Advice from Irish stars: How to break into showbiz

As the great and the good in Irish film and television gather together to be honoured at this year’s IFTAs tonight, Rachel Borrill asks some of our best-known faces for advice and tips on how to break into the business.

Advice from Irish stars: How to break into showbiz

LUCY KENNEDY, 37, gave up a career as a flight attendant for a TV presenting and production course. She rose to fame presenting RTE’s The Podge and Rodge Show and is currently co-hosting TV3’s afternoon show Late Lunch Live weekdays from 2.30pm.

1) What was your big break in broadcasting?

“It was my first presenting jobs on The Ex-Files, a dating show where people dated their exes!”

2) What tips and advice can you offer to anyone wanting to work in television?

“My advice would be to do a presenting course. Park Studios in Dublin is fantastic. Then make contacts wherever possible and hound them! I know it is embarrassing but you want to be the first they think of when they are picking a new presenter.”

3) What are the best aspects of your job?

“Working with people I genuinely like. Podge and Rodge, Baz and Martin King. In this job you get to meet a great variety of people and being a naturally nosey person, I am in my element interviewing them.”

4) What are the worst aspects of your job?

“When you are tired, in manky jeans, no make-up on and looking your worst and then someone asks you for a pic! Only messing. Honestly, I can’t think of any worst bits, I genuinely love what I do.”

5) To date what has been the highlight of your career?

“One of them was definitely hosting our President’s garden party at Áras an Uachtaráin last summer. It was a real honour and very exciting.”

6) What are your ambitions and future plans?

“My future ambition is to bring a proper dating show to the Irish screens!”

DAITHI Ó SÉ, 37, host of the Rose of Tralee for the last four years and is a presenter of RTE’s daytime show Today.

1) What was your big break in broadcasting?

“I think it is all down to luck. But I suppose my first big break was singing on RTÉ1 Charity You’re A Star in 2006, I was doing the weather for about five years before that, but after that my career totally changed.”

2) What are your tips and advice for anyone wanting a career in television?

“I think the longevity of being on television and radio is from the foundations you set. The faster you become well known, the faster the flame is going to burn out. The more solid the foundation is the longer the building will stay up. So definitely work your way up.

“There is really no right answer, but also be nice to people on your way up as you most certainly will meet them on your way down, especially in television.”

3) What are the best aspects to your job?

“I like talking to people. If you are interested in people, if you are nosey then that goes a long way to being a good TV presenter. I don’t like looking beyond our shores to idolise people, but this one time I will, with Michael Parkinson. I don’t think any other TV presenter has this at the moment — his ability to listen.

“That’s what it is all about, it is listening to the guest. It is not about you.

“Mind you when he had Meg Ryan on, he had to do all the talking, she just didn’t want to be there. I would have told her to ‘F*** Off ! Just go home, Meg, you don’t want to be here.’”

4) What are the worst aspects to your job?

“There are days when stuff happens in your own life, but you just have to plough through.

“In the beginning, you just muddle through, but then you do learn how to deal with things. Most of the time it is good, but it certainly isn’t as glamorous as people make out.

“The good thing with the Today show is that even if you hate a topic, you only have to talk about it for seven minutes, so you put up with it. There will be days that I know more about the subject than Maura (Derne) and vice versa; she might take the lead on fashion and I might do it on sport. And we are both very happy about that.

“I imagine it would be very hard to work so closely with someone if we didn’t get on. I know it has happened before in different incarnations. But oh my God, I actually probably couldn’t work in those circumstances. I am so lucky that we really get on. When you do five shows with someone, you are actually sitting side by side with them. That’s a lot. I wouldn’t spend that much time with my wife!”

5) To date what has been the highlight of your career?

“The best moment I have had was hosting the Rose of Tralee for the first time. The first Kerry man to do it, going in the footsteps of Ray d’Arcy, Marty Whelan and Gay Byrne. But I never thought ‘Wow, I’ve made it.’ I don’t see myself in that light, I just plough on.”

6) What are your ambitions and future plans?

“I have had very few low points in my career. But I am under no illusions, somebody else will come along and knock me off my perch, it’s not going to last forever.

“The day of Gay Byrne being there for 40-odd years have gone. If I get another five or ten years out of this I will be delighted.

“I have been lucky, RTE have come to me with shows, I’ve liked them and done them, so long may that continue.”

BRENDAN COURTNEY, 40, recently covered London fashion week broadcasting to over 40 million viewers in China.

A TV presenter and leading fashion designer and stylist, he has never been busier.

1) What was your big break in broadcasting?

“After trying for six years to get a job in television, I got my first job as a researcher on RTÉ1’s afternoon show Open House with Mary Kennedy and Marty Whelan. Then five months later I wrote Wanderlust, an internet travel show that was sold into 19 countries, and I hosted it for four seasons in Ireland and the UK.”

2) What tips and advice can you offer anyone wanting to work in television?

“Tenacity and ambition. Plus have a reason for wanting to be on TV. If it is just to be famous, head for TOWIE or some other reality show — but you better be beautiful! Otherwise have a real objective and plan. Work hard, don’t be annoying and keep at it!”

3) What is the best aspect to your job?

“Doing stuff I love.”

4) And what are the worst aspects to your job?

“The insecure nature of it.”

