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John Rosser - BU graduate on building a career in television

Image of John Rosser

Since graduating from BU in 2004, John Rosser has built a career as a documentary editor which has seen him work on some of the biggest shows on television.

John’s credits include the BBC’s Horizon programme and Channel 4’s The Secret Life of 4 Year Olds, 24 Hours in A&E and SAS: Who Dares Wins. Each hour long episode involves around 10 weeks of editing - a skillset John honed on the BA (Hons) in Television Production.

He said: “My degree course was tough but stood me in good stead for my future career. We made so many films over the duration of the course that you became very skilled and independent. It meant that I could skip past some of the entry level jobs after graduating and immediately apply my skills to a role without the need for additional training.”

John’s first job was as a machine room operator and assistant editor for factual programmes at Granada Bristol. He then returned to a commercials editing company he’d first encountered on placement, before making the move to freelancing and back to broadcast TV. He said: “If you want to build a career as a television editor you have to go freelance at some point. It does feel like a leap of faith, but there aren’t really staff roles out there. I soon began to build up a portfolio of shows, starting with short VT inserts and daytime programmes. Getting my first one-hour programme felt like a milestone and as I developed new contacts the work kept coming in. I joined an agency which helped to connect me with some great production companies who wouldn’t have known about me otherwise, but otherwise it all grew from word of mouth.”

Such is the scale of producing a primetime documentary series that a team of editors will typically work on one episode each. John said: “This is definitely a creative rather than a technical job. Each documentary has its own style and tone and it is up to you as the editor to quickly assimilate that and produce an episode which tells the most compelling story in a consistent way.”

John’s advice to other graduates entering the industry is to try and focus on developing a particular skillset. He said: “From my perspective, doing the television production course at BU already puts you at an advantage. Beyond that I would encourage people to be clear about the route they want to take into the industry. It isn’t enough just to say that you want to work in TV. If you can come out of university knowing that you want to be, for example, an offline editor, camera operator or producer/director, then you can find people who can give you the best advice and help you to get ahead in that area. Take the time during your course to test out these different areas and find the thing that you are most passionate about.”

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