It’s nearly a year since I won a place on the Media Parents Back to Work Scheme with a bunch of other lovely talented returners, and what a year! writes Scripted Director Kate Cheeseman who was mentored by Channel 4. Read here about Kate’s journey to directing Call the Midwife. The scheme has helped us all back to work – Nicola Kingscote has Series Produced after a two year break, Josie Besbrode has been working flexibly as a PD, and Emma Sayce job shared prior to her current role. Emma is now “back in” after working sporadic short contracts to keep her hand in since maternity leave four years ago. This year’s Media Parents Back to Work Scheme is open for applications until tomorrow, so spread the word – it works!
When I first tried to return to directing, despite hundreds of letters and applications, it was impossible. I had not worked in TV for some years. However, in the last few years people have woken up to some of the problems, and organisations like Media Parents, Raising Films and Directors UK have been spearheading change.
To help bridge my gap, last year I made my fourth short. It’s a great way of showing what you can do, of meeting people and just keeping up with technology and working practices. I linked up with a great team who were looking for a director and had a brilliant script. The schedule was tight, but we found an equally wonderful cast and crew.
Shortly after the shoot, I won a place on the Media Parents Back to Work Scheme. Showing willing despite not having professional credits for a while won me the place. I was off to Edinburgh TV festival. It was a great boost as I felt that I’d had so many rejections it was becoming difficult to carry on! It was really encouraging for someone to actually believe in me.
Myself and the other returners all made the most of the festival, going to some great talks and meeting fantastic contacts. Everyone who is anyone in TV goes! I emailed lots of the people I wanted to meet before the festival and though I didn’t have a huge response, the few that I did hear from were well worth the effort. One of those contacts recently helped me get a fantastic agent at ITG.
Back in London my Channel Four mentor Chloe Tucker encouraged me to keep going. To some extent getting work is a numbers game. No meeting is wasted either, even if it ends in a rejection it might lead to something further down the line. Being on the Back to Work scheme I felt I had something to tell people about rather than just asking for work. One of my meetings shortly after Edinburgh was with an executive producer I had known before my break and though she had no work at the time, she suggested I met with the producer on Call the Midwife.
In the autumn, I set about editing my short, What Happened to Evie. Post for shorts is tricky as you usually don’t have much money, so have to wait for people. In the end I edited the film myself, which I wouldn’t normally recommend but we had such a tight script that it wasn’t too bad. Finishing the film gave me something to show people and when I finally had the interview with Call the Midwife, I am sure this helped show I could direct actors. I also watched all the seasons of the show again. Several boxes of tissues later I met with the lovely producer and chatted about the programme. A few months later I was offered the finale of the next season. I can’t tell you how happy I felt.
Many of the contacts that I met through the Back to Work Scheme have been really helpful with advice and contacts, so, another plus for the scheme and great ongoing contacts for me. All in all, it’s been an incredible year, kicked off by getting on this fab scheme, and I hope just the start of lots of new journeys.