5) To date what has been the highlight of your career?

“Wanderlust. Bringing back the BBC1 programme The Clothes Show. Taking over RTÉ1’s Off the Rails. And launching my own fashion label Lennon Courtney with Sonya (his co-presenter on Off the Rails.)

6) What are your ambitions and future plans?

“To launch Frockadvisor.com — a social commerce platform that connects fashion fans and brands. To grow Lennon Courtney to a global proposition and to continue to make television that I love.”

www.lennoncourtney.com

DERIC HARTIGAN, 31, orignially trained as a French and Spanish teacher before joining TV3 as an intern in 2007 and now works as a daily weather presenter for the TV3 Group Network.

1) What was your big break in broadcasting?

“Having worked behind the scenes in TV3 for many years, my break came back in late 2009 in the form of a screen-test for the new weather position on 3e, after the former Channel 6 was acquired and rebranded by the network. They were looking for a fresh young team to spice up the station and thankfully they saw my potential.”

2) What tips and advice can you offer anyone wanting to work in television?

“Learn every aspect of television production: from gallery and studio operations to researching and editing. Newsrooms are primetime pressure pots and it’s imperative to keep your cool.

“Be prepared to start from scratch, serve your time and work long hours. Hopefully, the rewards will reap themselves. As TV3 Xpose presenter Karen Koster once told me: ‘It’s better to be at the bottom of a ladder you want to climb, than at the top of a ladder you don’t.’”

3) What are the best aspects to your job?

“I really enjoy working on the weather team, especially with Martin King, who has given me great guidance over the years.

“Producers have always given me fantastic freedom in relation to my production and presentation, which has in turn helped me to carve out my own unique sense of style and delivery. I’ve also developed a loyal following through social media, many of whom have become more like my online extended family!”

4) What are the worst aspects about your job?

“Mother nature knows no work-shift boundaries and weather is 24/7. Downtimes can be hard to find as I’m always switched on when it comes to my job. I feel it is my duty to inform the public on the constantly changing conditions as our unpredictable weather takes so many twists and turns.”

5) To date what has been the highlight of your career?

“The recent New Year storms gripped the nation and I relished the challenge of rolling up my sleeves and ‘stormchasing’ around the country; updating on breaking conditions as I went. Each weekend I also present the surf report and I’m working on some festival forecasts for the upcoming summer season.

“Separate to that, I was nominated for ‘Best Dressed Male’ in 2013, where I was placed second, to the boyband sensation Siva Kaneswarren from The Wanted! Not bad for a Limerick lad!”

6) What are your ambitions and future plans?

“Coming from a farming background, I’ve a big love of country life and environmental issues, so I’m working on some fresh and exciting programming ideas for the new season. Also, as an avid tri-athlete, kitesurfer and adventure racer, I’m a huge fan of the great outdoors, so am hoping to edge towards presenting more action and adventure-styled shows down the line. But who knows what the future holds!”

BLATHNAID TREACY, 26, was a child actor from the age of three months to 13, before finishing her education. She presented TG4’s pioneering travel programme which saw her couch surf around Europe and is currently presenting RTE2’s youth magazine programme Two Tube on weekdays.

1) What was your big break in broadcasting?

“Technically it was back in 1988 when I first joined the cast of Glenroe as Biddy and Miley’s baby daughter, Denise. But my first presenting TV break was back in 2012 for the TG4 travel show O Tholg Go Tolg. I travelled all over Eastern Europe going from couch to couch as the title translates. I stayed in a squat in Budapest, a farm in Romania, with a clown in Germany and met plenty of other characters in places like Macedonia, Montenegro, Venice, Paris, Vienna, Croatia, Milan, Sarajevo, Serbia, Kosovo and a few more.”

2) What tips and advice can you offer anyone wanting to work in television?

“Try to get to know the industry as best you can. Get in touch with as many production companies as possible, set up meetings and get work experience, even if it is not in front of the camera, at least you’ll be getting in the door and making contacts. Then you need to get a show reel together and start hounding people with it. Knock on doors until someone opens one. You have to work hard, have ambition and drive.”

3) What are the best aspects to your job?

“I get to meet huge celebrities like Harrison Ford, Benedict Cumberbatch, Ed Sheerin, Ricky Gervais and even Kermit the Frog! I do love my clothes so I enjoy putting my outfits together. It’s great that I can let my personality come out on camera like that too.”

4) What are the worst aspects about your job?

“This is hard because I absolutely love my job, I work with a great team and get to meet amazing people every day. The only negative is I suppose the long hours, but if I’m working late to interview someone like Jared Leto it makes it all worthwhile.”

5) To date what has been the highlight of your career?

“Meeting Harrison Ford was huge for me because I am a massive Star Wars fan. Travelling all over the world was the best experience of my life, let alone my career highlight, so doing O Thold Go Tolg has got to be top of the pile. That show also brought me to the IFTAs as it was nominated, so that was great getting all dressed up and rubbing shoulders with some of the country’s biggest stars.”

6) What are your ambitions and future plans?

“I love working in entertainment, so anything to do with music, fashion or movies, I’d be thrilled. I am a bit of a folklore nerd, I studied archaeology in university, so a documentary programme exploring those avenues would be really interesting. I have a few ideas, so we’ll see what happens in the future.”

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