For Sama transmits on Channel 4 on Saturday 26th October at 9pm.
Read Back to Work Winner Laura Martin-Robinson’s blog from Edinburgh as she watched the film’s UK premier.
For Sama transmits on Channel 4 on Saturday 26th October at 9pm.
Read Back to Work Winner Laura Martin-Robinson’s blog from Edinburgh as she watched the film’s UK premier.
The night before Edinburgh TV Festival I found out someone in my family had been evicted from supported accommodation and was sleeping on the street, writes PD Laura Martin-Robinson. They’ve struggled with mental illness for years and it’s happened before – but it’s still terrifying and heartbreaking every time. So on Wednesday at 5am when I whispered goodbye to my sleeping kids and got the plane to Edinburgh for Media Parents Back to Work Scheme, facing the entire TV industry for the first time since I became a mum was the last thing I wanted to do.
I arrived at the venue and began with a Media Parents networking session with Amy Walker. As I introduced myself I started crying. I blamed it on crappy mascara. As soon as we finished, Amy sent encouraging messages, and we had been introduced over email to useful delegates so we set about meeting people and engaging with the TV Festival Sessions.
At The Making of a Mega Doc a clip from ‘For Sama’ was shown (For Sama transmits on Channel 4 on Saturday 26th October). Directed by Waad al-Kateaba, a Syrian woman, bombs are falling around her as she gives birth. Executive producer Nevine Mabro talked about why a war film from the perspective of a woman and mother was ground-breaking.
Next up 1-2-1’s with Donna Taberer, Head of BBC Talent and Clare Sillery, Head of BBC Documentaries organised through the Media Parents Back to Work Scheme. Both were encouraging and had suggestions about next steps. Donna told me about the Screenskills Series producer programme which sounded right up my street.
Dorothy Byrne was someone I didn’t know much about but by the end of her MacTaggart Lecture I’d fallen in love. She was powerful, commanding and hilarious. Taking on diversity, bastard bosses and political leaders refusing to engage with the press she said. “In evil regimes the first thing they do is arrest or kill the journalists…what’s happening here is they are trying to ignore us”.
Day 2 Duty of Care. Jeff Brazier – Jade Goody’s ex-partner – was a great choice for the panel but it was disappointing there were no casting APs talking about the pressure from the top to ‘cast good characters’.
At the evening drinks I chatted to the talent scheme delegates. I was impressed by how much more representative this new generation of TV felt in comparison to when I started out. 29 out of 30 of the Ones to Watch scheme were women.
Day 3 Edinburgh does the Call Centre was surprisingly moving. Sexual harassment, mental health and industry culture was discussed. Fatima Salaria was honest and brave, talking about the toll work had taken and the importance of female networks.
It had been a tough start to the festival but hearing the voice of these senior women in my industry who’d been through their own crises and still making amazing work I felt braver and stronger.
Being a woman, a mother and having other caring responsibilities (as women often do) can take over and stretch women to their limits. And freelance TV culture can be a punishing place to be stretched. We end up losing so many of these female voices, especially at the top.
After the festival Dorothy Byrne tweeted about the messages thanking her for speaking up about women’s issues. I was one of them, Media Parents another. While I know there’s still a long way to go before our industry becomes more equal – I felt like the conversations in Edinburgh were an empowering start.
Laura is kindly being mentored by BBC Commissioning Editor for Documentaries, Emma Loach. Follow her progress here. Huge thanks to Hat Trick who supported Laura’s trip to Edinburgh on the Media Parents Back to Work Scheme this year, and for the support from the TV Foundation, which runs The Edinburgh TV Festival.
We are delighted to announce that Kim Shillinglaw will be mentoring returning Casting Producer Joanna Gretton on the Media Parents Back to Work Scheme. Joanna first saw Kim via the Media Parents Back to Work Scheme at Edinburgh TV Festival, we are grateful to Kim and Endemol Shine for their continued support for the scheme. Follow Joanna’s progress on this blog.
Kim Shillinglaw became Director of Factual at Endemol Shine in September 2016. She is the strategic lead for factual programming across the group, and has led the growth of production companies Dragonfly, Dragonfly West, DSP, Tigress and Workerbee, producers of award winning programmes for C4, BBC, ITV, Netflix, Quibi, National Geographic and many others.
