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  • Writer's pictureSarah Myles

HOW I GOT HERE: Ellie Clifford

(How I Got Here Artwork)

Connect with this season’s guests:

Special thanks to: Alex Court, Graeme Woodcock, Heleen Kist, Kate Bullivant, Maria Passingham, Mark Loftus, Natasha S. Chowdory and Tin Hinson for providing question recordings.

Artwork by Jack Jewers-

RISE & SHINE is about giving everyone a voice within the podcast and radio industries regardless of income.

Find out more about RISE & SHINE through the website- and twitter-



Music: (description used on audio library) A playful blend of cheeky brass, retro grooves, funky licks. Plays underneath

Sound fx: Keyboard typing, internet dial up sounds

Voice 1: How would you go about getting into audio if you had to start all over again today

Voice 2: What are the things you have to learn after getting into the industry?

Voice 3: what's the one piece of advice you'd give to anyone starting out in audio?

Intro speaker: Getting your foot in the door of the audio industry can seem like a bit of a mystery cant it? Should you….. go to university?

Guest 1: and just sort of by chance, I got involved with my student radio station. Um, I had a friend who was part of it and that's where it all started

Intro speaker: Work in community radio?.

Guest 2: I think it's some of the most useful experience you can get

Intro speaker: Maybe start your own podcast?

Guest 3: I say “I'm not, well, I'm not with anybody. It's my own personal show.” And he goes with equal enthusiasm he goes, Oh yeah, sure.

Intro speaker: How I got here is a podcast from rise and shine, showcasing brilliant people from across, audio, radio, and podcasting

We’ll be hearing their stories.

Guest 4: I learned that I can do more than just specialist radio. I'm able to do mainstream sounds. I'm able to do that

Intro speaker: Tips

Guest 5: You know what, make an Excel spreadsheet. It's one of the best things I ever did for my contacts

Intro speaker: and words of wisdom.

Guest 6: If you wanted to, you could do all this yourself, but for me, you can gain so much from doing it with other people

Intro speaker: all about breaking into the audio industry.

Guest 7: Your time will come when you have loads of projects that somehow are all being released at the same time and you get to be that person.

So just don't let it freak you out too much.

Intro Speaker: So let’s get to this episode’s guest shall we?

Music: ends

Ellie Clifford: My name is Ellie Clifford. I'm an audio producer and I work across a big range of projects. Some for companies like radio four some companies like the economist and some companies like audible, so a big mix of things. And my pronouns are, she slash her.

When I was a child, I used to walk around with a sort of tape recorder that was portable. It was brightly colored, and I had recorded my own radio shows. So I would enlist the help of my younger brother. And basically make him part of my news reports that I would do. I would pretend I was on radio one and would introduce songs and then sing them myself very badly.

I can't hold a tune at all. And yeah, I just always really, really loved it. And then I went to school and sort of forgot about radio for a really long time. It wasn't until I went to university. And just sort of by chance, I got involved with my student radio station. Um, I had a friend who was part of it and that's where it all started.

Um, I used to have a history radio show. I did history as a degree. And as part of that, we used to just tweet out to loads of historians all the time. And one of them, Dan Snow, invited us to come and interview him for the show. And I remember coming out of that interview and just thinking. God, this is amazing.

Wouldn't it be brilliant if you could get paid to do this. And that's when I really started to sort of pursue it. So I had a friend at university who also wanted to get into radio and we just used to turn up to all the old Rick train events as they were known, then, then our audio train. And we'd just try to meet whoever we could really just to sort of make ourselves known and to try and get into the industry.

And it's through that, that I met. David press from whistle down. And that's kind of where it all started. Really. I started doing more for them and then, yeah, it was lucky enough to pitch to radio four and have them like the idea. So that's really how I got my start.

Why audio?

Ellie Clifford: The reason I love audio, I think is because of my granddad in Ireland.

I grew up going back there every summer and every Christmas and radio was so important in the house. He was absolutely obsessed with it. It's the first thing that would be turned on in the morning. And the last thing that would go off at night. And I just always remember growing up, listening to this really sweet.

Midwest radio station with all like the local news. I just love the way that radio brings people together and really creates a sense of community. And I think you can create something really powerful and moving in a way that I just don't think you get from any other art form. There's something really intimate about radio, about talking to somebody.

