What does it mean to be a Floor Manager in television?

To find out we talked to North East based industry professional Caroline Broome; the person responsible for making sure a Director's vision is relayed quickly and efficiently to all cast and crew present on a busy production. 

Working in both controlled studio spaces and unpredictable live events, Caroline's credits include The Paralympics, The BBC Proms and 'The Great North Passion'. Find out more about Caroline and her role below.

What is your role?

Television Floor Manager 

What does that involve? 

It depends on which job I’m doing and the environment I’m in, whether it’s a studio environment or an outside broadcasting (OB) environment. The day-to-day tasks involve managing people, outside or otherwise and practical or logistical issues. It is essential that you are able to effectively communicate with the team working alongside you as well as the rest of production - Directors/Producers who may well be in a gallery space nowhere near where you are recording. The Floor Manager (FM) is the link between these teams. 

Obviously in a studio environment you’re managing a studio space. The role is akin to being a stage manager in theatre; in a lot of respects you’re very much the organiser of people and things. Whatever environment you’re put into - you are there to organise and put people and things in the right place. The FM usually has the opportunity to attend planning meetings where an understanding of the programme or the recording will be outlined. Ideally you are sent a running order/and script in advance. Personally I will spend a lot of time getting to know this in some detail.  However there are some jobs where there is no advanced information and you will have to use your experience to digest what is needed quickly and effectively. 

Directors mainly communicate with presenters via an ear piece however guests and contributors often do not have this or are not used to working with one. The FM would be communicating information and instructions from the Director or Producer to them.  Some jobs may start with one scenario on a script and evolve into something quite different as a Director/Producer becomes creative – the Floor Manager would always try to help find solutions by working with the technical team to achieve what is required. Which means thinking on your feet – but that is the fun of it too!

Is there a big difference between doing your job in a studio and doing your job on location?

No I wouldn’t say there’s a huge difference; it’s still a matter of people management, venue management and location management of said site or studio. In a studio, ultimately the recording will start and stop with you; you are the voice of the director on the floor in either environment. An outside broadcast recording can often be part of a larger event that is taking place. Television recording of these events may just be to observe/capture this or you are instrumental in the timing/stage management of it as a ‘performance’ or event. It is essential to understand and work with the organisers of these events.  Yes, you are still the voice of the director working next to your presenter and your contributors but there is usually a bigger team that you have to be aware of. It’s much more focussed in a studio and it’s easier in a sense because it isn’t outside. A studio environment is very much about controlling and driving the recording based on the requirements of your Director. It’ll be down to you to get things going, 

What are a few of your career highlights so far? 

I find that difficult one to answer because my career has changed quite a lot. When I started out, I was at Television Centre in London as an Assistant Floor Manager then a Floor Manager.  Typically a week might consist of a day on Top of the Pops, a day on Blue Peter, followed by a couple of days on a sitcom/comedy such as Bottom or French & Saunders. Since moving back to the North East I have worked on a lot of OB’s and in the studios in Salford @ Media City on programmes for CBBC and BBC Sport.  Some of the OB’s that I have worked on in the last few years have included ‘The Great North Passion’ that was filmed in the region, The London Marathon, The Para Olympics and The Commonwealth Games.

What training have you had?

I completed a Media Degree and started working in theatre which is a route many people seemed to follow at that point. I still feel it’s important to learn the job by working from Studio Runner level and observing the Floor Manager, as I did and start understanding the roles and requirements needed. It’s about being aware of that bigger team and understanding what everybody’s role is within a studio or an OB and you can only gain that from being part of a team for some time. You can’t do it overnight.  Recent training includes current broadcast Health & Safety practice and First Aid. Alongside my Floor Manager work I have also worked as Production Manager on factual programming as well as Location Managing on Dramas and AD work.  All of these roles have used my existing knowledge/training and given me a better understanding of television production. It also helps me to remain employed!

 

Are there any differences between being a Floor Manager and a First Assistant Director?

Both roles involve organising people and working in a team. A First Assistant Director will plan and manage the shoot for a drama, a film or commercials and is usually involved in the pre-planning whereas a Floor Manager is often only involved during filming and sometimes for certain genres like sitcoms you also work on rehearsals. Health and safety is an important part of both roles, along with knowing where your team and crew are at all times. A Studio Floor Manager will run the floor of the studio and this would include managing a studio audience when there is one.

What key skills do you need in this position?

I would definitely say an even temper and the ability to get on with people and communicate things very quickly and concisely in often very stressful situations. You also need to have an air of calm, despite the fact that in your ear you might have all hell breaking loose. It’s very much about being able to be focussed and understand what the production needs and also being authoritative. You definitely need to be able to multi task and deal with problems quickly as they come up.

Is there anything that people should be aware of when pursuing this role?

Anybody wanting to enter our sector should understand that it is never going to be a nine to five and there are very few companies offering staff positions. Most of the work out there is freelance. You’ve got to be flexible and understand that if you want a job where you finish at five o’ clock and have your weekend, you probably shouldn’t choose to do this. That said the rewards of this job mean an incredibly diverse range of things to do and people to meet on a daily or weekly basis. You’re changing your environments, locations and your skills and you are adapting yourself constantly and an average job isn’t going to give you that.

What should you definitely not do on your first day on the job? 

This could be a big list! Here are just a few: Be late. Be on your phone/Twitter/Facebook on set. Tell anyone that listens you are a Producer. 

What should you definitely do on your first day on the job?

Be early. Know the building and area where the programme is being recorded - a runner that can find their way about is invaluable.  Be attentive, intuitive and helpful without getting in the way. Put the mobile numbers for key people in your phone in advance. Be dressed in appropriate clothes/footwear and SMILE!