Media Parents

Monthly Archives: April 2011

Channel 4 Diversity Fund & Glasgow Event

by Amy Walker

If you’re a TV professional in Glasgow on May 12th and want to learn more about Channel 4′s Editorial Ethics policies and do a spot of networking then please use the link at the bottom of this page to apply.  UPDATE: THIS EVENT IS NOW AT CAPACITY, SEE YOU THERE IF YOU HAVE A PLACE ALREADY.

Ade Rawcliffe is a Media Project Manager at Channel 4, and as such she is driving the commissioning of content from new, diverse, grassroots talent throughout the UK.

CREATIVE DIVERSITY AT CHANNEL 4

The Creative Diversity team is a first point of contact for new and emergent talent and oversees Channel 4’s commitment to wider diversity of supply. This includes key licence requirements – to reflect diversity of life across the UK and to ensure that at least 35% of original production is commissioned from outside London, with at least 3% of this should be from Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales (the Nations).

What is Creative Diversity?

In his first keynote speech as CEO (search David on the Media Parents blog to read more), David Abraham said “We need to look to support great creative individuals, fund the work of smaller companies and reach those parts of the creative culture that other broadcasters cannot or dare not visit.” Creative Diversity signals an entirely new approach to diversity within Channel 4, focusing on diversity of content and supply, with an emphasis on driving the development and commissioning of content from new, diverse, grassroots talent throughout the UK.

What do you mean by diversity of supply?

In an era in which television has consolidated into a number of powerful companies it is important that Channel 4 keeps refreshing its commissioning culture and who supplies our programmes. Channel 4 has a world-class reputation for innovation and is ready to invest in the next generation of creative content. We seek to connect our viewers with ideas and talent that innovates and stimulates. This means accessing quality ideas from the widest range of content suppliers, our output and the people that shape our shows need to be as diverse as the contemporary UK society that they reflect. Channel 4 has much to be proud of in its programme output, but there is significant work yet to be done to live up to these ambitions.

What role does the Creative Diversity team play in commissioning?

Creative Diversity is principally at the front-end of the system connecting with talent. There is a dedicated team of Media Project Managers who work at the coal-face of commissioning, identifying ideas, strengthening propositions, funding development, and making companies more compelling for the wider commissioning culture to adopt. It’s a role that many other industries take for granted – A&R in music and fashion buyers work in a similar way. It’s about identifying and selecting talent ahead of the system. We also implement Channel 4’s wider plans for producer outreach. In February 2012 Channel 4’s Chief Creative Officer Jay Hunt launched a new era of outreach committing Heads of Department and Commissioning Editors to work with more new and regional companies.

Can you fund projects?

Yes. We have dedicated funds and have already funded a number of projects, some of which are on air. We have been tasked with being closer to grassroots creative communities, often in advance of commissioning editors, to talent spot, to shape smart ideas and to develop them for the wider creative diversity of the company. We have soft-launched the £2m Alpha Fund. Any Media Project Manager in the team is able to support diversity of supply and kick-start original ideas that can grow in scale and ambition. As with all Channel 4 funded projects, these ideas must come from companies, unfortunately we can’t provide assistance to members of the freelance community or individuals who aren’t from a limited independent production company.

What is the Alpha Fund?

The Alpha Fund is a £2m development and production fund available to independent production companies, designed to support ideas, talent and emergent companies and to enrich Channel 4’s reputation for creativity. We describe it as a new grassroots innovation and authorship fund which is intended to fund the very first stages of creative ideas. It is a completely unique annual fund aimed at supporting our diversity of supply by providing outstanding talent with a route of entry into an increasingly competitive commercial media environment. When it was launched in January 2011 it was described as follows: “The Alpha Fund is designed to identify and support creative talent at its earliest stage. Our principles are to make the money count, not to tie it up in process and complex application systems.” We have deliberately avoided web-application systems, complex rules or over-bearing contractual hurdles. We think new companies want creative engagement not hurdles.

Do you have targets and quotas?

The Channel 4 remit requires us to be distinctive and innovative. Our Tier 1 regulatory requirements mean that we have to ensure that, in addition to providing 8 hours of News and Current Affairs programming weekly in primetime, at least 65% of our output must originate in the UK, and 35% of those hours and spend must from outside the M25 – 3% of this must come from the Nations.

We are constantly exceeding our content targets, but we don’t have per capita targets based on nation or region. The emphasis is well and truly on getting the highest quality content from the widest possible range of creative suppliers. In his Salford address David Abraham also outlined Channel 4’s voluntary commitment to match regional targets for online output as well: “Channel 4 is passionate about stimulating next generation creativity and together with the two new funds we have announced, we aim to match or exceed our regional targets online, on digital interactive platforms.  It’s a self-imposed target but one we believe to be in the spirit of our role as a catalyst for creativity and is further evidence of Channel 4 Online’s ongoing integration into a single cross platform content division.”

What do you do for Black and Multi-Ethnic companies?

This is another significant strand of our work. In fact, since the launch of the new team, it has been the area we have invested in the most. To date we have commissioned 8 companies with an ethnically diverse background. Channel 4 believes that this is an area in which we can do significantly more and that reflecting a contemporary and culturally diverse Britain is at the very forefront of our creative reputation. Through our proactive membership of the Cultural Diversity Network, we also seek to influence all our production companies to consider the diversity of their talent base.  (Working with Media Parents is one way that companies can show they are fulfilling the CDN Diversity Pledge – contact us through www.mediaparents.co.uk for more info). We have two dedicated Media Project Managers who are based in our London office, and equipped with the funds and the passion to support that creative community.

What do you do for regional talent?