Prior to joining Endemol Shine, Kim was Controller of BBC Two and BBC Four responsible for bringing younger audiences and a more contemporary flavour to the channels with shows like the award winning Muslims Like Us, Real Marigold Hotel, Exodus, Hospital, Employable Me, Inside The Factory, American Crime Story and The Super Rich Season as well as other acclaimed shows such as Mum, Wolf Hall, and Charles III.
Previously, Kim was in commissioning for many years. As Head of Commissioning for Science and Natural History she significantly increased the number of hours and her output was acclaimed as ‘a golden age for science on television’, with shows including Stargazing Live, Trust Me I’m A Doctor and The Young Ones, dramas such as the RTS-winning Challenger, the BAFTA-winning Frozen Planet, Wonders of the Solar System and Planet Earth II. She also commissioned the acclaimed Blue Planet II. Prior to this Kim was an Entertainment Commissioner at CBBC, where she created the first series of multi award winning comedy Horrible Histories, and worked as a programme maker in documentaries and current affairs.
She is a trustee of Raspberry PI and former trustee of Nesta, and has served on committees and panels for DCMS, the Royal Society, BBC, Science Museum and many others.
Joanna has been working with Media Parents for three years, helping other talent find gigs and return to TV so now it’s her time. Prior to working for Media Parents Joanna was a PD and caster on documentaries and cast celebrities for royal obituaries. Thanks to Media Parents’ Flexible Working Event Joanna has met one job share partner and is looking for more potential job shares as she makes her way back into part time work. Raw TV supported Joanna’s Edinburgh Festival trip, and Endemol Shine will support her mentoring.
Huge thanks to Hat Trick and Raw for making the Media Parents Back to Work Scheme possible this year, and for the support from the TV Foundation, which runs The Edinburgh TV Festival.
Contact Joanna Gretton here: Casting Producer Joanna Gretton
At Media Parents’ recent Back to Work Drinks, SP / Exec Jonathan Schütz shared that he had recently worked from home on a Nat Geo production. Here he explains how…
Four times a week I haul myself out of bed at stupid-o’clock to get my 3-year-old son up, wash him, give him his banana and get him to nursery, writes SP Jonathan Schütz. And then at 5pm repeat in reverse. So does it make sense to be working somewhere across London, with around 3 hours commute, allowing a maximum 6-hour working day?
I’m an experienced specialist factual series producer and EP, and a series of accidents has led me to making most of my programmes these days in/about/for East and South East Asia. Square that commute with the nursery run!
Fortunately, over the winter, I had the opportunity to work in a different way. Nat Geo Asia offered me a reversioning job: turn a made-in-China 6 x 30’ series about a holy mountain into an international standard 2 x 1hr. It didn’t hurt that I’ve actually been to that very mountain!
So how to do this in an efficient, affordable way? The answer was black boxes. I bought a load of black boxes. One was a new computer, with a whizzy video card. Another was a server, another a NAS, a network switch, a UPS. And a big new monitor. Set it all up in the spare bedroom, install Resolve (free!) and lo and behold, an edit suite!
With 13TB of material spread across 16,500 clips, and all the labelling in Chinese, it took a month of sorting to get on top of it all. After that, I engaged a script-writer (me) and an offline editor (me), a PM (me), and a Taiwanese AP (not me) to help with translations and communications. And then everything proceeded as normal, just with snail’s-pace approval times as the Chinese production company (and various government departments) also had a say.
This back-bedroom production set-up’s not for the faint-hearted. If anything goes wrong, you’re on your own. So I backed up everything, all the time. Onto the server. Onto local drives. Onto a remote server, and then another remote back-up server. If my house burnt down and the server centre blew up, this project would still be standing.
But the joy was that I could set my own hours. Start after nursery drop-off? Easy. Put in an extra hour after bath-and-story-time? No problem. A couple of snatched hours over the weekend? Why not? Mid-day nap with my face on the keyboard? OK, then.
That said, I could do many things in that bedroom, but finishing wasn’t one of them. So that all got done by people who know what they’re doing (thanks, Clear Cut!).
Now the series is waiting for Nat Geo’s legal department to finish doing its stuff. In the not-too-distant future, the world will get to see Laoshan, China’s Holy Mountain. If you spot it, tune in – and see what you can get done in the back room while your offspring snores next door!
Edinburgh TV Festival was 72 hours not to be forgotten, with so many broadcasting bosses and talent under one roof, it was going to be a thought-provoking few days writes Media Parents Back to Work Winner, Casting Producer, Joanna Gretton. Joanna was kindly sponsored at Edinburgh by Raw TV.
