bit stifled and stuck at a level. Look clearly at what your options are and what you can do to change. If it’s not working, ask yourself why? What can you do now to make that change? If it’s really not working then look outside that organisation, be honest with yourself, don’t beat yourself up and open up your options and horizons.



3 thoughts on “How to stand out when working as a runner

  1. Hi, I just started a blog that was very much inspired by yours! I’ve been reading it for the past few months and it has helped me so much in terms of getting my foot on the career ladder! It’s hopefully documenting all of the things that you’re giving advice about on your blog, like ‘first day at work’ etc so thought you or some of your readers might be interested.

    It’s only a baby at the moment and very rough around the edges.

    Many Thanks,


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s