Name: Tessa Tylee

Job title: Producer/director.

Working hours: From nothing to 16-hour days depending on the projects on which you're working.


Employer: TVNZ. Producer/directors also work for TV networks and independent production companies.

Age: 43.

Pay: Pay rates for contracts vary from $1250 to around $2500 (plus GST) a week.

Qualifications needed: When I started 13 years ago there really weren't any courses - you had to start at the bottom and work your way up. These days a degree in communications or similar is a minimum entry point.

Career prospects: There's no real career ladder, it's more of a continuum that eventually allows you to work on projects you genuinely enjoy. You could progress to executive producer, commissioner of programmes or go into management. Self-employment is always an option.

Q. What do you do?

A. On virtually all my work I'm both producer and director.

Production is a backroom role requiring lots of management and planning. As an office-bound producer, I'm doing anything from working with research on the next programme, organising crews, title sequences, choice of music - while continually revisiting the brief to ensure the project is under budget and on time.

As a director, I tend to specialise in field work outside a studio. This means directing shoots on location with crew and presenters. Then I'm heavily involved in the editing - it could take three weeks to edit a one-hour documentary.

To ensure we all work as a team, it's my job to convey the same brief to the editor as I've given to the camera crew.

I'm currently working on a gardening community programme, Mucking In, and have just started work on a tribute to Possum Bourne.

Q. What skills do you need to become a producer/director?

A. One of the primary goals is getting the best out of those around you, so people skills are critical. You also need to understand the outcomes you expect from the lighting, camera and other specialists who work alongside you.

You'll need the confidence to back your own intuition and a cool head when managing conflicting priorities.

You must be prepared to work long and often extremely odd hours.

Q. Why did you choose this line of work?

A. I gravitated into this fairly late in my career, having completed a marketing degree from the University of Canterbury and worked as a radio copywriter. I love the process, the variety, the creative element, and the people-meeting aspects of the job.

Q. Best part of the job?

A. Watching the whole concept for a programme evolve from go to whoa is incredibly satisfying. I enjoy the travel, and have passion for programmes that celebrate Kiwis being Kiwis in their own environment.

Q. Most challenging/difficult part of the job?

A. Timelines can be a pain, but the giving and supportive nature of this role, together with odd working hours, are usually more demanding. As the buck stops with the producer/director, this can often be quite a lonely job.

Keeping up with new technology, especially the change to digital, is a challenge.

Q. Any interesting one-off projects?

A. I worked on the One Turns 40 programme where we interviewed lots of the old TV personalities, like former news reader Dougal Stevenson, show co-host Heather Eggleton and former weather lady Marama Martin. I also produced a tribute to actor Kevin Smith who died while filming in China.

Q. What sort of training do you get?

A. With or without formal training, there's no real substitute for experience.

I started as a trainee production assistant doing all sorts of odd jobs from making the coffee to photocopying and running the errands. But every new task gives you that bit extra experience.

Eventually I gravitated into doing 30-second promos and assisted on Maggie's Garden Show and Heroes, a re-enactment of real-life rescues.

As an assistant, much of what you learn is done under the guidance of the producer/director.