Keep Dancing: Meet the BCU Alumna working on Strictly Come Dancing


BBC One’s hit show Strictly Come Dancing has now been on our screens for almost 20 years and has seen the likes of Stacey Dooley and Bill Bailey win the glitterball, as well as making the professional dancers household names with successful careers of their own.

But have you ever wondered what goes into making a show as iconic as Strictly? BCU Alumna, Olivia Dias, who graduated with a BA (Hons) in Media and Communication in 2020, works behind the scenes on the show as a Researcher within the dance team.

Olivia plays a key role in planning rehearsals, browsing music, and coming up with new ideas, as well as working closely with the professional dancers and producers, and putting together creative plans for upcoming shows.

Olivia said: “I first worked on Strictly as a runner in 2021 after sending an email to a member of the show enquiring about work opportunities that year. I was given an interview and got the job. Similarly, this year, I applied for the Researcher role, did a lot of preparation, and went through the interview process for the job.

“My role as a Researcher in an editorial position. In the industry, you are usually contracted for periods of time such as a season for a show. For this reason, I work as a freelancer moving between different companies and shows during the year. There are many different types of researcher jobs in the TV industry which vary depending on the programme which keeps the job very interesting.

Currently, my working days are split between office days and studio days. During my office days, I am usually planning rehearsals, browsing music, and coming up with new ideas. On studio days, I liaise with the professional dancers, work closely with the producers during rehearsals and put together the creative plans for the next upcoming shows.

“Strictly is a very fun show to work on, especially being in a creative role. My team have a lot of contact with the professional dancers, so I liaise with them daily and see everyone on studio days.

“I’ve watched Strictly for many years so it’s a highlight itself to work on one of my favourite programmes. It’s the most incredible show to work on and that’s reflected in how many people apply for the jobs. I put a lot of time and effort into preparing myself for the role and my interview, so to be offered the job over the other applicants was a very proud moment for me.”

But Strictly isn’t Olivia’s first role in TV. In fact, since graduating from BCU three years ago, the alumna has worked as a Researcher on the likes of Gogglebox and Celebrity Gogglebox, as well as a Runner on The One Show, The Voice, The Late Late Show with James Cordon, The Wheel, and Love Island Aftersun.

She said: “Most of my highlights from previous jobs are the people I’ve worked with. Being freelance has given me the opportunity to meet so many new people on every job I do. This industry teams you up with different people on every job and it’s a great opportunity to work with new people and new ideas.

“I’ve also been able to travel a lot for my work. I had one job on the first series of Loaded in Paradise last summer which was based on location in Greece. I spent a month travelling across multiple Greek islands and spending a lot of my time in luxury villas. I saw amazing places that I never would’ve had the opportunity to outside of that job and spent my days off sunbathing by the sea and exploring the islands.”

Olivia's time at BCU and work placement opportunities gave the alumna the opportunity to discover her passion for factual entertainment and studio shows.

She said: “When I was attending Open Days, I was originally looking at philosophy courses until I decided to check out media as well. As soon as I looked into media courses, I was considerably more passionate and interested in the subject, so I quickly realised that this was the right path for me.

“I can’t recommend the Media and Communication course at BCU enough, I think it’s great. I took the broad course and chose not to specialise, which gave me the opportunity to try different sectors of media offered and find which one suited me.

“I ended up taking all the TV courses and learned a lot about different roles in the industry, from director to producer and production manager. I also learned how to use filming and sound equipment which was hugely helpful for my first runner job in TV as I had a lot of involvement in setting up cameras and sometimes shooting for broadcast.

“Including practical elements into a media course is incredibly important, as what I learned during the practical modules is what I applied in the early days of my career.

“As a part of my course at BCU, I had to find and complete work experience over the summer. At the time, I didn’t realise how important this would be and I’m very grateful that this part of the course pushed me into doing placements. I ended up doing some work for an independent music video as well as spending a week at Hat Trick Productions shadowing their runners. My time at Hat Trick gave me my first glimpse into the industry and experience of what a runner role is. I’m sure this knowledge and experience helped me to gain my first job outside of university.

“During my time at BCU, there were also other external and paid opportunities that came through the university. I received emails about the opportunities to be a ‘stand-in’ for a day on The X-Factor: The Band as well as an email to apply to be a ‘seat-filler’ for Sports Personality Of The Year Awards. I jumped at the chance to do both jobs which meant that when I finished university, I already had work to put on my CV. Since my first job outside of university was a stand-in role, I’m certain that my experience as a stand-in for a day on The X-Factor helped me to land that job.”

Working in the TV industry can be tough, and Olivia has had to be proactive in finding roles.

She said: “Working as a freelancer in the TV industry can be tough, the hours can be long and you don’t always know what or when your next job will be. However, I couldn’t imagine enjoying any job as much as this. I mainly find work through Facebook groups, talent websites or colleagues from previous jobs. As my network has expanded, I have found many jobs come through word of mouth.

“If you want to get into unscripted TV, you’ll need to look for running jobs. From my experience, the best place to find these is on Facebook groups. There are lots of different Facebook groups for running in TV, so join as many as you can and create a CV so you can send this whenever there’s a job post you want to apply for.”

Olivia has more top advice for graduates starting in the industry too.

She said: “Networking is everything. Contact as many production companies as you can and apply for any job that you’re able to do. Don’t be disheartened if it takes some time to land a job or if you don’t hear back from many of your applications. There’s a lot of people who want to be in the TV industry so running jobs can be competitive. If you’re passionate about it, stick with it and work will come.”

The alumna has an exciting future ahead, and her goal is to eventually become a Producer.

Olivia said: “At that moment, I’m happy to continue developing my skills and gaining more experience in my current role. I’d like to gain more work in the entertainment industry and in the future, I would love to work my way up to becoming a producer.”

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