What does a Researcher do?

Becoming a Researcher is one of the main ways to progress your career in the media industry. Many creatives have started out as researchers for production companies or freelancing across a range of shows. Given the high number of TV shows and films produced in the UK nowadays, there’s demand for thousands of researches in the industry.

The role of a Researcher working on a TV show or film can vary widely. At the core, every researcher is responsible for finding people, locations and stories that are crucial to a production while ensuring its factually correct. They are a crucial element of the team, ensuring the production meets high editorial standards by fact-checking statistics and cross-checking stories.

The day-to-day research will vary depending on the genre or type of programming. Researchers working on a period drama will ensure the creative teams are fed plenty of information about the specific time when the drama is set – therefore influence the look and feel of a show. Live programming, such a news or sports broadcasts, are often more pressured as researchers will deliver key statistics to commentary and presenting teams throughout. A researcher on a unscripted series may approach field experts and ask for their contribution, or may be tasked finding houses for a property show. There are also casting researchers who will identify potential cast members to include in shows.

Many researchers enjoy the role because of the varied nature of the tasks – one week they may be researching for a history documentary, the next week working on a Sci-Fi drama series. Researchers can also specialise within genres and niches – the role of a researcher on a sports broadcast is stats-heavy and they’ll likely be an expert in the sport.

What skills does a Researcher need?

Strong research skills: Naturally, a good researcher takes a brief from a producer and instinctively knows where to look for that information, or where to find people who will know. They need to have a natural curiosity, always wanting to dig a little deeper.

Calm under pressure: Researchers will work closely with the whole production team and their skills are needed by lots of different people. Being able to juggle the workload and prioritise is an indication of a good researcher.

Communication: Researchers are expected to present their findings to producers in a briefing document. Being able to deliver the information in a concise form is key – both verbally and written.

Who does a Researcher work with?

A researcher will work across the entire production and will often join from an early stage. Most will be involved during the production process and producers and production coordinators will manage their day-to-day responsibilities. However, researchers will get involved throughout and will often work with talent and presenters during filming, particularly on live broadcasts.

How to become a Researcher?

If you want to become a Researcher for TV or film, you’ll likely need some experience as a Runner or an Assistant (to a director or producer). While Researcher roles don’t require significant experience, an understanding of the production process provides a solid understanding of the information production members need.

As most researchers operate on a freelance basis, you’ll should keep an eye on production companies, who will often advertise researcher positions for particular shows they’re making. Keep note of the production teams behind shows you enjoy and write to their HR or Talent team. In that initial message, highlight your interests, passions and any particular areas you’re knowledgeable about. That way, they’ll know you’re the go-to person on particular subjects and they’ll come to you.

In terms of education, there’s no set requirements but university degrees are preferred especially research-heavy courses. You’ll have gained the research skills required to complete briefs easily.

How much does a Researcher earn?

There’s quite a wide range for what a researcher may earn and it often depends on the project. Researchers in specialist areas or genres will have higher earning potential when selected for their specialist areas. Yet, with the variety of different researcher types out there in the media industry, BECTU recommends the following rates:

RoleDay Rate (exc. Holiday Pay)Day Rate (inc. Holiday Pay)
Researcher£500 – £750£561 – £841
Archive Researcher£650 – £900£729 – £1009
Casting Researcher£500 – £750£561 – £841
Development Researcher£500 – £750£561 – £841