Lyndon Saunders is a lecturer in TV and Radio Production at University of Salford. He has over 15 years of experience working in the broadcast industries, and his CV includes stints on Dragons’ Den and Strictly Come Dancing. He also won a top radio industry award for his Radio 1 documentary about Badly Drawn Boy.
Lyndon will be speaking on NME’s Skills To Succeed In A Digital Age panel at our #Lifehacks event on November 23. Ahead of the big day, we got in touch to find out more about his career journey so far.
You’ve worked extensively in TV and radio – an area of works lots of people would love to get into. What was your route into the industry?
“I think what matters is passion, willing and ability. Immediately after graduating, I went to London, where the streets certainly aren’t paved with gold, but it remains the place with the strongest concentration of media production companies in the UK and has lots of opportunities. I had £600, which gave me two months in a hostel and a bit of cash for food and I literally knocked on doors with my CV in my hand – day in, day out. There were loads slammed in my face but I’d also made a simple but functional website called ‘Lyndon’s World’ – cringe! – and it had all my video and audio work downloadable from there. That was a pretty unique thing at the time and it caught the attention of a small but brilliant indie radio production company. They called me in and gave me a shot with a placement, so I made sure I showed passion, willing and ability, and they took me on.”
You won an award for your Radio 1 doc about Badly Drawn Boy. How did you come up with the idea for this doc, and how difficult was it to make it happen?
“At the radio production company who gave me my first shot, part of showing willing was coming up with ideas – constantly! There was a guy in the office whose brother was the guitarist in Badly Drawn Boy’s band and the chat was that they’d just started on the US tour after he won the Mercury Prize. I had the thought that it would be a great way in to telling the story of how tough it is for a British act to crack America, as well as being a great rockumentary about Badly Drawn Boy himself, who was known for being a character. The company had established links with Radio 1, so we pitched it, they bought it and I found myself on a plane out to San Francisco to meet the band and make the doc. It was terrifying at the age of 21! Access was easy because of that link but making the doc happen was really tough. It’s an old film but if you’ve ever seen Almost Famous by Cameron Crowe, that was exactly my experience. I was flying by the seat of my pants the whole time, interviewing everything that moved, recording fans and the goings-on backstage but very much shooting from the hip as a rookie programme-maker. In hindsight, there was something really special about making a programme on sheer adrenaline and instinct and I maintain that it remains one of my best ever radio docs as a result. Maybe that’s the key? Always back yourself to pull it off and never get formulaic.”
You’re joining a panel discussing the skills we need to succeed in a digital age. Broadly, how has the explosion of digital changed TV and radio, do you think?
“There is so much noise, so much choice, so much variety in content and form. On the one hand, that’s amazing; on the other, it’s completely terrifying for both producers and audiences. How do you know what stuff to make and how to make it, and how do you know where and how to consume stuff? The massive positive is: anyone can now do both. The boom in podcasting has blown open broadcasting. Anyone can make content – that doesn’t mean it’s all good, but it does mean you don’t have to wait for a big break to start doing stuff that will get picked up. On the one hand, short-form branded content that speaks to small, distinct audiences is an exciting way to go. But at the same time, long-form box set TV is absolutely smashing it. So, it’s changed in that anyone can do content and it can catch light, but it’s also put a sharp, brutal focus on making amazing content that cuts through the noise and becomes must-see or must-listen. Add to that the need to know how to innovatively promote to, connect and be constantly in dialogue with your audience and it’s both a thrilling and terrifying era of content production.”
What advice would you give to a young person who’s interested in pursuing a career in TV and radio? How can they begin developing their skill set now?
“Make stuff! Don’t wait around for formal opportunities to do it – if you’ve got an idea for video, shoot it on your phone if needs be. Get it out there because it gives you a calling card. Also, get yourself a healthy, positive digital footprint – I see so many young and old people with dubious social media profiles and I see very few people making themselves the best they can be online. That doesn’t mean that you need to sanitise yourself; it means you need to be real, creative, and attention-grabbing. I’d also recommend that you tout yourself around uniquely – funnily enough, the door-knocking thing feels unique again because it’s kind of old school. And remember to follow up even if you got a ‘no’ or a ‘maybe’. You always need to be persistent.”
Later this month, Lyndon will be speaking on an NME #Lifehacks panel discussing Skills To Succeed In A Digital Age.
The panel forms part of a full afternoon of talks and activities designed to help you kick-start your career in the creative industries. NME has teamed up with University of Salford and youth initiative Create Jobs to lay on the #Lifehacks event in London on November 23.
The event will be headlined by Chelsea footballer Eni Aluko and hip-hop artist Loyle Carner, who will team up for an ‘in conversation’ panel. Another panel will see Paris Lees, Paula Akpan and Josie Naughton join forces to discuss how to effect positive change.
Also speaking on the Skills To Succeed In A Digital Age panel will be Lauren Thomas, Ibrahim Kamara and Niran Vinod.
Thomas is Partnership Leads at tech education specialists General Assembly, while Kamara is co-founder of GUAP, the world’s first video magazine. Vinod is a creative strategist at both Facebook and Instagram.
One the day, you’ll also be able to connect with the NME team and our partners at the dedicated Hack-Space. Plus, there will be free food and drink, and the event will culminate in an exclusive secret evening gig. At last year’s #Lifehacks launch event, Tinie Tempah wowed the crowds.