How to break into TV


Sometimes that lucky break in television can seem as unattainable as the Holy Grail. Meet Elisabeth Nordentoft, a European Film College graduate who now works at Blu, Denmark’s leading TV production company. Over Skype, we talked about breaking into the industry and her advice for aspiring filmmakers.

DYD: So I understand the European Film College in Denmark is a really intense course. Apparently you condense several years of film studies into eight and a half months. What was that like?

Well it is pretty intense. But it is really nice to try a lot of different stuff, a lot of different areas because if you know you want to work in the industry, but you don’t know which specific part… For example, when I decided that I wanted to work in film, I wanted to be a director. And I did do a couple of small YouTube videos as a child with my family and siblings, etc. But I also edited the whole thing. When I came to the school I had my mind set on becoming a film director. But because it gave me the opportunity to try all these different areas, it led me to find out that what I wanted to do was editing.

DYD: So do you still want to direct in the future or is editing more your style?

Editing is my area of expertise but I’m not going to close the door on directing, I’m not going to close the door on any other areas because for example, especially in the beginning, it’s good if you can do several things, especially the technical things. A lot of people in the industry are constantly looking for sound guys, sound people, people who will hold the boom stick, which is the microphone, people who will sound design, people who will color correct, stuff like that, and also a camera assistant or a writing assistant. If they’re not requesting exactly the field you want, it’s a good thing if you can get in another way, you know, just to start off. And also in the future if I get famous and rich, of course, if I have a movie, if I have an idea, of course I’ll want to direct it. I also did direct one [see below].

DYD: So now you’re working at Blu, which is Denmark’s leading TV production company. Tell me how you got involved in that.

Well, I saw this ad on Facebook. Really random. And then I saw this ad and it was this guy, he was asking for an editing assistant. So I wrote him an email and gave it all, all my recommendations, my diplomas and all that. And then next thing I know he said yeah, do you have time to come in for an interview? And I think there were several others. I came in and on the day going in, I was like, I should probably Google this thing, and I found it was one of the biggest TV companies in Denmark. I didn’t know myself, because I had just come back to Denmark since I had lived in several different countries before. It’s the same company that makes X Factor and other reality shows like that. So I get in there and I see a proper company with all these editors all around me and I get super excited and I really try to get through this interview. While I was at work I was getting all excited. And then they answered me and say they hadn’t chosen me as a film editor as it is a big job and I am only 19 and only just gotten out of the film college. But they did have another offer, which is to be a logger, and what a logger does is to get all the material for a given show and watch the whole thing through, and I log it. So if someone’s having an interview, I mark where the answers are, what’s happening in the shots. A lot of people do the X Factor so you get to see through all the editions. At the moment I’m working on this ghost-hunting thing, so I’m just watching through these and they get quite scary sometimes. They put all these cameras in dark areas and creepy places and I have to mark when anything happens…

DYD: You have to mark when the ghost appears?

Yeah, exactly. It’s kind of scary. I got that job and I was really excited and it’s paid as well. In the beginning of any movie career, you really have to expect the minimum and you have to expect no wages, so this was sent from heaven that I got this job and especially in my area, which is editing. So hopefully I can work my way up that way. I get a lot of experience in structuring and organizing. And I get to be around actual editors and actual film producers, which is really, really nice.

DYD: Ok, what advice would you give to anyone who wants to get in the film or TV industry?

First of all, you have to be passionate of course, but if you’re already there, you have to obviously work hard and expect the least but don’t let other people abuse you. Because I’ve already tried that and even though you’re in the beginning of your career, you have to be completely clear when you go into something. If you go into a project and they say to you in the beginning that this is a free project, you won’t get anything out of this except experience, that’s fine because you know what you’re walking into. But you cannot walk into a project where they promise you a good title, an opportunity to work on a following movie, and the opportunity to what not, then you work for them for I don’t know how long, and they pull out but you get nothing for the work you’ve done. You cannot accept that. My biggest advice is it’s never too early to start doing contracts to be on the safe side.

DYD: So what would be a warning sign? When you don’t sign a contract?

Well, you can really do that. My experience was with a friend. And others, of course. It wasn’t the friend only. But even friends…Even if you think everything is going smooth… It just happens. You can’t know. Of course you should jump out of things if they say no then just at least accept nothing. A big reward in the beginning is experience.

I've attached Morfar, a short film Elisabeth directed. For for more on her work, visit her website: http://membina.com/

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