Another day, another docu-drama

Today I started my new job at Channel 5’s in-house production company: Elephant House Studios.

The last six months have been filled with all things Roman, as I worked from conception to delivery on the octuplet series Eight Days that Made Rome. It’ll be out by the end of this month on Channel 5, and I can safely say that the whole team is very proud of their brainchild. I’ve never worked on a project right until the end, so it was great to see how it evolved and developed through every stage of the edit – the down side being the mountains of post-production paperwork that go with delivering the final films.

But it’s a rather snuggly feeling, knowing that soon I’ll be curled up in front of the TV watching a series in which I feel so very involved. From knowing exactly where I was standing behind the camera, to seeing the baby photos of one of the contributors, I have been part of this series at every level. It’ll also be my very first on-screen credit!

And in the meantime, I’m starting all over again with a brand new docu-drama. This one will be more drama than doc, and may well lead my career further into dramatisations, but when I think back to all the theatre productions I produced and directed throughout school and university, maybe that’s not such a bad thing after all. I get a real thrill from seeing historical characters come alive on the screen, and I think there’s a lot to be said for education through entertainment. This feature-length docu-drama, however, is focussed on the Victorian era, so I’m out of my historical comfort zone and learning every day.

But this is what I love about working in telly. There’s rarely a chance to get bored. There’s always an exciting new project round the corner. Always more people to meet, more facts to learn, more skills to develop. Having put Eight Days that Made Rome safely to bed, I am very keen to get my teeth into this new challenge.

Another day, another docu-drama

A Weekend at BAFTA

Last weekend I had the pleasure of taking part in the BAFTA Guru Labs, a scheme run by BAFTA for new entrants to the media industries: TV, Games and Film. As well as granting us free access to the talks, lectures and workshops at BAFTA HQ in Piccadilly, they also organised networking and advice sessions for us with industry experts. It’s only the second year that they’ve run this scheme, but so far it’s been a roaring success – and I certainly got a lot out of it!

On the first evening we had a networking party, which was a great opportunity to make a few new friends. The attendees were mostly new industry entrants, like me, so it took the pressure off having to impress any potential employers! That happened first thing the next day – but the new friends I had made on the Friday night made the intimidating prospect of a 15 minute one-to-one session with a top Production Exec slightly less scary! As all the participants were in the same boat, at roughly the same industry level, it created a lovely supportive atmosphere for the whole event.

One of the highlights of the afternoon sessions was our Round Table discussions with top execs from the TV industry. Groups of about six of us got together and were able to talk and ask questions about our experiences working in TV, what we should be doing to progress and what to look out for. I was very encouraged by how friendly and supportive everyone was – TV can be a difficult, cut-throat, competitive industry, but there’s a sense of solidarity that comes from being aware that it’s like that for everyone!

By far the most useful piece of advice that I got from the weekend was this: as a freelancer, you need to treat yourself like a business. And like a business, that means you need to:

  • Go to events to promote yourself
  • Build your brand: create a consistent message and image across your social media platforms and your CV
  • Train yourself
  • Be strategic about building your reputation: this means building up your CV by taking jobs that form you into what you ultimately want to be

This is a great way of thinking about life in a freelance industry. YOU are the product – you want to tell your employers that they need YOUR skills, and no one else’s. But unlike a business, with separate departments to look after marketing, finances, strategy, training and research, you have to do all that yourself. No one said working in telly was easy!

A Weekend at BAFTA

London Life

I’ve realised I’ve got to this point in my blog and not actually written about what living in London is like! It’s a pretty key part of working in the TV industry (the only real alternative is Glasgow), so I thought I’d do a myth-busting blog about London.

London Myth London Truth
Everyone hurries everywhere Yep, pretty true actually. London operates at a much faster pace than anywhere else. I got so used to this that when I went back to Oxford to see my family, I pushed past everyone out of the station, went striding down the street…and then stopped. There was no one else around. No one to elbow out of my way. No one to tread on my feet as I tried to manoeuvre my overnight bag around a corner. And it was so QUIET!
The underground is scary and busy Well, yes, at rush hour and at weekends when all the tourists are out. But fortunately TV hours are 10am till 6pm, so you won’t see too much of rush hour. One thing to remember about the tube though: try not to make eye contact with a stranger. It’s weird. You may be squashed so close to someone’s armpit you can tell which type of Lynx they use (or not, as the case may be), but eye contact is still not okay.
It’s dangerous As with any city, you learn where to go and where not to go. Just make sure your house is secure and that you have contents insurance.
It’s expensive Yes, but it depends where you go. If you’re eating out in Covent Garden, it’ll be daylight robbery. But there are plenty of apps, Twitter accounts and websites that recommend free, nearly free, or cheap and cheerful places all around London. A few of my favourites are:

App: Secret London

Twitter Account: Townfish

Website: Atlas Obscura

If I’m meeting a friend in London, I always ask them to recommend somewhere or something, that way they’re helping me discover more of London, one coffee at a time!

The tube map is so complicated you’ll never learn it WRONG. Londoners take great delight in asking a friend where they live and then working out their route home via their internal tube map. Or they just ask Citymapper, the essential app for London travel. And once you get to know your internal tube map, you begin to understand all the London targeted tube advertising, which is mainly based on puns of underground stations.
The air is really polluted According to statistics, yes. And I have noticed the air to be dirtier than where I come from, rural Oxfordshire. That’s to be expected. But to combat that London is full of the most wonderful, well kept, luscious parks. You can come out of the dodgiest Lidl you’ve ever seen into a stunning 10 acre tree-lined park where tennis courts are filled with mixed doubles and personal trainers run their sessions at the free outdoor community gym.
Everyone is really rude There are a lot of people in London. You’ll get some rude ones, but you’ll get many, many more kind ones, generous ones, artistic ones, talented ones, humorous ones, clever ones.


But I think my all-time favourite thing about London is that there’s always something going on. The city never sleeps: there are community initiatives, comedy nights, plays, gigs, cool bars, museums, shops, clubs, swimming pools, sports clubs, all going on every day. If you’re bored or lonely in London, you’ve done it wrong.

London Life