Having reluctantly left Production many years ago to bring up 2 children, it was unfinished business. I always intended to go back but a teaching career suited being a working mum and so it took until August 2017 to see if it was still possible to get back into TV, but instead of commercials, move into Drama, writes Paula Watkins.
In truth I thought it highly unlikely that anybody would want to employ someone who had been out of the industry for over 14 years. A lot has changed and with no up to date training or experience I questioned what I had to offer and almost gave up before I had even started. On a whim I made a phone call to a Producer I used to work with and a week later I began work experience on Silent Witness for the BBC.
Walking in on the first day was terrifying, what would the production team make of me and what exactly did I want from the experience? Within a very short amount of time it felt extremely familiar and comfortable and it was easy to ask millions of questions, take notes, offer help and be honest about my desire to learn everything I could to eventually be employable again within a production team. Much of the job was the same but the particular demands of TV Drama as opposed to Commercials needed to be learnt alongside all the current practices. Overriding all of this however, was a feeling that maybe there was work out there and that I did have skills to offer but just needed a way in. Being accepted onto the Media Parents HETV Drama Return to Work Programme a few weeks after some further work experience on The Durrells for ITV, really felt that the universe had a plan for me.
The Media Parents course was so brilliantly supportive and helped me to realise that I could do this ‘returning to TV thing’ that I had originally thought too ambitious. There was much to thank Amy Walker for during that week but the day at the BAFTA Commissioning Conference was a highlight. Not only were many of the speakers inspiring but it affirmed that there is so much exciting TV being made and waiting to be made. I came away wanting to be part of it. As it happened by the end of the same week I was! I started a four-week placement with Fudge Park Productions. Within 3 weeks of sending off my Return to HETV application form I was starting work on a Comedy Drama. All thanks to Media Parents.
So now I just had to do it. I arrived on the job on the last day of prep and therefore into an existing team. This made it more nervewracking as the relationships and working practices were already established. On the first day of filming I made my way to set before everyone else, found the Production Bus and set myself down early to settle the nerves. There was plenty to do but the challenge was to find how to be as supportive as possible and seek out things to do without interfering or usurping anyone else’s role. But I also needed to learn as much as I could. This was a golden opportunity and I wanted to make the most of every second.
PACT contracts came my way and that gave me something that I could take control of, keeping myself busy whilst getting to the know the team and, most importantly, them getting to know me. The long days and journey to and from various locations were gruelling, but this was outweighed by how much brilliant experience I was getting. Once the contracts were done it was about being there for anything to support and help with the daily challenges that always occur in Production. Towards the end of the placement, I was delighted to be asked to stay on until the end of the production. This was really exciting and gave me the confidence to believe that my skills were useful and that I had become part of the team.
The back to work plan is currently taking shape with the help of my mentor BBC Production Exec Jacqui Glanville, and Media Parents. I need to stay close to home until my youngest daughter finishes her A levels so I’ve been fortunate enough to work from home as a Production Coordinator for Merman thanks to Media Parents. When that contract finishes there is plenty to do: developing excel skills, Albert courses, getting to know Movie Magic, Final Draft and anything I can find close to home.