Edinburgh does…Question Time, hosted by the amazing Kirsty Wark. After all these years shouting at the TV from my sofa, I was there, mic in hand and selected to ask the first question, kicking off the whole debate writes Melissa Bishop. As Kirsty says my name and peers at me over her famous reading glasses, all eyes turn in my direction, cameras recording for posterity. I am now very nervous. But I am up in Edinburgh as the Warner Bros returner on the Media Parents Back to Work Scheme.
“As a recent report in Broadcast magazine has shown that the number of women directors in TV have actually fallen in recent years, what do the panel suggest to address this problem?” Job done, my voice was not too wobbly and I had taken a first little step out of my comfort zone. That’s what I was here for after all.
On the way to the airport at 5.30am on the first day of the Edinburgh TV festival, I’d had 20 minutes to gather my thoughts. This was in fact my first Edinburgh TV Festival – brilliant. I had always meant to go but life gets in the way and somehow I’d never made it. The event is completely jam-packed, there are so many interesting, talented people to meet, I didn’t want to be doing it at anything less than 100% match fitness, so I’d prepared well. However, I was really nervous. Imposter syndrome strikes again.
In addition, somewhere in the back of my head I was worried that being out of TV work, as a full-time carer, would been seen as a personal weakness somehow. When I got talking to people, I realised how any people have been in the same situation, or have experienced something similar and are totally understanding. It really isn’t just me.
The MacTaggart Lecture this year was beautifully written and passionately delivered by Michaela Coel, in front of a packed house. A fascinating personal insight into the industry through the eyes of a “misfit” (her words) – culminating in a moving call to arms for all in the industry to address this problem, to get our house in order – “fix this house”. Her words resonated deeply and the message regarding lack of diversity permeated the rest of the festival.
It’s a great place to make connections, including Expectation Factual Head of Talent Anna Bonnadio, and Anouk Berendsen, Head of Talent at All3Media who kindly agreed to meet with us returners. One thing she said that struck me was “Be honest and open… just ask for what you want, what you need as a parent/carer in TV.” If we all did this, things would have to change.
The first Media Parents session with Amy Walker flipped a switch in my head. Amy asked us in turn to introduce ourselves, in three clear sentences, name, what we are and what we want to do.…easy, but I couldn’t. I hadn’t thought through how to communicate really basic information about myself to others. So when I was asked to speak, I could only reply ‘but, what am I?’ Basic yes, but very easy to overlook. I realised that in my previous attempts to introduce myself to people whilst networking (not something that comes naturally to me and makes me feel a bit icky – to be perfectly honest), I’d either take so long thinking up my opening lines that they’d left by the time I was ready, or gone up to them and ended up rambling, trying to explain my entire life history to my poor victim. Not a very memorable encounter, or memorable for all the wrong reasons.
So: “Hello I’m Melissa Bishop…I’m a factual Researcher/AP, returning to documentary. Pleased to meet you.”
Try thinking of it as a conversation, Amy advised, when we’re discussing how uncomfortable the power dynamic of networking can make me feel. They are not ‘the boss’ and you are not asking for a job. You’re two peers, exchanging information and ideas. They might actually like talking to you. As someone who has been out of this world for a few years, my confidence has taken a bit of a battering. I’ve found that it often takes just small mental adjustments to counteract this and feel ok about introducing myself back to the working world. Just this one session on it’s own was a total confidence boost.
As inspiring as anything I have mentioned so far, was meeting the other returners. All extremely talented and really lovely human beings. Michaela Coel’s MacTaggart Lecture enforced the idea that there is room for all of us in TV. Here’s hoping that message will be taken away from here and acted upon. I’ll be doing my little bit by asking for what I need as a carer in TV.