From BU to Doctor Who – television drama director on his career journey

Rich Senior

Having set his heart on a career in TV, Rich Senior pursued a degree in television and video production at BU and has since gone on to direct primetime drama.

Rich caught the media bug early, getting his first taste of television when he and a school friend were featured in a Channel 4 documentary series called Beat That Einstein. He said: “The crew came to film at my house, and I was fascinated by the whole process – even more so when the show went out and I realised how much creativity had gone into the editing. I remember thinking that half of what I was watching hadn’t actually happened and it made me realise how important it is for television to create a story to engage the audience.”

Being academically gifted, Rich was encouraged to apply to the University of Cambridge but stuck to his guns by following a more vocational route. He recalls: “I wanted to do something creative and the course at BU appealed because it combined the practical elements of television production with academic study. I gained skills, made valuable contacts, and got to produce work that would later give me a foot in the door when it came to applying for jobs. I also built my confidence through extra-curricular activities such as presenting on student radio and being part of the university swing band.”

Rich made the most of BU’s existing network of media graduates when he approached a guest speaker to secure work experience at Children’s BBC. After graduating himself, he returned to the BBC; starting out by making the tea and supporting the creative teams before getting a chance to make his own promos at Red Bee Media (with a little help from a four-minute musical film he’d produced at university). Before long Rich was writing, directing and editing advertising campaigns for big drama series on the BBC, but still longed to create stories of his own.

He said: “Making promos was an enjoyable and secure job, but I wanted to do more, so I made the leap and went freelance. Having already built contacts with the team behind Doctor Who, I relocated to Cardiff where the show was based and began making short Doctor Who adventures to help promote the main series. I was then asked to shoot an entire episode; becoming the youngest director of the show since its return in 2005.”

Rich has gone on to work on major TV dramas including Our Girl, Poldark, Humans, Silent Witness and The Last Kingdom. He has become adept at delivering opening and closing episodes – ensuring that, as Rich puts it “series get off on the right foot and go out with a bang”. He is also drawing on his experience to support the next generation by mentoring current students. He said: “I love what I do but it can be all-consuming. It’s a precarious business, and it’s difficult to plan ahead because you rarely know what projects might be coming up. It’s hard for students to appreciate that, so I hope that I can help people to navigate their way into the industry by sharing some of what I’ve learnt.”