During her college years, twenty-four year-old Production Secretary Beth Bayes had always been more interested in being in front of the camera as a performer. Then she took a course in Creative Media and started making films with friends in her drama class. That’s when she realised she preferred life behind the camera.
Beth graduated from Screen and Film School in 2018 and has since made a promising start in the TV industry working for Love Productions – who are the team behind the smash hit Channel 4 series The Great British Bake Off.
We caught up with Beth to reflect on her journey up until this point.
Hi Beth, can you tell us what a Production Secretary actually does?
A Production Secretary is a junior member of the production team. The role and responsibilities can vary depending on the type of project you’re on. Our main purpose is to help with the organisation of the shoot and assist the Production Manager and Co-ordinator with whatever they need. This could be booking travel and accommodation for cast and crew, ordering kit and props, liaising with talent and other departments and (at the moment) helping with COVID related things such as scheduling tests or buying PPE.
What was the most significant thing you learned whilst studying at Screen and Film School?
I learned so much during my time at Screen and Film School that it’s hard to narrow it down! It was good to get so much practical experience, so I was used to being on a set by the time I graduated.
What’s the most significant thing you’ve learned since graduating from Screen and Film School?
Staying humble when you graduate. Yes, during our final year we are Directors, DOPs and Producers but when we start in the industry we’re not going to get those roles straight away. We will have to start out as Runners and Assistants, but don’t knock it! Use that time to learn everything you can and enjoy being able to move around on lots of different types of projects until you find the thing you enjoy doing the most.
Can you tell us how the work experience placements during your studies helped prepare you for your current role?
I was so lucky to get a TV job very quickly after graduating and BBC Studios was a great place to start. I was a Trainee Floor Runner on a crime drama called Silent Witness for six weeks and in this time, I got to experience what it’s really like to be on set and speak to people from lots of different departments.
After speaking to the Production Assistant and Secretary, I decided I might like to try working in TV production and they let me have a few day’s work experience in the Production Office with them.
This prepared me for working as an Office Runner and later Production Runner for Ricochet. I worked as a production runner on The Repair Shop before moving to Bake Off as a Talent Runner then Production Runner again. All of these roles gave me experience in production and different areas of TV as well such as casting, working with presenters, development, etc. I think it’s important to have a well–rounded idea of how TV works so that you can fully understand what needs to be organised in production and why.
How did you feel when you first landed the role at Love Productions?
I was so excited but also very nervous!
What is your average day/week like during the preparation and filming of Bake-Off?
Ordering a lot of baking equipment! Helping with finance and release forms, speaking to the bakers and making sure they’re happy and generally helping the Production Manager and Production Co-ordinator with whatever they might need that day.
What are the most enjoyable elements of your work?
Meeting so many different people all the time and getting to do lots of different projects. I also love watching the final result on TV. It’s so nice to see it after spending so many weeks of hard work to help create it.
And the most challenging?
Long hours and lots of hard work, especially as a runner. It does ruin your social life a bit (although who has one of those in 2021?), and it can be tough to be away from loved ones for so long if you have to go away for a few weeks during filming.
What’s been the most surreal moment for you so far as part of the Love Productions team?
Working at Pinewood Studios was a big ‘pinch me’ moment as it’s something I’ve wanted to do for a long time. They were filming the new Jurassic Park movie next door to us and I managed to sneak a peek at some of the sets for that, which was so cool!
Whilst studying at Screen and Film School, you were interested in working mainly on films. Now that you’ve experienced the world of TV, do you think you’ll stay in this field?
I really enjoy working in TV at the moment, but I’d never say never to working on a feature film one day.
Are there any other roles you aspire to take up in the TV and Film industry?
Yes, although I’m enjoying working in production at the moment my ultimate dream would be to work in development / as a writer for a TV drama.
Are you inspired by Beth’s story?