“Just grab the bull by the horns and go for it.”
Written by Samantha Holmes
Spoiled Nation speaks to Betsy Sweeney, a 23-year-old graduate who’s finding her feet in the big city of London. From working on the set of Strictly Come Dancing to now becoming a stand-up comedian, here’s how Betsy is slowly but surely making a name for herself in the big city.
Q: Could you tell Spoiled Nation a little bit about yourself? How and when did you realise you had a passion for working within the entertainment industry?
A: My name is Betsy, I’m 23 and I’ve recently moved to London to continue working in television production which is something I’ve been doing now for just under two years. I actually found my passion for working within the entertainment industry by accident. I applied for a catering job in TV and film, and I found that I loved working within the studio and meeting all these eccentric characters that worked within the industry. The environment I was surrounded in made me really realise that this was the industry for me!
From then on, I knew it would take a lot of graft to get a production role and get into the studio, so I spent a lot of time at the beginning working in film tents, in dusty car parks, working on night shoots were I washed dishes. When working on this catering job I met a great friend who recommended me for a running job on Love Island: Aftersun in London, he passed on my details to a contact at BT studios and then I got asked to work on the show! So, I began commuting from Manchester to work there for a few days a week which led me to working on other shows at the studio.
Q: What inspired you to get into the industry?
A: When I was younger, I was really into writing stories, and I would constantly come up with all sorts of film and TV ideas. I remember for my 16th birthday I got a camera which I’d use to create my own short films, I loved it so much. I then went to university to study Film and TV production which I studied for one year and then realised that I was on the wrong side of the camera, and I wanted to be an actor, so I switched to acting in year two which I then graduated from.
Moving to Manchester is what really got me into the industry. I began working in catering for film and TV shows and it was then when I realised that I was really suited to this spontaneous, entertaining working lifestyle. Suddenly, it all became clear to me that I belonged in the industry and ever since then I haven’t looked back at all!
Q: After graduating from the University of Cumbria, it must have been daunting finding your feet within the industry and then moving to London. How did you manage?
A: I think I really took the whole process in baby steps. After getting the Love Island: Aftersun running job in London it really made me realise that I wasn’t going to get as many opportunities like that in Manchester. I just had to go for it and sacrifice the comfortable lifestyle. You realise that there’s no easy way in, I had to sleep on buses, live on my friends sofas; however, you must put yourself out there as much as possible because at the end of the day, everyone within the industry has gone through the same thing.
I think in terms of managing it, you’ve got to learn to be a bit smarter than you already are. Obviously, London is so expensive and when I was a student, I was awful at managing my money and was constantly in financial struggle. Now I’ve learnt that putting a bit of money away for that rainy day is essential and just being a bit more resilient when it comes to saying no to them spontaneous social events and saying yes to more work! But it’s all a learning curve, I’m a couple years in now but there’s definitely more work that needs to be done.
Q: How have you found the intense competition when working within the entertainment industry?
A: The industry is massively competitive but what I’ve found is that finding contacts is key. You can’t search the jobs on Indeed or turn up to a studio and ask for an interview. The only way you know about work is through other people, either other people recommending you or being informed that there is a job going. Once you begin finding them people and making them contacts, it takes a lot of pressure off!
Q: What would you say has been your favourite job opportunity and why?
A: I’ve truly loved all the jobs I’ve had for so many different reasons, even the ones that have been tough. For example, one time we were filming on vacation in a dusty boiling hot car park just constantly on our feet feeling miserable, all them experiences really made me realise my passion for the industry!
It’s a hard pick but if I had to choose one, I would say my favourite job was when I worked on the set of the Last Leg from the end of August to the start of September. Meeting all the comedians who would come together every night to create new content for the live shows made me realise my passion for comedy and fuelled the fire within me to follow that next step within my career and begin producing my own comedy content.
Q: Freelancing seems really daunting! How do you manage it?
A: Freelancing is really daunting. Whether you’re a runner or whether you’re Ant or Dec, you never know when the next job is going to be. I believe there’s a real misconception within the industry that getting to the top is all about luck, but I’ve come to realise that you make 99% of your own luck through your actions.
You know just by applying for as many things as possible and really putting yourself out there. Once you’ve laid that foundation, work really does come up consistently. I think it takes a certain type of person to accept that they’re not 100% secure within the industry; however, the idea of that is scarier than the reality! You realise that people need you just as much as you need them. It’s daunting but once you get into the swing of it, the more consistent the work is.
Q: I can imagine it being difficult to find your work-life balance. How do you manage?
A: This is something that I do struggle with, especially when I first moved to London in summer. I was recently single and constantly socializing with my friends. I was going to work on four hours sleep. I began getting really burnt out, so I started focusing on my work and really slowed down my social life. I then came to the realisation that I worked 24 days without a single day off which is something you don’t want to do!
Getting that burnt out is no good to anyone whether it’s yourself or the people you’re surrounding yourself with. I’m now in a relationship where I have a much more consistent social life in which I see my boyfriend and my friends a couple nights a week and then during the rest of the time, I focus on finding job opportunities. It’s just important to make sure I’m working enough to live in London whilst also making time for myself and enjoying life!
Q: What areas of the industry do you want to get into? I know you’re talented when it comes to singing and are also now a stand-up comedian!
A: It’s taken time learning which area I want to go into but through working on lots of different shows, I’ve come to realisation that comedy is the area for me. Whether it’s scripted or live shows, I really do love the excitement and creativity within the comedy circle. I’ve always loved history too, I use to write a lot of screenplays (mostly romances) which thinking about it, I would maybe like to come back to at some point but for now comedy is my calling!
Yeah, I’ve sung all my life really! I grew up going to singing lessons a couple times a week, taking part in the choirs, singing a lot of opera which I always regretted not pushing more. My uncle has his own music production company in Oxford, so we work together where he composes, and I sing for him, but I don’t think it’s my dream. it’s just an extension of performing which is my true passion!
Q: How did you recently get into stand-up comedy?
A: Stand-up comedy is something that I have wanted to do for years but through a lack of confidence and COVID I didn’t get round to it until recently. I’ve been writing my own stand-up comedy ideas for so long, but it wasn’t until August when I was working on the last leg, and I met so many incredible comedic minds until I really got that push to go into that direction. It was just what I needed to get on stage and perform.
Q: Could you tell us the toughest part when following the path to reaching your dream job?
A: The toughest part is that nobody’s career path within this industry is the same, everyone has such unique paths. It’s a job where you really must make it happen yourself. Sometimes it can be daunting thinking that you need to make this happen, but I think that determination to succeed is what carries you. It’s all about not letting the no guarantee overwhelm you and just having that little bit of faith that you’ll get where you want to be off your own steam.
Q: Lastly, any tips for those who have just graduated and hoping to find their feet like you?
A: My top tip would be that after graduating, just say yes to everything as you never know where it will lead you to. I essentially got into the industry by accident, and it was only by accepting that catering job when I realised that this was the area for me.
Try not to over plan too much because whatever is meant to be will be! Money will come and go so don’t put too much pressure on yourself to try and be in that perfect position straight away. You’ve got the world at your feet so just grab the bull by the horns and go for it!