“Inspired” feels too hackneyed an expression to describe how I feel following the Edinburgh TV Festival. I have fire in my belly, writes Entertainment Producer Jo Larmer after attending the festival on the Media Parents Back to Work Scheme courtesy of Endemol Shine as sponsors.
It’s quite a turnaround from how I felt as I packed my case to go. Filling out the application for the Media Parents’ Back To Work Scheme had been the easy part. And flattering as it was to have been selected for the scheme, the reality of leaving my children for three days and “networking” was stomach-churningly terrifying, if I’m honest. As I walked into the Festival itself on the morning of Day One, it’s no exaggeration to say that I felt like a total imposter, alone and full of self-doubt. What on earth was I thinking that I could return to my old, pre-children, pre-widowhood career?
But with #Diversity the buzz word of the Festival, and a coaching session from Media Parents, I soon began to feel not just that I deserved to be there, but that I still had something to contribute to the world of TV. My experiences of the past seven years since stepping away from Series Producing, far from dumbing me down, have enriched me, given me a new skew and a more worldly perspective on life; a better understanding of the kind of content viewers deserve to see.
It also wasn’t long until I started bumping into my ‘ghosts of TV past’ – people I had worked with ten or even 15 years ago. People I had had great working relationships with, but with whom I had simply lost touch. Reconnecting with them was a chance I’d never have had without attending the Festival, and each of them filled me with encouragement for my return to work.
Choosing which sessions to go to felt a bit of a minefield to begin with. I decided to head to all the ‘Meet The Controller’ interviews and fit in whatever I could around those. It turned out to be a good strategy as it gave me a quick overview reminder of what each of the main broadcasters is about, the kind of shows they aim to put out, and their culture from the top. But the most enlightening sessions I attended were two that I hadn’t originally anticipated going to – ‘Creatives vs Computers: Are You Smarter Than A Robot?’ and ‘Legendary Women Of TV Reveal All’.
The first, ‘Creatives vs Computers,’ was a kind of masterclass in development, with panel members from Ricochet, Shiver and TwoFour revealing their tips for coming up with new show ideas, admitting that their teams tried everything from sitting in silence, to walking in the park, to pulling random words out of a hat. But the key to a great development team is… yes you’ve guessed it… #Diversity! “You can’t all be Guardian readers with a First from Oxford,” said Shiver’s Ana de Moraes, “otherwise you all end up with the same ideas.”
‘Legendary Women Of TV Reveal All’ saw 1Xtra’s Dotty interviewing a panel of women who had blazed a trail through the TV landscape. And it is with the words of these women embedded in my heart, that I leave Edinburgh. “What advice would you give to your younger self?” asked Dotty.
“Believe in yourself. I look back at pictures now and realise I actually already was everything I wanted to be” said Arlene Phillips.
Selena Scott advised us to look out for the sisterhood: “Don’t be jealous. Don’t compete. Support other women.”
“Be the heroine of your life, not the victim,” Olivia Lichtenstein told us, borrowing a quote from Nora Ephron.
And Channel 4’s Dorothy Byrne urged us not to let our circumstances stand in our way: “People say – ‘if I hadn’t been a single parent I could have done so many things…’”
To see the full session go here : Edinburgh TV Festival : Legendary Women of TV
As I sit here writing this blog, being interrupted multiple times by various demands from my two little girls, I realise not only that I CAN do this, but I MUST do this for them – they need to know that if you work hard and refuse to give up, you can succeed in whatever is your passion. And TV is most definitely mine. Thank you Media Parents for reminding me.