Bradford-based Talhah Lockhat was given the chance to work as a runner on Emmerdale thanks to First Break – a High-end TV Skills Fund social mobility programme.
Born and raised in Bradford, 25-year-old Lockhat applied for a place on the project because it looked likely to deliver exactly what he wanted.
“First Break sounded like an amazing opportunity,” he says. “The opportunity to have just that, my first break, to build my contacts and have some access to networking in television. To be in the industry and get the ball rolling.”
First Break is supported by the High-end TV Skills Fund, with contributions from UK high-end TV productions. It aims to offer opportunities to people from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds at the start of their career or thinking about a behind-the-camera career in television drama. The first iteration has been delivered in partnership with the UK broadcaster, ITV.
Lockhat was one of a handful to be chosen for a three-week paid placement with Emmerdale, based at ITV in Leeds.
He loved being thrown straight into working on a high-profile production from the UK’s biggest commercial broadcaster. Working within the assistant directors’ department on the continuing drama series Emmerdale as a runner confirmed a nascent love for behind-the-camera work.
“I immediately felt I was at the core of the production and the team I was working with was helpful,” he explains. “I never really felt out of sync with them and felt ready.”
First Break really did prove to live up to its name for him. After his placement ended, the enthusiastic wannabe runner pressed for feedback from one of the ITV First Break mentors. He had impressed with his enthusiasm and can-do attitude and his ability to get stuck in. Talhah has secured a 12-week contract on the show.
The programme also helped dispel any lingering concerns that TV production crews would prove unwelcoming and cliquey. “I was taken in by the crew and not at any moment did I feel intimated or unwelcome. Everyone was super lovely,” he grins. “If you are new and coming in (to a production environment) I’d say it is best to not let your shyness get the better of you. The more you get stuck in, the better you are and people are more comfortable with you.”
Lockhat studied media production at Bradford College then attended Leeds Beckett University to study filmmaking. After graduating, he began looking for opportunities in the film and television industries, but “couldn’t find any opportunities that didn’t require knowing someone already working in the industry”.
He most recently worked at the National Science and Media Museum in Bradford and has also carried out some supply teaching to high school children in media and photography.
Working at the media museum in Bradford, he had grown used to long hours on his feet, talking to the public and solving problems which proved useful for First Break. “The hours on set can be quite long and if you’re not used to that it can be a factor to consider,” he says. “If you’re on set, you need at least 12 hours available.”
Working so close to his home in Bradford on a prestigious show is another bonus. He had wondered whether he would have to go to London or Manchester to pursue his dream. “It’s just me and my mum and I did want to be quite close to home so having access to an opportunity like this on my doorstep, especially on something as prestigious as Emmerdale, is amazing. I’m glad that Leeds in general is becoming a bit of media hub right now.”
His favourite moment from the placement felt surreal. “In my first week I looked at the rehearsal sign and as soon as it hit the red flashing recording light, I suddenly thought, I can’t believe I am actually here. I am getting paid to work in the industry that I’ve always wanted to be in.” And the favourite part of the job? “Being on set, getting paid to play.”
He still pinches himself now and again. “I can tell my friends I work in TV now. They’re like, ‘Wait, what?’”