Radio Independents Group: Working with and for indies
There are a number of ways in which freelancers, other independent production companies, and aspiring members of staff can work with and for many of the member companies in the Radio Independents Group.
In the first quarter of 2014 BBC Radio introduced more stringent requirements for independent production companies to be registered as their suppliers. Consequently a number of indies, particularly sole traders, are no longer registered and without being registered you can't even bid for commissions. If you are one of these and you have good ideas for programs, one possibility is to approach established registered indies and see if they are willing to (warehouse) your production.
What this means is that you can still make the programme for BBC radio, but the contract will be with the registered indie. How the production work is divided up between you and the warehousing indie, and how the finances are divided, will be a matter for negotiation. It is likely that some of the budget will need to go to the warehousing indie's overheads and other services such as executive production, studios, post-production etc could also be provided by that indie.
Alternately you may decide that coproduction would be better, and there's not a sharp distinction between that and warehousing in any case. Whichever route you take, you will benefit from the business expertise of the registered indie, their established reputation with BBC Radio, and of course you will be able to develop a track record of independently-produced programmes which will help you in a future application to the BBC registered supplier database.
RIG has compiled a spreadsheet showing which of its members are willing to consider warehousing and co-production along with a variety of other details such as the genres that they specialise in. It can be downloaded here
Whether you are offering an idea as part of seeking work with an indie, or as someone who is promoting a story (eg a university academic or press officer) much the same applies: research the companies output and target your offer. And BE HONEST! If you're offering it to 50 companies simultaneously say so. If you're offering it to just 3 don't let all three pitch the same idea to the BBC believing they have it exclusively. Remember also there is no copyright in ideas, so be careful (ideally hold back some crucial information so that the programme can only be made with your involvement) -- but don't be over-secretive as that won't come over well. A certain amount of trust is necessary.
Only a few indies currently offer any kind of work experience or attachment and they are shown in the same downloadable 'register' of indies that welcome unsolicited approaches. RIG is currently working with radio sector partners to set up an ambitious training programme that would include apprenticeships etc – more details later this year.
The position with jobs is similar. Most indies have a core of full-time staff and a network of freelances and contractors.
Whether looking for a job, a contract, freelance work or an internship the same basic rule applies. There is a great deal of competition, particularly for less experienced people so research the individual indies, through their broadcast output, their websites, word-of-mouth and any other way you can. A generic CV emailed to all indies is unlikely even to get a reply; a properly crafted approach to one or two companies whose work you have taken the trouble to understand is much more likely to get a positive response.
Indies that welcome unsolicited approaches
We maintain a downloadable register of those of our members that welcome approaches. Many of them indicate specifically whether they will consider applications for internships, work etc, and also what kinds of programme ideas and offers they are able to look at. There is no point in, for example, sending drama scripts to indies that don't do drama, so check it out first!