Regional diversity is one of the key strands of our work. The Creative Diversity team evolved out of Channel 4’s Nations and Regions division, which from 2000 – 2010 had a transformative impact on our regional spend : budgets increased from £55m to £125m annually. But we could do more, and we are doing more. The Media Project Managers are more deeply embedded within the creative communities across the UK and the Creative Diversity Team works across the UK with desks in Channel 4’s London HQ, in our Glasgow Editorial Office and in cities across the UK, where there is a significant independent production base. Inevitably, we cannot be in all places all the time, but if groups or networks of producers are keen on bespoke or specific contact, we will always attend. Channel 4 will hold briefings in up to 10 regional cities in 2011.  (Click on the link below to sign up for the Glasgow event on May 12th).

What kind of projects are you looking for?

The Alpha Fund is about commissioning development based on ideas, first and foremost, rather than a checklist of subjects. Like many of our genre departments we care about the passion that a producer brings with their idea. That means we are less keen on ideas that are derivative of shows and/or international formats that already exist.  It’s important to emphasise that Channel 4 is a contemporary UK broadcaster and more likely to be at the leading edge of our society than other comparable channels. This has a real bearing on the diversity of ideas we are interested in. For our team, it’s probably best to avoid derivative and familiar formats. The only requirement is that ideas are clearly targeted at Channel 4 – its audience, its values, and that they “feel” 4 in ambition and focus. There is no limitation on size or scale, but proposals do need to come from companies, rather than individuals.

You support the Cultural Diversity Network – what role does it play in your work?

Channel 4 is a signatory to the Cultural Diversity Network Pledge and as such, is committed to improving diversity within its own operations and across the industry as a whole. However as a publisher broadcaster, it is the responsibility of each independent company to ensure the diversity of its workforce. We do however encourage all of the independent companies supplying our content to sign up to the CDN Diversity Pledge.

The Cultural Diversity Network Pledge has been a great tool in encouraging our industry to embrace diversity in all its forms. As one of the UK’s major broadcasters, C4 seeks to attract its audience from the broadest range of backgrounds and attitudes, as a reflection of contemporary UK society.  However for Channel 4 content to be diverse, we need to ensure that our suppliers are also embracing the diversity challenge.

Do you fund digital ideas?

Channel 4 has pioneered a number of ways of supporting digital creativity across games, interactive education and cross platform commissioning. After a period of internal change we now have a group of dedicated cross-platform online commissioners – ‘embedded in TV genres’ – who frequently work with new and emergent companies and digital agencies.  Creative Diversity team contribute to this general trend.  The first raft of commissions facilitated by the Creative Diversity team, were in the interactive games and entertainment sector in Dundee, an emergent hotspot of new media production. The Alpha Fund will sit alongside Channel 4’s Convergent Formats Fund, also worth £2 million in 2011.  David Abraham described this investment as follows: “The Convergent Formats Fund will invest in ideas, apps and creative concepts for the next generation of connected TV like YouView.  It will pioneer new ideas for a new generation of broadcast television and the objective is to become the partner of choice for the most imaginative digital media companies in the UK.”

Do you give slate or company development funding?

No, not normally. We are keen to work on the best ideas and try to make them happen, rather than fund the range of a company’s work. We understand that particularly for smaller companies, funding development is expensive, as well as important, but we’d rather focus on the best idea rather than cover the overhead, that’s why funding from the Alpha Fund is on a project by project basis. There is no limit to how many times in a year you can approach the team for funding, you just need to be armed with your best ideas.

Where do I get further information?

Almost all the information you will need is in this document, and anything we haven’t covered, our staff can talk to you about face-to-face. We have a corporate producers’ site at www.4producers.co.uk but we believe that face-to-face dialogue is always more effective. Channel 4 runs briefings across the UK, from creative breakfasts to sessions with genre commissioners. If you feel disconnected from one of these networks, then talk to a Media Project Manager.  Channel 4 wants to be the best broadcaster to business with for new, independent creative companies. If you have any thoughts about how we might improve our performance in indie relations or Creative Diversity, please contact the Director of Creative Diversity, Stuart Cosgrove.

Ade Rawcliffe.

Ade Rawcliffe Ade’s role as Media Project Manger at Channel 4 is driving the commissioning of content from new, diverse, grassroots talent throughout the UK. Prior to joining Channel 4, she worked as a Producer across both the BBC and the independent sector with credits including Big Brother, Right to Reply, and The Big Breakfast. She is always looking for ways to develop diverse talent and plays a key part in Channel 4’s ongoing commitment to reflecting the diversity of contemporary Britain in all its variety. Ade is a Nigerian from Macclesfield and has worked in the North West of England, where she maintains close contacts

Caroline Cawley

Caroline Cawley is Creative Diversity’s team co-ordinator leading on all major events for the team along with some brand new projects. She is also working on a new strategy to engage Channel 4 with diverse and isolated groups such as the Trans Community. Her sensitivity and open mind are key in this role.

Caroline gained a wealth of experience in Events and Marketing for a range of luxury Scottish brands, prior to joining Channel 4’s Nations and Regions Department over two years ago.

Charlotte Black is based in Bristol and works across the South West and Wales. She has worked as an Executive Producer and Senior Talent manager at Channel 4 since 1990 when she joined as a Commissioning Executive in the Factual Department. Charlotte is currently on sabbatical and will return to the team later in 2011. Charlotte Black began life in TV as a series producer in the independent sector making docs and features programmes for a variety of companies including Planet 24, Wall to Wall, Wild and Fresh and Diverse and her passion is ensuring creative diversity by casting in a risky way.

Ian MacKenzie Ian is a Media Project Manager for Channel 4’s Creative Diversity team.  Working out of Glasgow; Ian’s portfolio encompasses companies across Scotland, Wales and the West Country.  His previous role at Channel 4 was as Acquisitions Manager for 4DVD, securing commercial hit successes such as Skins, Inbetweeners & Misfits.

Ravi Amaratunga.

Ravi Amaratunga is Creative Diversity Team Assistant working across all Media Project Managers Portfolios and overseeing several projects of his own. Ravi comes from a film and drama background, having previously worked in the independent sector as a development executive and producing several digital and live action short films.

