Fatherhood and TV – making it work, by Anthony Holland.
I’ve been a self-shooting factual PD for 8 years and my job has taken me all over the world, from Phoenix, Arizona to Cape Town, South Africa. During my late twenties the travelling was a real perk of the job. I was single, independent, had few responsibilities. I spent 9 months in America on one series and a year in South Africa on another project – long contracts and long time away from the UK. And I enjoyed it.
But then I met my future wife (ironically, during that long shoot in South Africa), fell in love and wanted to settle down. I was 32. Fortunately I was able to stay on in Cape Town after the shoot and continued to work in South Africa, on and off, as a wildlife cameraman and producer. After a few years together we got married on a wine farm in Stellenbosch, moved back to the UK, and last year we had a lovely little girl called Liya.
As soon as I got married, the idea of going away on long foreign trips seemed less attractive. Not least to my wife, Kira who, although very supportive, doesn’t work in television. To be fair, I’d wrenched her from the sunny climate and sandy beaches of Cape Town and arrived in the UK during one of the worst winters on record so I don’t think I’d have been very popular if I’d then sauntered off on another long foreign shoot. But I also didn’t want to spend long periods away from home. I managed to work on a couple of projects that only involved location filming Monday to Friday so I was able to come home for weekends. But even that was hard.
As soon as Kira fell pregnant I had a decision to make. Could I be a supportive husband and a hands-on father, and still work as a roving PD in television? I didn’t want to miss out on my baby’s first months. I wanted to be there for the first smile, the first word, even the nappy changing. But I also loved my job – the creativity, the buzz and excitement of being on location.
So 14 months on, how have I managed being a Dad in TV? Have I been able to marry the two successfully? Well, yes and no. I think I’ve been quite lucky, and I’ve had jobs through Media Parents that have kept us going - but I’ve also had to make some sacrifices.
A week before Kira was due to give birth I was offered a London-based producing job on a Discovery series which was filming in the States. It was ideal for me – a 30 minute bus ride from home to the office – for a great company and working with lovely people. The only drawback was they needed me to start immediately. No paternity leave for me. So the day after Liya was born, I turned up to work, a bit bleary eyed, but excited. And being a new Dad had its advantages – waking up at 3am to change a nappy was also the perfect time to call the cameraman in New Mexico!
I then got offered a Development Producer job at ITV Anglia Factual in Norwich that I had applied for through Media Parents. Another big decision to make – move the family up to Norwich or stay in London in a pokey one-bedroom flat with a new born? Actually it wasn’t that hard a decision. So we let out our London flat and moved to a rented 3 bedroom terrace with a garden. The attraction for me was that I could walk to the office in 20 minutes and be home for bathtime. Kira met some lovely Mums in Norwich and we had an amazing 10 months in Norfolk. I enjoyed the thrill of being back in Development again, and could still go away to shoot taster tapes – 4 days in the US this time, as opposed to 9 months.
But as with everything in life, and particularly in TV, there was another dramatic change around the corner. In January this year ITV decided to close down the Factual Department in Norwich. So I was looking for work again, and most of it was back in the capital, 2 hours away. Kira then got offered a job in London and we had to up sticks again.
We’re now living just outside London, closer to my parents, who are helping with childcare, and I am PD’ing again on the new series of ‘Escape to the Country’ for Boundless Productions. They found my profile on Media Parents and approached me, which was great. The production involves some filming time away but weekends and office weeks at home.
It’s been a whirlwind few months, and we’ve had to adapt and move at very short notice, but somehow it’s worked out. Fortunately Liya is still too young to notice the big changes (three houses in 14 months!). Occasionally I’ve felt like a nomad, but we’ve been able to keep the family together, I’ve been able to watch my daughter grow up and I’ve also been able to enjoy my work and spend quality time at home.
Now I’m looking for my next project, ideally in Development or as an Edit Producer.