My bags were packed, I waved farewell to the kids and embarked on a journey into the unknown – the 44th Edinburgh TV Festival. I felt excited if not slightly daunted about whether the industry had changed, there were questions that I wondered whether I’d find the answer to. Which production companies be open to part time casting producer job share roles? Who would I be able to secure meetings with and was I going to make meaningful connections to follow up?
I was instantly reassured. On arrival I had a warm welcome from Sarah Murch, MD of the award winning regional Indie, Blakeway North, a long-time Media Parents supporter. Encouraging me to get in contact with my CV, she said she would be happy to share her London factual contacts book. It felt like I was moving in the right direction.
Memorable moments were meeting Oscar winner Simon Chinn, producer of ‘Untouchable’, a film about Harvey Weinstein, and Dan Reed Director of ‘Leaving Neverland’. The first lecture I attended, “Making of a Mega Doc” was a lively discussion on the impact of Netflix and the competition it had created.
Dorothy Byrne, Head of News and Current Affairs at CH4 brought the house down delivering her hugely insightful MacTaggart Lecture. I implore you to watch it back on You Tube. Speaking out she used the lecture to brandish our politicians for being liars.
Thanks must go to Pat Younge, MD at Sugar Films, who was warm and encouraging. As a boss he said that Indies now wanted to employ people who had come back after a career break as they were keen to have a ‘safe pair of hands’ on board, someone who could get the job done. I felt reassured that my 15 years of telly experience was going to count and put me back on the career path I once adored.
Another hot bed for discussion was during the Steve Hewlett Debate: Duty of Care. Many questions were asked about who has responsibility when the cameras stop filming? There was a strong panel line up, including amongst others the reality TV star Jeff Brazier. It was an eye opener to hear his first hand experiences. The new incoming OFCOM rules proposed to protect vulnerable TV participants meant that it could reduce diversity on screen, saying “A Jade would never be given that opportunity again”. It made me realise that as a programme maker, one should always care deeply about people voices being heard, but raised the question of how does one protect the contributors after the show has TX’d (e.g. on social media). This this was a conversation that did not have a clear answer.
I can honestly say that my first experience of the Festival has certainly given me an insight back into the telly world, thank you to Raw for sponsoring me on this insightful journey via the Media Parents Back to Work Scheme. For me, it has opened up the world of TV again – there are P/T casting producer job-share roles, I just need to look for them, and having met a jobshare partner via the Media Parents Job Share event there is nothing holding me back. The networking circuit at the Festival also presented me with many opportunities to meet the right people and I will be following up in coming weeks and months. I would also be keen to hear from other potential casting job share partners.
We are delighted to announce Media Parents Back to Work Drinks to celebrate our five Media Parents Back to Work Scheme Winners this year. It is a brilliant opportunity to cheer our winners back into work, whilst meeting experienced industry talent and employers. Kindly hosted by ENVY Post Production, the drinks will be sponsored by S+O Media. To sign up to the guestlist please see the link on our watercooler at www.mediaparents.co.uk.
S+O Media is a west London based television facilities company that has been providing equipment as well as crew to the broadcast industry for over fifteen years.
As co-owners, (Olly Wiggins and Stephanie Keelan), have used their experience in the fields of camera work and production to provide a bespoke service to clients that ensures understanding of the shooting process from beginning to end, and where S+O sits within it.
S+O’s passion for the industry and the technology that drives it, has seen the company grow from a small team to an organisation that employs twenty two staff and many more specialist freelance technicians.
Many S+O crew began their careers in-house at S+O, and due to the extensive training they receive, the company is confident in their ability to deliver on set.
S+O hire to a broad range of high profile media clients working on a variety of programming as well as commercials, promos and branded content. From single camera PSC, multi camera recording, fixed rig and self shooting kits, the company can supply and service all our clients’ needs. S+O specialise in Super 35mm and full frame sensor cameras shooting in formats up to 8K. They also provide sound, lights and grip equipment.
Having raised their own children while working in the industry, Steph and Olly are proud to be able to support Media Parents.
“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.
My first job was as an art department assistant on a drama and then as work experience at TFI Friday writes returning PC and Media Parents Back to Work Scheme Winner Kirsti Davidson.