Stuart Cosgrove is the Director of Creative Diversity, he was formerly Channel 4’s Commissioner of Independent Film and Video, Controller of Arts and Entertainment and acts as a senior figure in commissioning, overseeing our activity outside London as Director of Nations and Regions. Stuart also represents Channel 4 as a strategic partnership manager across the UK, and chaired Scotland’s national Digital Media Strategy – Digital Inspiration.

Susie Wright prior to becoming a Media Project Manager, Susie worked in the Channel 4 Commercial Affairs Department having spent 4 years working at the regional screen agency for Northern Ireland putting together funding packages for feature films and TV projects and offering support to the local industry. This experience has been a vital part of her current role which involves in particular, engagement with the NI sector. A graduate of languages and law from Newcastle University, she is perfectly placed to engage with the regional screen industry in the North East of England and beyond.

Click on this image to sign up for Channel 4's Editorial Ethics Day in Glasgow on May 12th.

www.mediaparents.co.uk for great talent, networking, jobs and information. click on this image to sign up for the FREELANCERS DAY

April 20, 2011 @ 12:20 pm Posted in Events, News 1 Comment

5 minutes with… Laura Leigh nee Godbold, PD

by Amy Walker

Going back to work as a Producer/Director for the first time after having my little girl felt like a holiday compared to motherhood! writes Laura Leigh, Media Parents PD.

Laura Leigh nee Godbold with her daughter Ava. Laura is a Producer / Director in the TALENT section of www.mediaparents.co.uk

Ava was 6 months old when I was offered the chance to make a taster tape for Renegade Pictures. I wasn’t going to go back to work until she was 9-12 months old, as I felt like she was too young to leave, but as the contract was only short and I had my mum on hand, I felt it was an opportunity I shouldn’t pass up.

Renegade were fantastic and agreed to me doing a 4 day week when I asked them, which for the specific job I was doing, worked out well.  Just knowing that Media Parents exists and being a part of it gave me the extra courage to ask for a shorter working week, and to ask to come in earlier and leave at 5pm on days when I wasn’t shooting or in the edit.  Saying goodbye to Ava on the first morning was difficult, but I was also really excited to start back in an industry I love and had really missed.

Laura Leigh (right) worked for ITV Productions as a PD until she was 8 months pregnant with her daughter. Pictured here in the back of a tank with Amy Walker, Series Producer. Amy Walker is in the TALENT section of www.mediaparents.co.uk.

From the moment I started it felt like I had never been away. TV is definitely like riding a bike, you never forget. I missed Ava loads but I felt like suddenly I had my identity back again, which was great. I was no longer just a mum whose only conversation was how my baby is sleeping (which still isn’t great by the way!), what she is eating and what her nappy contents look like!

Leigh Productions : Laura and Alex Leigh with Ava. Both Laura and Alex are in the TALENT section of www.mediaparents.co.uk.

I felt like I had a new lease of life and it was so nice to sit at the dinner table after a day’s work, with my husband, Producer Alex Leigh (who is also in the TALENT section of www.mediaparents.co.uk) and discuss something other than Ava.

I did feel quite exhausted, as she doesn’t sleep well, so dealing with her in the night then getting up and commuting an hour and half to work, doing a full day, then rushing back to put her to bed was tough. However, it did seriously feel like a break compared to being a full time mum!

It felt great being back out on location directing a crew and being creative, I really had missed it. Producing the edit and seeing the finished product take shape, made me feel proud and reminded me of the buzz you get from seeing something through from start to finish.

Media Parents TALENT Laura Leigh, directs Ashley Banjo, pictured with Rival Media MD Steve Wynne, background.

Media Parents TALENT Laura Godbold on a shoot for Splash Media. To contact Laura please see www.mediaparents.co.uk TALENT section.

When the contract ended I must admit I was really looking forward to getting back to Ava and spending some proper time with her. She had developed so much in those 3 weeks and I was excited at being a full time mum again, at least for a while.

It would be great to dip in and out of the industry doing a few short contracts a year, to keep my sanity more than anything!  I think being a P/D puts me in a good position to do this, as those short contracts do exist.

I wouldn’t ever want to go back full time, as I really want to be around for Ava every step of the way. But I also think its so important to find a balance that works for your family, in which you can all be happy and going back to work reminded me how happy it makes me.

www.mediaparents.co.uk for great talent, networking, jobs and information. click on this image to sign up for the FREELANCERS DAY

Laura Leigh in her own words:

I am a creative shooting Producer/Director who has worked on a wide range of programming, including, observational documentaries, property, childrens and entertainment.

I have a great deal of experience directing crews and am an accomplished self shooter and have been the main camera on many of my projects. I can also do my own sound and lighting with confidence.

Finally, I am a friendly, dependable and outgoing individual who is extremely organised and hard working.  My profile can be found on www.mediaparents.co.uk

April 14, 2011 @ 3:36 pm Posted in News Leave a comment

FREE training day for FREELANCERS in London

by Amy Walker

www.mediaparents.co.uk for great talent, networking, jobs and information. click on this image to sign up for the FREELANCERS DAY

@ 10:21 am Posted in Events, News Comments Off

5 Minutes with Aileen McCracken, Series Producer

by Amy Walker

Having attended Alastair Hill’s recent workshop on Transferrable Skills  for Media Parents I was inspired by Al’s worksheet to complete my own little survey on transferrable skills and wondered how, if any, would be applicable in the world outside telly?  I tried to apply them both to parenting and work but please feel free to add more in the comment box below.

SP Aileen McCracken (left) and Production Co-ordinator Maggie Walsh at a Media Parents networking event.

