I’d had a 10 year break from TV writes Coordinator Zenna Barry. I’d worked in factual as a Coordinator but I’d always loved drama and originally wanted to work in film – so after an ex-colleague told me about the Media Parents website, I found that they were looking for coordinators on a ‘HETV Drama Back To Work Scheme’ funded by ScreenSkills which sounded perfect for me.
I’d never worked in drama production before and I was advised to get some work experience before applying, which I did. Michaela Eccleston, Head of Production at Red Productions was then kind enough to become my mentor, and throughout the scheme she has been on the end of a text or call whenever I’ve needed guidance and encouragement. We’ve also had face-to-face meetings at her offices which have really helped me understand drama production and carve out my plan for the future.
The scheme kicked off at the end of Feb, with CV and interview training and networking events in London that would re-align my mindset. Media Parents then set up a 4 week placement on ‘Curfew’ for me – a high end TV drama being shot at Space Studios for Tiger Aspect. The placement went well – even though it felt quite daunting to be back in the production office again. But my mind was focussed on learning and so I just got stuck in. Everyone looked so young and had already been working on the show for a few months and - I’m not going to lie to you – it was a challenging time, juggling childcare and new learning in a genre I haven’t worked in before – but I stayed cheerful throughout and made the most of my time there with the team – who were great with me:)
After the placement, reality hit home - it was now time to get a real job!!! In my past I had been a Coordinator/ PM mainly in factuals and live programming. But because I didn’t want to take this route again and with the large gap in my CV, my mentor advised me that I would have to go backwards before I could go forwards. This was sound advice as I felt that I really needed to understand the drama processes before I took on any kind of role of responsibility.
Media Parents contacted me and suggested I applied for a free Line Producers course run by Addie Orfila for the Indie Training Fund, also funded by ScreenSkills. What a great week in Media City – with seven other aspiring LPs, learning all about how to PM and Line Producer in drama, it really helped with my knowledge gap. I made some great contacts on the course which led to two weeks’ work on a children’s drama for the BBC – ‘The 4 O’Clock Club’. Again a lovely production team – learning on the job, locally filmed, enjoying the catering (!) and loving being back in production!
Courtesy of the Media Parents jobs page I then managed to secure 6 weeks work as an Assistant Coordinator on a Sky One comedy drama ‘Brassic’. With a 4-day handover, I was then left coordinating the show whilst the main coordinator was on holiday for 4 weeks! I loved every minute of it, again working with a great team. It was a tough job though, with long 12 hour days, which was tough on my family, but I was really starting to find my feet now and felt confident putting all that I had learned since the beginning of the year into practice.
ITV then got in touch and wanted me to interview for a Coordinator’s role on Emmerdale. The commute would be tricky – Manchester to Leeds everyday – but the role sounded ideal, spending much more time down on set and learning directly from the senior PM, so I decided to go for it. After the toughest interview of my life (1.5 hours on Skype with a panel of three from ITV) I was delighted to hear that I got the job – a permanent in-house contract for ITV drama – wow!! I’m so grateful and now well on my way to becoming a PM in drama which was my dream at the beginning of the year!! Thanks partly to the negotiating skills I honed on the Media Parents HETV Drama Return to Work Programme the contract at ITV can offer me some flexibility and the work/ life balance that I so desperately crave. To be there for my family in the evenings and at weekends whilst being part of a creative team – I’m so excited at what the future may bring!!
Thank you Media Parents for everything you have done for me this year – I will always be truly grateful for this scheme that helps parents like me get back into the game.