I managed to get a job at Television Centre Studios where I had the opportunity to work on a number of productions and in a variety of positions from Production Secretary, Production Coordinator and Assistant Producer in both Sport and Entertainment. I have experience of live OBs, live studio, pre recorded studio shows and filming on location and worked on shows such as TFI Friday, Sports Personality, Grandstand, Sport Relief, Auntie’s Bloomers and Parkinson.
After 10 years, I I took a break to have a family. It was extremely difficult to get production work that fitted with family life, there was no such thing as flexible working or part time hours and I saw colleagues really struggling with employers and teams when they had to leave suddenly due to a child being poorly or picking up from nursery. It just looked so stressful, so after a few false starts I forged a new career as an illustrator where I could work from home – it was creative and I picked up some great transferable skills; including time management, adobe creative suite, patience, negotiation skills, being calm under deadline pressures and communication skills.
Now my children are older and I am able to work longer hours and travel, I’d really like to work back in production again and be part of a team. Having been out of the industry for several years, I’m happy to work my way up from PC and am looking at courses to brush up on my production skills. I am grateful to Raw TV for the opportunity to be mentored by one of their team.
We’re delighted to announce the Winners of this year’s Media Parents Back to Work Scheme, sponsored by Raw TV and Hat Trick Productions. Thank you to everyone who applied, it was an exceptional line-up this year and we look forward to having a drink with all applicants, sponsors, alumni and supporters at our Back to Work Drinks on September 25th (see watercooler for details).
Something unusual happened this year, in that we opened up applications to people who were unable to attend the Edinburgh TV Festival as well as those that were. And our sponsors chose people who were not able to attend, in addition to people who could. For a company that promotes job sharing this is an ideal result, meaning we have five people on the scheme this year, from Wales and Brighton as well as London. Here they are – if you would like to meet Laura, Joanna and Candida at the festival please drop us a line via the site or @mediaparents on twitter.
JPM Jess Farrow returned from mat leave in Feb 2019 and felt pushed out of the industry because she could not find flexible work. She took a flexible job in events before picking up a flexible post PM contract. She is using the scheme and support from Hat Trick to try to find flexible PC or JPM work, and to try to retain her JPM status rather than seeing her career go backwards after having a child.
After 10 years in TV as an AP Kirsti took a break to have a family and subsequently found it was extremely difficult to get production work that fitted with family life. So after a few false starts she forged a new career as an illustrator where she could work from home. Now Kirsti’s children are older and she is able to work longer hours and travel, it’s become clear to her that illustration is more of a hobby than a career, and she misses working in production and being part of a team. After 12 years out Kirsti is planning to retrain and re-enter the industry as a Production Coordinator, supported by Raw TV.
On the face of it Laura has it all – two BAFTAs and a great relationship with a production company ie ie productions (pronounced yeah yeah) that enables her to work flexibly. But she has three kids, and working part time on Welsh regional productions barely covers her childcare costs. She wants her career to be self-sufficient, full time and has network ambitions.
Since working at Channel 4 and directing Hollyoaks, award-winning short film director Candida has raised a family and moved to L.A. and back. For the past two years she has been building her skills and her intention is to work her way back up to directing drama again.
Joanna has been working with Media Parents for three years, helping other talent find gigs and return to TV so now it’s her time. Prior to working for Media Parents Joanna was a PD, and caster on documentaries and cast celebrities for royal obituaries. Thanks to Media Parents Flexible Working Event Joanna has met one job share partner and is looking for more potential job shares as she makes her way back into part time work.
Huge thanks to Hat Trick and Raw for making the Media Parents Back to Work Scheme possible this year, and for the support from the TV Foundation, which runs The Edinburgh TV Festival. Thanks once again to everyone who applied – if you didn’t win a place this time don’t give up – TV needs you. Join us at our Back to Work Drinks on September 25th at ENVY, see the watercooler for details.
With my work experience as a director in drama on short films, Hollyoaks and a further 7 years directing shorter form, after raising a family and living overseas, returning to the UK, I’m absolutely ready to re-start my career in TV again writes Returning Director Candida Scott-Knight. Candida will be attending Edinburgh TV Festival this week as part of the Media Parents Back to Work Scheme, supported by Media Parents.
I realise I may not be be handed the keys to direct immediately, although like learning to ride a bicycle I’m ready and know how to. So whilst I work towards directing, I’m open to looking at all positions and transferring my directing skills to other jobs within the industry so I can step back to full time work again and bring all of me to it.