Multi-tasking: Well every parent knows this one too well and can quite easily schedule and crew a shoot whilst doing the shopping on-line and getting an outfit for the school play.  But my favourite by far was taping up a leaking boob job (not mine) whilst directing a fashion shoot, and talking another contributor down from the ceiling who was complaining that the fashion stylist had made her look like a prostitute! Oh and finding lunch for the crew because the production had run out of money for an AP!

Negotiating: In the telly world every film is a different set of negotiations and hurdles to overcome, and it’s always about making the best deal and keeping everyone happy.  The same skill applies to childcare, bringing up children involves a massive amount of negotiating skills - try to talk a two year old out of  taking the leg off a shop dummy because he  likes the feel of the stockings, or a sixteen year old from having a tattoo. They make dealing with crews, access and contributors look like a walk in the park. By the way, I do like to think that there is a similarity between crews and children in so far as if they are well fed they are much happier.

Budgeting skills; For most of our working life in telly we spend a large proportion of time on money skills, making the budget stretch further and getting the most on screen and into our productions. At home we are used to being able to juggle the household income to see what is absolutely needed or what can be saved on. We can and do make the most of any money and this is a skill that is often overlooked.

Marketing; Selling our ideas to broadcasters, selling ourselves at interviews, writing the pitches and billings. With kids the marketing goes on under another guise, it’s getting them into right school and making sure that they are making the connections and making the most of their talents.

Interview techniques; there are not many people who can say that they have interviewed the amount of people that those working in television do, and what is more important is the range of people that you need to talk to – police chief one minute and a male stripper the next. It’s all about hearing what they are saying, and asking how they feel – much the same as child rearing then.

Series Producer Aileen McCracken is in the Media Parents TALENT section.

Research skills; What other job asks you to become an instant expert in a subject and challenges you to know the finer details of a deep sea oil rig (someone has to interview the boffin from Imperial College) and also to understand the treatment of premature babies, or the mechanics of credit card fraud. Kids don’t come with a manual and its always a case of finding the advice that works for you – where do you learn about night terrors, self harm or teenage angst?

People skills; With children you are automatically propelled into a world of new parents who are outside your normal circle of friends, but those of us who have survived in the telly world know that we have always used the skills to make contributors and presenters and crew feel needed valued and respected. One of our most important and most useful skills is being able to talk to anyone. Communication is a hugely valuable skill.

Creativity; It goes with the job that you are a creative soul and understand the difference between a nicely framed shot and someone with a tree growing out of their head.  You understand the difference a  good voice-over will make, and that the music should add not detract.

Time management; A skill at which working parents are past masters, and as such they have the ability to get more out of a day than most. They prioritise and know that the list has to be got through. Working hard does not mean just being there, it means making the most of the time and then going home.

People Management; Being part of a crew teaches us to work with as well as manage so the team from the runner to the executive all know and feel they have a part to play in the success of project and are playing to their strengths. There is only a short time (in some cases a couple of months) to make the team gel and deliver, and everyone knows when those above them are making a noise but not making with the leadership.

Flexibility; Being flexible is a skill that is learnt (often the hard way) because very little in this world goes quite according to plan (in my case arriving six hours late for a shoot because they closed the M4) but it’s how you deal with it that really matters. Yes a minute of panic then find a solution (there always is one). You know that you can sort things out and turn negatives into positives and that is massive skill to have. It may not be quite how you planned but it may be better.

Editing; making sure that only the best is retained and even that which was mediocre is raised to a great standard, which is the name of the game. Telling stories with strong narratives – is that not what we all strive to do?

These are just the first twelve that came into my head but I do believe that being a parent, as well as experience, brings a lot to the table and could transfer to other industries. What we learn is very valuable and not everyone get the chance to be as multi-talented as we are.

www.mediaparents.co.uk for great talent, networking, jobs and information.

Aileen McCracken in her own words:

I am an experienced and enthusiastic Series Producer, who has also worked as an Executive Producer, Producer/Director and Edit Producer.

I have made many prime time films for all the major broadcasters and pride myself on getting the best possible stories, creating compelling films.

Used to working on tight budgets and fast turn arounds as well as tackling any subject. I have made observational documentaries, factual entertainment, factual format programmes and current affairs.

Aileen can be found in the TALENT section of www.mediaparents.co.uk

Leaving TV: From producer to professional

The following article by Barry Shaverin is reprinted with kind permission from Broadcast Magazine.

Worries about work? Sick of insecurity? There is a light on the horizon. If you’re tired of the trials of television, transfer your skills to professional services, says Barry Shaverin.

This recession is giving other industries a taste of life in TV. Job insecurity? No new opportunities? Can’t get a mortgage? Welcome to our world.

But when you’ve finished gloating, realise that the world outside TV will recover. Should you be making plans to move and get a taste of the green shoots for yourself? I did. Here’s how.

Years ago, when I still worked in TV, I was at an ideas meeting. Somebody noted that every person in the room – half a dozen of us – was under thirty. The exec was the only one over 40, and even then only just. Somebody wondered aloud why there were so few “old people” in TV, and what happens to those who leave. We collectively shrugged and got back to thinking up ideas.

You see, nobody actually cared what happened to them – we had the best jobs in the world, being paid to discuss TV and decide what ordinary people should be watching when they weren’t in some windowless office, staring at a screen and adding up numbers.

Why should we worry about life after TV? Besides, everyone knows that if you’re any good, you come up with a global format and retire, or you set up a creative investment fund. At worst, you set up an indie and a VC buys you out. Simples.

Until then, I was earning more per week than any friends who were struggling as trainee solicitors and accountants. Fools! And I was doing it by travelling, meeting celebrities and wearing jeans. There was no better job for a twenty-something.

But then suddenly I wasn’t in my twenties. As I got more senior, I became more desk-bound and spent a lot more time staring at a computer screen. I wasn’t adding up numbers, but it wasn’t what I had signed up for.

Oh, and the trainee solicitor and accountant friends? They were no longer trainees, and were now on six figures, plus pension, medical, bonus – they weren’t fools any more.