If there is, you know, it can be a very personal experience or a really collective experience. And I just love that. I think it's amazing the power that it has to bring people together. It sounds really cheesy and corny. And I'm not really a cheesy person, but I do think it's amazing. You know, you can put a collection of words together with some music and maybe some sound effects and you can make people cry and you can make people feel like they're there and have them feel sympathy for people.

And I think, just think it's a really amazing media.

How would you go about getting into audio if you had to start all over again today?

Ellie Clifford: When it comes to getting into audio, I think there are. A lot of different routes. I think some of it is harder than others. So for me, I came out of university and got a documentary, which was amazing. And that was by talking to lots of people at lots of events I went to for free for months and convincing one of them to let me pitch.

And I was lucky that radio four liked the idea. And after that, I really expected doors to absolutely fly open. And they just didn't, it was nine months after making that documentary. I still hadn't managed to get into proper work. I was still working a sort of day job of sorts to try and make ends meet, to pay my rent basically while I did loads of stuff for free in radio.

So I decided to go and do a masters. I was quite lucky that I had a pretty stable day job at the student union, from the university that I'd gone to. Um, We just started off as a student job with me there and I just sort of hung around and then applied to work there full time. Um, I really liked was skilling myself in terms of how much energy I was using off of sort of working insane days where I'd be up at the crack of Dawn.

Do some radio work in the morning, then work a full-time job, and then I'd go and do more radio things in the evening for free doing that for over a year. And slugging away. It meant I was able to save up to the point where I felt like I could do a masters. I was also really lucky that my parents live just outside of London.

I moved home. So I was rent free for that year so I decided to do that master's, which is incredibly lucky. And also, you know, my parents were able to help me in that way. I found masters really enjoyable. I really enjoyed having the space to actually try and hone some of my radio skills, particularly after a year of working in another job and working in radio and feeling like I wasn't really giving my full attention to either.

So I really liked it in that respect. I love the people that I met. I thought that was really helpful. The course that I did was more TV orientated and. Straight after the course, I felt like I'd learned a lot, which I did. It's true. Um, but looking back on it now, I don't necessarily think it's the be all and end all.

I think I still would have performed well and probably got to where I am now without it. I was just lucky enough. I think if you are lucky enough to be able to do it, then it's something you can do or you might want to do. But if you're not, I don't think that's the be all and end all. I think there's lots of other avenues.

You know what? I made some really good connections before doing the course, really off my own back. Just bugging people that have provided more opportunities to me now, after the course, I think the course gave me confidence, but I don't think that's something you couldn't learn by, you know, finding a mentor and asking them to teach you all of the work that I'm doing now, or from connections that I had prior to the course.

So I think it's a really mixed bag, but I tried to talk about what I did because. It's a bit of a mix of both worlds. I sort of did it with a course, but also I have a lot of experience of this sort of door knocking and hoping that you can kind of get your foot in the door. So yeah, I would say it was definitely mixed.

It's something I would really weigh up if you're thinking about doing it about the pros and cons of it and contemplating whether or not you wanted to sort of do it that way.

Tell us a secret about breaking into the audio industry.

Ellie Clifford: Yes, there is a lot of the radio industry that is who, you know, but that's not to say that in this industry, you can't get to know people before I started out trying to get into radio. I knew absolutely nobody in the industry at all. And I really hate the culture of working for free, but that's what I did for a long time.

I got to know people. I made sure I chatted to people when I could. I went to events. If I did work experience, I would stay in touch. And it's that connection of getting to know people sort of makes you feel like you're a bigger part of the community. And that's why joining things like the UK audio network group or doing like, you know, getting involved rise and shine, I think is really great because that's where you get to know people and.

That's what will help you feel like you're in the industry, which I think gives you more confidence. And then B when I then was going out and I didn't know what rates to charge, and I didn't really know what I was doing, or I wanted help with audition or that kind of thing. It's those networks that really helped with that sort of thing.

I've been really lucky that I found that the industry has been really warm and welcoming. I know that won't be the case for. Everybody, but I think there are enough people in the industry where if you are warm and welcoming to them, they'll welcome you back in.

What's the best mistake you've ever made?

Ellie Clifford: I turned up to a recording and I had an SD card fail and. Ever since then I've got SD cards in every bag in pouches and cases. I've always got at least two SD cards on me. So I would say when you have mistakes like that, that happened. I mean, all I did is I just got my phone out and I used my voice recorder and it was totally fine.

