[the bottom rung] duane strauss, TV presenter and producer


Welcome to the ultimate hub for expert advice to help you get your big break (+ move up the ladder). My debut novel THE INTERN is officially out, so this week I’m relaxing on The Bottom Rung with…

561941_531985456900_1084876146_nDUANE STRAUSS, 29 – Totally Wild presenter and producer for Network Ten

Climbing the ladder

Then: Duane began as a volunteer ‘Black Thunder driver’ for a radio station in Canberra. He went on to work as a snow reporter, filing for MTV, Fox Sports, Channel 9 News, among others. Next stop? Taking up the role of a traffic reporter, working with everyone from Sunrise to Nova969.

Now: He’s a presenter with Channel Ten for Totally Wild (with the occasional stint as a weatherman on Channel Ten News).

Volunteering pays off
While studying at the University of Canberra, I took up some volunteer shifts driving around the ‘Black Thunder’, handing out ‘free shit’ to everyone and taking part in stunts for the breakfast team. Even though it wasn’t a paid gig initially, I learnt the ropes, got a great introduction into radio and met some interesting people. This eventually led to paid stints and getting airtime.

The benefit of a mentor
Find a mentor or befriend someone who has serious industry cred. One of my first bosses said he saw my ‘potential’; he has given me so much guidance over the years. Little did I know it at the time, but he was a big honcho back in the grand days of radio and has worked with all the big names and seen it all. Mentors have the experience of hindsight, something that you lack when first starting out.

Confidence is everything
Fake it ’til you make it. Have confidence in your abilities, keep training/practising and work hard towards your goals. Don’t be afraid of telling people what you want.

Stay curious and work hard
At Network Ten we get work experience kid after work experience kid. The ones who stand out (and usually get work) have a few similar qualities: they work hard and don’t complain. They take an interest in the work we do and why certain things are done certain ways; they’re curious. They’re articulate, well-spoken and make a good impression.

duane quoteWork experience doesn’t have to be all coffee runs and photocopying
In our department, work experience kids get to have a go at pretty much everything. For the first few days, we usually get them in the office and give them a taste of the creative process of making a TV show, such as writing a script or two, cutting up story rushes, time code vision etc. Then we usually stick them out on the road for a day to see how it all comes together.

It’s not what you know, but who you know
This has to be the hardest industry to get into. There is so much competition and so little jobs. The only time I thought about giving up was when I was made redundant from my presenting position. Even though I’d had about five years’ experience at that stage, it dawned on me this could be the last presenting position I’d have. I was lucky that I had my networks in place, sent loads of emails, got in touch with people and before you know it I had call-backs. To me, it reinforced the point for this industry, it’s not what you know, it’s who you know. Networking is critical for survival in the media industry.

Internships are the most effective way of getting where you want in the media
Internships and work experience are a proven method of getting your foot in the door –  if you fit the culture, people like you and you’re switched on, people will try and help you, even if there aren’t any jobs going at the moment. As for unpaid internships… do you want a job or not? It’s as simple as that. You’ve gotta do your time. Just make sure you get something out of it! Time and time again I’ve seen people wasting their time. If you want to be camera operator and you’re slugging away at writing a script, what’s the point? Tell the people who you’re doing experience with, what you want and what your goals are.

photo 4Don’t limit your career path
Be a one-man band. In today’s media environment, you need to be able to do everything. I write, produce, present, voice, shoot and edit my own material. Also, be prepared to move! I’ve lived in Canberra-Perisher-Canberra-Perisher-Canberra-Perisher-Sydney-Canberra-Sydney-Brisbane. It can be a pain in the arse moving all the time, but it’s one of the best things about doing it all – making new friends in different places all around the country. Sure, it’s a tough industry, and you need to work hard to even get a look in, but TV presenting is a bloody rewarding career. I’ve done some amazing things in my time, from getting paid to snowboard, to riding in a helicopter for three hours every morning, to hanging out with tigers/penguins/monkeys/koalas/turtles/any other animal you can imagine. Lastly, practise, practise, practise. Perfect your craft and keep learning.

Thanks again to Duane for sharing his advice! If you’d love to find out more, say hey to him on Twitter.

<The Bottom Rung series is inspired by the release of my debut novel THE INTERN (HarperCollins, out now) and my desire to ‘pay it forward’ with career advice and tips on climbing the ladder. Click here to read more about THE INTERN. Come say hello at Facebook and Twitter– distractions welcome.>