Don’t get me wrong, I still loved television, and I was earning more per week than I had been. But not that much more – and by then I had worked out that the weekly salary didn’t really mean much to anyone outside TV (the bank manager) – it was the annual salary that counted. Gaps between short contracts didn’t really help with this particular figure. The format didn’t happen. The indie didn’t materialise.

Suddenly, I very much cared what happened to the “old” people who left TV, and I was prepared to hang up my jeans and buy a suit. Was I selling out? Maybe. But bills happen.

The suit was an easy formula – (Visa + Selfridges) x APR. But then what? When you haven’t done anything but work in television, who’ll be impressed by your PD-150 skills? Probably nobody. But a TV freelancer is blessed with other skills – I just needed to realise what they were, and who would want them.

1 YOUR SKILLS

As a TV freelancer, you almost certainly have skills you take for granted – to you, they’re nothing special, and ancillary to the main job of making TV programmes. But to others, they’re worth good cash – you can use Word, Excel, PowerPoint, you’re great in a meeting, can pitch ideas, you are creative and write beautifully.

And as a freelancer, you probably have more experience of job interviews than anyone you’ll come up against. These are your new core skills. But who’ll pay for them?

2 YOUR MARKET

Advertising, PR or corporate video and commercials production – worth considering, but likely a case of out of the frying pan… So two new words for you – professional services. The largest law, accountancy, consultancy, investment and audit firms, and large public sector bodies all employ people like you under the generic terms of “marketing” and “communications”. People who interview clients, make bids, write copy for speeches, websites, intranets, brochures, advertisements and newsletters. And these people are paid well.

3 THE REWARDS

Of course, there’s the salary. Entry level (the equivalent of researcher): up to £25,000 plus bonus. Someone with the experience of an AP? Maybe £40,000. And these are annual salaries – no weekly contracts for them. Imagine that – making financial plans and commitments.

Stick around long enough to head a team, maybe £70,000. The equivalent of executive producer? £200,000 plus bonus is not impossible. And crucially, these workers are not culled as they get grey. If you choose, you’ll be valued in your forties, fifties and sixties.

Let’s keep going – sociable hours, pension, medical (for you and your family), paid holiday, maternity and paternity leave, company car, gym membership, blah blah blah.

And then less obvious stuff – the really large firms sponsor employees to take degrees, go on all manner of training courses, work in overseas offices… at least one of ‘The Big Four’ even sponsors employees in sports. And then the ‘everyday’ benefits. Posh chairs to support your back (Herman Miller, not Viking Direct), computers that actually work all the time (with full support of course – push a button and a technician miraculously appears), gourmet, subsidised canteens, and gleaming kitchens and toilets (I know this is a really small point, but I couldn’t help but notice that even the best indies often had dodgy facilities – you’ll appreciate the difference.)

Want more? How about an in-house GP? Throw in a free BlackBerry (for some reason iPhones haven’t caught on in the PS world – deduct one point), a host of corporate discounts (Sky TV, Spa breaks, car rental), free fl u jabs in the office (at time of writing – ordinary, not swine). Etc etc: you get the idea.

I don’t remember this being available, even at the most successful indies. (Why is this? Because TV is a lifestyle business? Because it works to 8%-20% margins, when the rest of the world aims for 40%-50%? Answers on a postcard…)

4 THE DOWNSIDE

Of course there’s a downside. People don’t just give the good stuff away. TV is a wonderful, progressive and liberal industry, where creativity reigns and “the end result” matters far more than how you behave day to day. That’s what makes it special. And very, very different. You’ll have to get used to some changes…

First off, the obvious ones. The Christmas parties are more restrained than the more debauched TV ones you will have been to. No Hotmail, YouTube, Ebay or Facebook at your desk. And you have to wear a suit – a nice one, with an ironed shirt, tie and cuff links. Men must be cleanshaved. Polished shoes, clean fingernails – the whole thing. Some firms “dress down” on a Friday – don’t get excited, it just means you can lose the tie, and your jacket doesn’t have to match your trousers. This is all taken very seriously. Individuality is frowned upon. It’s all about fitting in and looking “professional”.

Vitally – and this is really difficult for the TV refugee – you have to watch what you say. It goes without saying that there are certain naughty topics – ones that are often socially acceptable in the entertainment industry which are to be strictly avoided. But there’s a more subtle difference: in TV, you’re encouraged to think aloud. It doesn’t matter if some of your ideas are nonsense, as long as there’s a spark of genius in there somewhere, a great idea every now and again – that’s what the creative process is all about. But in professional services, “credibility” is everything – nonsense is not allowed. They won’t have a good laugh at the less inspired ideas and then applaud you for the good ones. Keep it zipped unless you’re certain that what you are about to say is valuable.

Once you navigate your way through the cultural minefi eld, let’s consider the work. TV is often a series of broad brush strokes – you must first understand the complex ideas, but then you distil them to simpler concepts – less is more and all that. You learn to package everything up quickly – it’s a real skill. Unlearn it immediately. In TV, you accept that your typical audience member is a teenager who reads the red tops; in professional services, they are a middle-aged PhD who reads the Economist.

And they want detail – painstaking, minute detail. Nothing can be missed, nothing can be simplified. Let me illustrate. When I was fi rst training to do audit CRM, I was getting to grips with the difference between a financial director and a financial manager.

It was explained to me over 20 minutes. “I get it”, I said, “so the manager holds the calculator, and the director holds the cigar.” Big frown. Not even a hint of a smile.

You know what? That explanation holds water. But they don’t want to hear about short cuts. I didn’t make that mistake again. This point is serious – when you do eventually sit down and exercise your core skills, you may find that interviewing, pitching and writing in such detail just isn’t for you.

5 TEMPTED?

I must manage your expectations at this point – there’s no gold rush. Jobs are few and far between right now, especially for “non-essential” staff in marketing and comms.

