Ex BBC Extendee Tom Wentworth
My mind was on other things at my graduation day last year. I was delighted to have completed my degree but I was also tremendously excited, as on the previous day I had received the call I’d spent weeks waiting for.
I had been awarded a place on the BBC’s Extend Scheme, to work as a script assistant on the BBC One medical drama Casualty. It was a dream come to true: I was going to be an Extendee.
My road to this point had been a long one. Previously, I had applied for and not been offered a place on Extend, but then I had been still completing my degree. I now realise that this was a good thing. Not only did it allow me to finish my university education, it also provided me with invaluable experience of the BBC’s interview process - which can be daunting but also strangely enjoyable (trust me on this one). So if I have one piece of advice, it’s “never give up”.
The placement itself was an exciting whirlwind of experiences. I was lucky enough to be thrown straight in at the deep end during my first week when I attended the show’s story conference, where long-term storylines are discussed and thrashed out.
This was a great opportunity to get to know some of the writers and to spend time with my new colleagues. This week definitely set the pace for my time on Casualty and from thereon in I continued to throw myself into everything. The team were generous with their knowledge and soon a time ‘Before Casualty’ (BC) had become a distant memory.
From day one I learned so much and gained so many new skills. These were both specific to Casualty (that the disabled loo door locks if you press the button on the inside) but also knowledge about myself. I learned very quickly to trust my own judgement about when I needed to refer up, for example. These are skills that continue to be useful in my working practice today, but Extend is about more than simply your work placement.
You are continually guided through the process by expert support from the Extend team, as well as being able to attend specially designed workshops about everything from networking to interviews. These sessions were particularly useful because they provide opportunities to share tips, advice and laughs (lots and lots of laughs) with fellow Extendees, and do more of the ever-important networking.
Another huge advantage of Extend was the opportunity to have a mentor for the latter period of the placement. This is ideally an experienced member of staff who would be there for discussion, to answer questions and to generally inspire you.
When I was asked who I wanted, I knew immediately who to approach. I deliberately chose a mentor from outside Casualty, as I wanted to widen my career options and explore my interest in radio drama.
At the end of my placement I was sad to leave. It had been truly challenging on a daily basis, as well as being full of rewards (especially making so many new and good friends). However, my placement had inspired me to pursue my ambitions as a writer, so I decided to find work as a freelancer. I am now about to fulfil a lifelong ambition: producing my first radio commission for BBC Radio 4 later this year. It’s going to be a great adventure.
I would love to work ‘in-house’ again at some point if the right role comes along - Extend showcased the extreme dedication and talent of the BBC staff I met. One thing is for sure, however: none of what I’m doing at the moment would be possible without the Extend scheme and that one very special phone call.Tom Wentworth was a BBC Extendee in 2013
Applications for Extend 2014 are now open. Further details on the Careers Hub website.
This blog post originates from the BBC Academy website.