Um, but the panic I felt in that moment was enormous. And I think it's just about taking a step back and thinking about how you can fix it in that moment. And then later. Saying. Okay. I really messed up there and then doing what I did and ordering a million SD cards to your flat so that you can always have a stash of them.

What are the things you have to learn after getting into the industry?

Ellie Clifford: in terms of what you need to learn. Once you've got into the industry, I'd say there's a few things that will really stand you in good stead. The first, I think, is to be hot on research. So really find your best way of working and understand what your key sites are that you go to.

When you want to find some information, it'll just. Make your process easier at the beginning because you won't have to think about what you're doing. You can just focus on the content. The second one is when it comes to guest booking, I would just really spend some time thinking about what the best ways to book guests are, experiment, ask people, try and tailor your emails.

So it's not just sort of a blanket PR to a PR person. And understand that you might get a lot of rejections when it comes to PR. But what you need to do is just sort of keep trying at it and trying to find the best guests you possibly can. And then in terms of editing, I always remember I went to this rig train of him and it was this event on editing.

And someone asked like, how do you become good at it? The guy, I feel bad. I can't remember who it was, but the guy at the front who was speaking said, I'm really sorry. There's no magic answer. The only thing I can say to you is you have to practice. And I remember thinking at the time, God, that's rubbish.

This guy, you know, I've come to this talk and all this guy can say is that I need to practice. And it's only. Since I've been editing and have sped up and, you know, got fairly good at it. Now that he's just totally right. You just have to put in the time and the effort and the hours and play around and have fun with it.

But there's no magic manual you can read. And then suddenly you're good at editing. The fact is you have to get in there and you have to cut stuff and you'll figure out a flow and a rhythm that there's things you can do to speed it up. So I would say like, learn your hotkeys. And, you know, try and understand the different software that you're on and how you can speed that process up.

But the fact of the matter is that if you want to get good at editing, unfortunately, uh, there's no magic solution. You've just got to edit.

Tell us about the person in the audio industry who helped you most when building your career?

Ellie Clifford: I think without a doubt, the person who helped me most. In the industry, get into it and maintain an air and really push me is David Prest.

Who's the managing director of whistle down. He gave me and my friend was shot when we were just to not even graduate at that point, who kept telling off and chatting to him over the snack table, you know, retread events. Uh, and since. I've sort of worked with him. I've always been really impressed about how he's always pushed me and my documentaries to, to really try and achieve.

And I've managed to do things where, when he suggested them, I thought, God, that's totally unachievable. And how could you possibly suggest that? And then when you come out the other side of it and you've managed to book that guest or organize that meeting or pull it all together, it's the most amazing feeling.

And it really pushes you, I think, to. Think bigger, what can you do? Who can you invite? How can you get it done? Where can you go ? I did this documentary that was about, you know, the threat of nuclear war. And he said, why don't you try and get up to an RF face. Let's do one of those sort of outposts that watch for nuclear missiles.

And I remember the time when he said that, thinking. Are absolutely there's no, there's no way on earth. I will ever get clearance to do that. And it was a fast turnaround doc as well. And then, yeah, fast forward to me being stood inside a massive reader. And it's like one of my most cherished radio memories and I just would never have done it if he hadn't suggested it.

What's the one piece of advice that you would give to anyone starting out in audio?

Ellie Clifford: If I had to give one piece of advice to anybody who was starting out in radio, it would have to be that you've just got to do it. And I know that sounds strange, but I really think the best thing you can do to get good at making radio is make radio.

So if you can't get into the industry because people aren't replying to your emails, I would really just say, just try and make stuff. The more stuff you make, the better you get and your skills get better and you get faster at cutting and you start to understand what words look like on the waveform, and you understand the flow of a piece.

And as you're listening to stuff, you'll. You'll start to hear the cups if you don't already. And I just think that's the best thing you can possibly do, even if it's just making silly stuff with friends, you know, Phillip South, my boyfriend, who I essentially have pulled into multiple spoof productions that I've made, but it's always really fun.

And it's nice just to work on something that really is for you. And. You know, hopefully if you are finding that you're struggling to get into the industry, making stuff like that will make you a better producer. And it means that when you do get the chance, you'll absolutely smash it. And it could even be the thing that helps convince someone to take you on .


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