But even if the economy was on a high, you would still be best off taking your time – successful escapes are carefully planned, while people who go over the wall on a whim are usually caught and brought back to jail. So start planning and do it properly – allow a year or more.

If, like so many people in TV, you already have a PPE/maths/classics first from Oxbridge, then skip this paragraph. For the rest of us, you would do well to get an “impressive” qualification. You will not need an MBA or law degree to actually do these jobs, but it’ll help get you the interview, and carry that all-important “credibility” once you turn up for work.

Register at night school now. I’m not kidding – you can complete a post-grad law degree, two evenings a week, in two years. For the more practical among you, take a look at the Chartered Institute of Marketing – their courses are recognised across the professional services sector.

Qualification in hand, trawl the websites of the best firms – Deloitte, Ernst & Young, Eversheds, Linklaters, Allen & Overy, McKinsey, Accenture and others. They all have careers sections on their sites.

Or go through a recruitment agency – the big ones have specialist marketing departments. The PSD Group has a track record in sourcing talent from unaffiliated industries.

Principal consultant Daniel Shaw advises: “PS firms operate at the highest levels. Persuade them you’re up there, and that you can adapt your key skills and experience to add value and fit in at their firm. It can be done”.

6 OTHER AVENUES

Professional services may not be for you, and there are TV types who have retrained in all manner of careers. Joanne Mallon, an ex-producer, now practises as a life and career coach, specialising in working with people in media through medialifecoach. com. She’s helped people move into teaching, media coaching – even garden design and yoga teaching.

Many become entrepreneurs, where the skills you use in TV are essential: generating the idea and communicating it to investors. A business plan is just a fancy programme proposal with numbers. Negotiation, project management, budgeting, staffing, blagging favours, cutting costs, dealing with rejection – a TV producer is already an entrepreneur. Jason Gibb left a successful career at RDF to start Nudo, an olive oil company: “I learned from TV to become an overnight expert in anything. New business is about learning – the quicker you do it, the less it costs. I didn’t know the first thing about olive oil. I went on courses and read. Now I supply Selfridges.”

Times are tough – even more so than usual for television. But there’s a world outside, and there can be a place in it for you, if your passion eventually succumbs to the temptation of sterling. Don’t be afraid to explore when the time feels right. Seek and ye shall find.

➤ Barry Shaverin worked in TV for 12 years, mostly as a freelance development producer, until 2005. He qualified as a barrister in his spare time, and has worked in bid writing, client relationship management for one of the “Big Four” audit firms, and in new product development within financial services. He also founded SpareKeys.com

April 13, 2011 @ 5:29 pm Posted in News Comments Off

21 hours: a new norm for the working week? by Anna Coote

by Amy Walker

Imagine a new ‘standard’ working week of 21 hours. Not 35 hours, or a four-day week, but 21 hours or its equivalent spread across the calendar year.  Anna Coote, Head of Social Policy at nef (www.neweconomics.org) explores an idea that has a distinct appeal in the recent good weather.

Anna Coote, Head of Social Policy at nef reprinted at www.mediaparents.co.uk by kind permission

How would it feel to wake up on a chilly February morning or indeed a sunny April one? More time in bed, more time with the kids, more time to read, see your mum, hang out with friends, repair the guttering, make music, fix lunch, walk in the park. Whatever you need or want to do.

Outlandish? Well, it’s less radical than the vision of John Maynard Keynes. He imagined a 15-hour week by the beginning of the 21st century, because he thought we’d no longer have to work long hours to satisfy our material needs.

His forecast was wrong, not least because our definition of material needs has grossly expanded. In fact, the ‘normal’ working week lengthened in the last decades of the 20thcentury, with two-adult households adding six hours a week to their combined paid workload.  Many of us work longer and harder to earn enough to buy what we need (or think we need), to keep or improve our place in the world, or simply to make ends meet.  Meanwhile, others have too little employment, or none at all.

But Keynes was right to envisage a need to think differently about how we use and value time.  In the 21st century, moving towards much shorter hours of paid employment could be a critical factor in heading off environmental, social and economic catastrophe.  In the developed world, most of us are consuming well beyond our economic means, well beyond the limits of the natural world and in ways that ultimately fail to satisfy us.

Economic growth has depended on a volatile mix of depressed wages and escalating material consumption.  So workers have borrowed to consume what they cannot afford and now the credit bubble has burst.  Politicians are urging us all to shop harder to help the economy recover and grow. Yet natural resources are critically depleted by high-rolling consumerism and the climate clock is ticking. While some of us accumulate more and more material goods, others have less and less of life’s essentials.

We have even managed in our increasingly unequal society to divvy up time as an unequal commodity. Under-employment as well as unemployment is prevalent in low-income groups. Nearly 2.5 million are currently unemployed. Nearly one million worked part-time in the third quarter of 2009, because they could not find a full-time job, a rise of 30,000 over the previous quarter and up 30 per cent since the 2008.

A more equal distribution of working time would have clear environmental benefits. Leading economists are turning their attention to how we can manage with little or no economic growth, on the ground that continuing growth in the developed world cannot be ‘decoupled’ from carbon emissions sufficiently or in time to avoid disastrous climate change. Tim JacksonPeter Victor and others have identified shorter working hours as one way to reduce labour and output overall without intensifying hardship or widening inequalities: share out the total of paid work more evenly across the population.

A 21-hour working week is a long way from today’s standard of 40 hours or more, but not so far-fetched when you consider the infinitely varied ways in which we actually spend our time.  On average, people of working age spend 19.6 hours a week in paid employment and 20.4 hours in unpaid housework and childcare.  Of course these averages mask huge inequalities, both between women and men and between income groups – not only in how they use their time, but also in how far they can control it.  Bringing the standard nearer to the average could help to iron out these differences.

