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How I landed my job as a TV floor manager: 'Work hard and talk to everyone'

Elle Nolan on her path to a career in television.

It helps to have a lot of neck: Elle with Dustin
It helps to have a lot of neck: Elle with Dustin
Image: Elle Nolan

TODAY, TV STAGE and Floor Manager Elle Nolan is on a shoot in Galway, so she’s answering our questions between takes.

Elle studied Media and History at NUI Maynooth and gained experience working at The Gaiety Theatre, before going on to pursue a career in television.

“The Gaiety was a really cool place to work,” Elle tells TheJournal.ie. “There was a lot of variety as a different production would come in every couple of weeks, so there was always something new to experience. Oh, except for the summertime when Riverdance would come for three months. Eleven shows a week for three months – that’s a lot of Riverdance!”

In a nutshell, Elle says that her job usually involves taking the director’s vision and bringing it to life on the set floor.

People usually have a preconceived notion that the director is someone who sits in a high chair and shouts ‘action’ through a megaphone. That can sometimes be the case in film – minus the megaphone; that’s not really a thing these days. But in a television scenario the director usually sits in the gallery – a big room full of screens, where he can see every camera angle – and relays to the Floor Manager on the studio floor how and when they’d like things done. Basically, the FM’s job is to keep things running efficiently and effectively.

Elle told TheJournal.ie how she landed her dream job, and offers some tips for graduates hoping to follow a similar path.

Get a mentor: I studied Media and History at Maynooth but more often than not the best way to learn any skill set in TV is to shadow someone in that role for a decent amount of time. If you have a mentor that’s willing to show you the ropes, that’s half the battle. Most people start as runners, but if you have a keen interest in a certain area (for example, camera, sound or producing) don’t be afraid to talk to people in that field; they are usually more than happy to give guidance.

Develop a good work ethic from an early age: I had lots of different part-time jobs as a teenager. I worked in retail, in a coffee shop, in a supermarket… I remember traipsing around the shops with a stack of CVs and handing them out.

I think learning good work ethic from a young age is important. I’m not talking about working excessively when you’re supposed to be out having fun but it’s good to assert your independence. Working a few hours a week and then picking up your wages in an envelope was the coolest thing – and terribly grown up!

Work on your diplomacy skills: This job has helped me to develop pretty decent social skills, which is great as I’m prone to episodes of anxiety. A big part of the job is delegating, so you need to be able to do that in a way that doesn’t rub people up the wrong way, but gets the job done. This is a skill I’ve attempted to practice at home with my kids; funnily enough, it doesn’t work half as well.

Get your foot in the door: My advice to anyone graduating and hoping to pursue a career in television or production is to get an ‘in’. You may not get into the exact role you’re looking for at first, but if you can start in any area then do it. Once you’ve started, you can jimmy around and get working towards the area that really peaks your interest. Talk to everyone, express a lot of interest and work hard.

Study hard, but pay attention to your health: Your time is precious so allocate it well. Just like in college, as well as time dedicated to academic study, you need to take time for yourself. That can be hard when you feel there’s so much to be done but your mental health is detrimental to how you’ll cope, so take great care of it.

More: ‘I’ve always been the organiser with friends’: How I became a trailblazer in the co-working movement>

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