Jayne Edwards, Head of Development at Off the Fence Productions writes about the production of Confessions of an Alien Abductee, 9pm tonight on Channel 4.
Jayne Edwards has an extensive track record in making shows for all the major UK broadcasters and has been with Off The Fence since 2009. She series produced Off The Fence’s successful Stan Lee’s Superhumans and is now heading up the development team to further expand and develop the company’s production slate.
Has anyone been able to work flexibly on this production / within the company?
As Head of Development I am usually office based with the rest of the team. But with this production, as I had a strong relationship with the contributors we felt it was a good idea for me to go on the road and be an integral part of the production.
There are number of us who worked on Confessions of an Alien Abductee who have children so we found a way to make it work between us. Those of us on location filming have not been able to work particularly flexibly – when a shoot is planned, you have to do it. Having said that, this particular production was made easier for us as it was a UK only shoot.
I was able to make sure that I never spent more than three nights away from home at any one time, and I often drove home between shoots rather than spend another night away from my family. My director also has children, so we understood each other’s position and shared the load.
We were very fortunate with Confessions of an Alien Abductee that we only did one weekend shoot the entire time – our contributors were flexible so we were able to make it work for us, to a certain extent.
Off the Fence is a flexible company generally, it’s very friendly and allows for flexibility for its employees to take time out whether you have young children or a sick parent. I was offered the job as Head of Development when I was six months pregnant – something not many employers would have been prepared to do. After six months maternity leave, I came back to work three days a week. However, I quickly realised that I couldn’t do the job properly in that amount of time, so I went four days a week after eight weeks. Then, I went full time within a year, and I prefer doing that. Off the Fence didn’t enforce anything on me, I decided I wanted to do more, they were very, supportive and accommodating and trusted me to make the right decision to do whatever I felt I needed to do to do my job.
Off the Fence has a number of senior women with children so they are very understanding to your needs – and at the same time they are very good examples of how to manage the balance. They work incredibly hard whilst making it work around their families.
Any interesting ways of making production and childcare work?
I have a good support network, my three year old daughter goes to a great nursery and I have a very tolerant partner, which makes it work. On the days that I’m in the office, I often get into the office mega early so that I can get everything done and pick my daughter up from nursery.
If you choose to work in production then you have to deal with the long hours that involves. It’s not a 9-5 job. You have to set quite strict boundaries as to what you’re prepared to sacrifice, and on a case by case basis decide if a project is exciting enough to spend time away from your family. You have to make sure it’s known that you won’t shy away from projects because you have a child.
Ultimately, it’s your choice to work in a demanding industry. If you don’t feel that you can manage to juggle your career and your children, then don’t work in that industry.
How have you made your career work alongside having a family?
As I said, I have a great support network which helps. In addition, I try not to be away for more than three nights at a time. I come home from work, spend time with my little girl, then I work again when she’s in bed. That works for me.
Juggling my child and my career has made me more productive. I don’t procrastinate anymore – I used to take work home with me at the weekend, but now I get my work done during the week, so the weekends are my own to spend with my family.
Any inspiring stories of this from within your company?
Allison Bean, MD of Off the Fence Productions, has a rule that she will travel anywhere in the world but never for more than 10 days. Both Allison and Ellen Windemuth (CEO) work very hard – I can speak to them at any time, and we all have the technology to work from home at any time. There is never a time when I can’t communicate with Allison – wherever she is in the world she will always respond.
There’s an even split at Off the Fence of people with and without kids, it’s a friendly company whether you have kids or not, and working in a place like this really helps me to manage my commitments to my job and to my daughter.