Moving towards a standard of 21 hours could help to redistribute unpaid as well as paid time – for example by making more jobs available for the unemployed and giving men more time to look after their children.

There’s nothing natural or inevitable about our nine-to-five, five-day week. It’s just a relic of the industrial revolution. It can be changed. When the state of Utah in the US introduced a four-day week for state employees (without reduced hours, but giving everyone a three-day weekend), more than half said they were more productive and three-quarters said they preferred the new arrangements. The State saved $4.1 million through reduced absenteeism and overtime and $1.4 million through reduced travel in state-owned vehicles; it reduced carbon emissions by 4,546 metric tons, other greenhouse gases by 8,000 tons and petrol consumption by 744,000 gallons. 82 per cent of employees said they wanted the one-year experiment to continue.

We could get off the consumer treadmill and leave a smaller footprint on the earth.  We could spend less on energy-intensive ‘convenience’ items designed to save us time – from processed foods and household gadgets to cars and airline tickets. We’d have more time to care for friends and family, and to look after our own health.  We could leave employment and claim our pensions later, with a much gentler transition to retirement. We’d have more time to keep learning and take part in local activities. We might begin to reassess how we value different kinds of work, regardless of whether or how it is paid.  We might give a higher rating to relationships, pastimes and places that absorb less of our money and more of our time.

There could be benefits for business too, with more women in paid employment, more men leading rounded, balanced lives, less workplace stress and greater productivity hour for hour.  The driving force towards a prosperous economy would no longer be credit-fuelled consumerism, which has proved so destructive, but financial stability and good work distributed fairly across the population.

None of this will be easy to achieve. A lot of people will have to adjust to earning a lot less, but this has to be seen as part of a bigger transition, over a decade or more, that will involve a radical shift in values and expectations.  . Everything depends on having the right measures in place to ensure that work is fairly distributed, that everyone has enough to live on, that employers are encouraged to take on more staff, and that public attitudes change to support less materialist lifestyles and a revaluation of paid and unpaid time.  These are explored in more detail in our report, 21 Hours.

Social norms that seem to be firmly fixed can sometimes change quite suddenly.  Take, for example, attitudes towards slavery and votes for women, wearing seatbelts and crash helmets, not smoking in bars and restaurants.  The weight of public opinion can swing from antipathy to routine acceptance, usually when there’s a combination of new evidence, changing conditions, a sense of crisis and a strong campaign.  This proposal for a 21-hour working week is intended as a provocation, to stimulate debate and ideas.  It also reflects an urgent need to build a sustainable future.  We already have strong supporting evidence, changing conditions that demand a fresh approach and a profound sense of crisis.  The campaign starts here.

www.mediaparents.co.uk for great talent, networking, jobs and information.

Reproduction of this article was suggested by Media Parents Producer / Director Lucy Sandys-Winsch who can be found in the TALENT section of www.mediaparents.co.uk

Kind permission for the publication of this article was given by nef www.neweconomics.org

April 11, 2011 @ 7:21 am Posted in News Comments Off

5 Minutes with… Polly Rose, Editor

by Amy Walker

Offline Editor Polly Rose is in the TALENT section of www.mediaparents.co.uk and speaks here about returning to work, and her experience of the ITF Women Returners Course in March that she applied for through Media Parents.  The same course, funded by Skillset is being run in Cardiff on April 13th for women in WALES and the SOUTH WEST.  For more information please email admin@mediaparents.co.uk

Editor Polly Rose is at the cutting edge the TALENT section of www.mediaparents.co.uk

It’s an oft-repeated John Lennon line* that “life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans”. When I walked out of a BBC Cardiff edit suite one January evening in 2006, at the end of a happy edit on Doctor Who Confidential, I remember thinking that even after years as a freelance editor I still sometimes couldn’t believe that I get to do this as my job. Little did I know that it would take five years, two sons and a move to Bristol from London before I next set foot in a cutting room (though I still have much the same face, unlike the Doctor who is looking rather different these days). The media landscape has changed a lot in the five years I’ve been away, not least the technology – RED cameras, iPhones, Twitter…

(*he borrowed it from the Reader’s Digest if you believe Wiki Quotes).

During my time out I did explore other career options, since my usual working hours as an editor were definitely not family friendly. However, any profiling exercise I did just served to point up that I’m essentially cut out to be an editor (one showed my top two strengths as “reconfiguration” and “narrator”). I was also reluctant to waste the years of experience I had built up in order to start anew and, when it came down to it, I couldn’t face the thought of never cutting another music sequence.

I’ve had some fantastic and fascinating editing experiences, from working on location at London Zoo (alongside fellow Media Parents Editor Leo Carlyon)  all one summer to cutting a half hour documentary on a horse race in ten days straight with Sara Hardy. I’ve seen narcotics cops, aristocrats, Spiritualists, Drag Kings and Sir Gerry Robinson. I’ve worked on several medical documentary series over the years including Children’s Hospital, Life on the List  and Your Life In Their Hands, which turned out to be very useful grounding for when my eldest son had cardiac surgery as a baby.

Working from home : Polly Rose can be contacted through the TALENT section of www.mediaparents.co.uk

Luckily my return to work has coincided with greater recognition of the problems faced by parents in media (hurrah!), and after going along to the Media Parents event at BBC Bristol in November last year I started to feel that combining motherhood and editing in the way I hope to do might actually be possible. After a short editing job for fellow Media Parent Lucy Swingler I was confident that I can still cut it as an editor, but I was seriously daunted by the task of starting again in a different city. Apart from my first job as a runner I have always got work through personal recommendation, and having moved back to my hometown of Bristol the thought of starting again outside my familiar London network was pretty scary.

After reading a post on the Media Parents blog in January, I applied for and got one of ten places on the Indie Training Fund’s new “Reviewing Your Options” workshop for women returning to work in TV. So, on March 1st I waved my partner and two small boys off to the Transport Museum for a London daytrip, and set off for the ITF offices in Hoxton Square feeling excited and apprehensive.

