With opportunities for work in television seemingly limited, Michael O’Sullivan looks at how UCD students are making their mark in the world of broadcasting.
It was May last year when former UCD student Sean Regan, now a presenter on kids’ magazine show elev8, got a call from a friend about auditions for a new program on RTÉ. “It was around the time of the exams, I was in Tesco. He wanted advice because I had been doing campus television, he wanted to send in a video to RTÉ for this new show, I said yeah send it in, we’ll edit it for you. I helped another friend do a show reel piece as well for RTÉ and he asked was I going to enter. I thought ‘no chance’”. He explains that his time at CTN (Campus Television Network) had given him the added experience and know-how to understand what was involved.
“I sort of had an interest. I literally put in my application at 6am on Monday, three hours before the deadline. You had to write two hundred words on why you wanted to be the face of Irish children’s television. I included some video links that I had done with CTN. Interestingly enough I had footage of interviews I had done at the UCD Ball with the Vengaboys, Iglu & Hartley and Mundy which I thought would help me stand out rather than just me sitting in my bedroom introducing myself on film … So that was my thinking behind it.”
The approach clearly drew interest from the producers and industry executives, as Sean was called back. Being able to stand out from the crowd is the main tip he would have for people who are trying to get in to the world of broadcasting.“I did a bit of beat boxing. You want to make yourself memorable.” His time in UCD also gave him an understanding of what it’s like to choose people for a production after only a brief encounter with them in auditions.
“Back in the day I was a member of Dramsoc [UCD Drama Society] and myself and a friend held casting for an event called the ‘Fresher’s Project’. Basically the premise was that there were a different set of directors each day of the week, the same play but a different cast as well. We had this day-long casting process which gave me the experience to know what it’s like to be in the director and producer’s chair when you’re choosing candidates.”
Eventually Sean got the nod and joined two other presenters for the show. He believes that presenting is not a straightforward process but once in the business you learn quickly and on your feet. “We did mock interviews, panel discussions, speech workshops. Introductions to a show, acting and what we needed to improve on … We had a baptism of fire; they said it’s going to be a daily show and live. We had four weeks to prepare for it and we didn’t get much training”.
Current UCD student and former contributor to RTÉ’s The Rumour Room and Two Tube Sahar Ali feels that she too had to learn quickly. “When you go into RTÉ you just bring what you have, your own personality, just work with what you know or else you’re holding people back. I became more comfortable [in front of] the camera. You just have to be a more enthusiastic version of yourself, more energetic but you’re still being yourself”.
Being a member of Dramsoc helped give Sahar the confidence to have a real chance of getting the job with RTÉ. “We did improvisational type games and that’s something that really helped me with getting into TV. In second year we had improvisation classes with this guy called Robert Brown, he was American, I learned so much from him and I think I wouldn’t have had the confidence without him to go for the RTÉ gig”.
Sahar feels that there aren’t many opportunities in Ireland at the moment but still encourages students to put themselves out there. “We were very lucky timing-wise. Even RTÉ now have so many contacts that they would rather choose someone that they already know. Once I was in there I started getting calls from other people about work. They are always out for new people though, even when I was doing my own thing there were people watching, although I don’t think they want to take the risk as much now.”
It seems that the message is clear for people looking to get into broadcasting; use your time in UCD to hone your skills and gain as much experience as you can, because you never know when an opportunity might present itself.