Sarah-Lee Jones joined Future Artists a month after giving birth to her first child, Indi-Lee. Having previously worked as a Casting Producer and in the TV industry for eight years, Sarah-Lee talks about her experience of getting back into the industry part time, and the challenges she faced as a new mum.
Nothing can prepare you for becoming a parent for the first time. I used to moan A LOT about being tired and working 15 hours a day while casting for TV shows but looking back, I can honestly say that was a walk in the park compared to the first few months of being a mum!
I always planned to return to work as I love what I do but I worried about how I would cope with the long hours as well as looking after Indi-Lee. After my maternity, I had a number of interviews for TV jobs, which I believe went really well until I mentioned I was a single parent, with no childcare other than day nursery 8am-6pm.
Every knockback really stung. I felt the years of experience and the network of contacts I had built meant nothing. I felt like I had been pushed to the side all because I decided to start a family.
I first discovered Future Artists, an award winning independent film company and distributor, at a networking event in 2009 when I met the founder, Mark Ashmore. The ethos of the company sounded like a great place to work.
Future Artists works on a four day week (Monday’s off) and I was able to choose my working hours to suit nursery times (8am-4pm). Because Future Artists is a collective of projects, I am constantly learning new skills from film distribution to fine art!
In 2010, I was asked to co-produce The Lost Generation, my first feature film. In 2014, I was asked to co-produce Portal, a sci-fi web-series for Dailymotion. Working from home initially, I set myself realistic deadlines and even learnt a new skill in-between nap times, Book-keeping for Dummies, as I was responsible for a budget of tens of thousands!
Whilst working on the pre-production, Indi-Lee was in nursery two days a week, which freed me up to attend cast and crew meetings. This was gradually moved up to four days a week once filming began and I was able to work as 1st AD on set and still manage to get back in time to pick up Indi-Lee from nursery.
If a small independent company can work like this, why aren’t the major companies following suit? Wouldn’t it be great for more companies to work this way in order to keep the media parents in the industry? Many friends have had to change careers due to the long demanding hours TV requires, but I am really grateful to have found such a great and understanding employer.
If more companies were flexible and willing to assist people back into the work place based on their strengths and knowledge, taking into account their circumstances, it could be a win-win situation. I would still get to do the job I love; I would deliver whatever was necessary with only difference being I wouldn’t need to do work mental hours sat at my desk!