The workshop was run by Sue Ahern of Creative People with input from Joyce Adeluwoye-Adams, Diversity Advisor for PACT, Skillset’s TV Co-ordinator Raechel Leigh Carter and “token male” Ian Wyatt, the ITF’s Training Director. It was fast-paced and packed a lot of useful information, discussion and activities into the day – the “elevator pitch” exercise was especially helpful (if terrifying!).

Sue covered topics including how to build your profile and pitch your skills through your CV, social media and face-to-face meetings; job applications and interviews, possible approaches to flexible working, further training opportunities, negotiation skills, and taking the long view of your career to plan the next phase.

Editor Polly Rose with her children. Polly lives and works out of Bristol.

I found hearing the experiences of the other women who were attending the workshop interesting and enlightening. They helped to remind me that I’m not alone in trying to find new ways to work, so I can continue to do a job that I really enjoy and use the skills I’ve developed while still being there for my kids.

I would recommend the workshop to any woman in my situation. I left feeling energised, with increased confidence and skills to approach my return to freelance work, and a wider network of contacts and support.

www.mediaparents.co.uk for great talent, networking, jobs and information.

Polly Rose, Editor, is in the Media Parents TALENT section www.mediaparents.co.uk

If you would like to apply for the ITF Women Returners Course in March that Polly found out about through Media Parents, the same course, funded by Skillset, is being run in Cardiff on April 15th for women in WALES and the SOUTH WEST.  For more information please email admin@mediaparents.co.uk

April 4, 2011 @ 11:52 am Posted in News Leave a comment

5 Minutes with… Pauline Cavilla, Voiceover Artist

by Amy Walker

Media Parents TALENT, Pauline Cavilla “The Tube Lady” talks about her work.

Pauline Cavilla, Media Parents TALENT, recording for Doctor Who.

To put it simply, I am a gob on a stick.  Give me a script and I will read it out loud.  When I was at school my reports always said Pauline should talk more.  My husband and children probably wouldn’t agree!

My work is in two parts… first my two day a week job as an Audio Describer for Red Bee Media – we write scripts detailing what’s going on in the quiet bits of television programmes to enable blind and partially sighted people to enjoy TV.

Mind the Gap... You'll hear Pauline Cavilla's voice at many tube stations. Photo by Vijinho

My other work is as a voiceover artist.  Over the past few years I have voiced the announcements for stations on the London Underground, television commercials and on-hold information. Stand on the platforms at White City, Oxford Circus and Piccadilly Circus and you’ll hear me. I always want to grin madly because it’s me everyone’s hearing, and they don’t know it!   I am also a freelance continuity announcer for British Forces Television, and I write articles for a local parenting magazine.

I grew up in Gloucestershire and got my break into television after a stint as a local radio journalist for the BBC in Shropshire – I came up to London to be a continuity announcer for BBC1 and BBC2.

My highlight so far is the work for London Underground, my all time low is really a general thing about accents.  When I trained to be a radio journalist I got rid of my accent and while I don’t speak with a posh RP accent, I pronounce things properly. This apparently, is not popular.  It seems that most television companies want people with accents – even the BBC World Service went down the local accent route!  I take pride in my clear, warm and friendly voice, and I do get annoyed when yet again, people only want voices with accents.

Since having my two children my career has changed quite a bit.  It did take a while to get used to.  First of all the thorny subject of childcare had to be tackled. Working shifts and ad hoc days means a childminder is my only hope, and it took me five childminders to finally find a good one who is available at the drop of a hat, and I pray she doesn’t want to move!

It’s also not as simple as a quick yes to a prospective employer.  I have to check with my childminder to see if she’s available, and then I have to see if my husband can do the school run in the morning (if I have to be somewhere early).  Having said that, this morning once I’d got back from the school run, I recorded some on-hold messages and two radio commercials in my home studio, and I still had the time to write this before heading out again.

As an Audio Describer I work  on things like EastEnders – if there is a long quiet scene with Phil silently creeping into a room and stealing something, I explain where he is, what he’s doing, and whether anything else important is happening – perhaps someone there didn’t see him, or perhaps he was picking up something pivotal to the plot. My Audio Describer work at Red Bee is really parent friendly.  There is no problem if I have to ring in because one of the children is ill, I can swap shifts around if I’m desperate, and despite working shifts, it’s easy to not work Christmas Day.  Holidays can be tricky though as only two people are allowed off at once and we have lots of parents in the department, so I booked this year’s in January!

Now the children are at school full time, it’s getting a lot easier to take on work – when I can find it!   Ideally I’d like to narrate a documentary series because I have a clear warm and friendly voice, and my background in broadcast journalism means I’m used to reading a variety of long scripts, from hard news to soft and silly.  Because I don’t have a strong accent I think my voice is fairly unobtrusive… there’s nothing worse than ending up listening to the way a narrator is talking rather than actually listening to the words (maybe this is just me because I’m in that line of work!). I’d also like to record more commercials, simply because they tend to just take an hour or two to record and it means I can fit them in during school hours and I don’t have to fork out for the childminder.

www.mediaparents.co.uk for great talent, networking, jobs and information.

My next task is getting some new business cards printed.  For the first time since having children, I’m actually in the position of being able to hand them out, so I really ought to have ones with my email address and website on.  Oh how modern!

Pauline Cavilla, The Tube Lady, is in the TALENT section of www.mediaparents.co.uk and can also be heard here www.voiceovers.co.uk/pauline.cavilla

If you want to warm up your voice and raise money for Save the Children in Japan, please join us for karaoke at Century on Friday April 15th.  This event is being organised by Exec Producer Katherine Parsons, and entrance is only £10.  Please email events@mediaparents.co.uk to let us know you’re interested.

April 1, 2011 @ 3:02 pm Posted in News 1 Comment