“We need to do much better at keeping women in the work place.” Dorothy Byrne’s words at the Edinburgh TV Festival sum up my experiences exactly, writes Media Parents Back to Work Scheme winner, returning Director Candida Scott Knight.
After a ten-year break to raise a family and live overseas, over the past two years I’ve been working my way back to directing. As Byrne highlighted in her MacTaggart Lecture, doing better at keeping women in the workplace needs to be inclusive of course, not just when children come along, but “when the menopause does, too.” She made us laugh, but it was serious, calling us to account on many levels, and it was perfectly timed, as an introduction to the festival on this scheme.
Three days of panel discussions, talks and events, during the Fringe, the main themes were, accountability, care, inclusivity and diversity. It was political, funny at times, with plenty of opportunity to meet others and network, even in the queue for the Ladies.
One of the people I talked with was John McVay, CEO of Pact who confirmed “you bring more quality to the party now”, highlighting a problem in the industry that programme makers can be risk-averse. He recommended specific people who aren’t. Pat Younge at Sugar Films, suggested drama reconstruction in docs as a way in.
Louis Theroux discussed duty of care filming those with mental health, along with his “discomfort” at the way Jimmy Saville addressed paedophile rumours. Jerry Springer spoke of how “we’re all the same, we just look different” and need to get rid of this notion of the white middle class running TV. Equal Writes touched on the lack of confidence women can feel, begging the question of whether this is part of the gender equality issue. They asked “do agents need to be braver at signing up more female or BAME talent?” Yes! Saskia Schuster at ITV spoke of her 50:50 writer’s initiative. Talking to her after, it’s great to hear female directors are next up.
Masterclasses, on Capture, with director Ben Chanan and team discussed the extensive research done for this surveillance thriller. Top Boy, discussed mentoring initiatives across the board with half the actors, cast off the street, and if making programmes about drug and gang culture, glamourises it or lets us understand the extent of the problem.
All speakers were exposing something, reiterating Byrne’s “widespread disillusion” that is felt across the industry and beyond. But are people ready to each take responsibility to make the changes needed?
Being a part of the festival has reminded me of the talent and many years of experience I have. I felt included and seen and am walking away with a clearer view of the path back into TV, with plenty to follow up on. Perhaps most importantly, I’ve come away with more confidence and the knowing that there are many genuine people in the industry able and willing to support me, and others like me, to get back into doing what we love, and contributing to the industry.