Matt Gallagher: “Inspirational women at the helm will shape the future of our industry”
When I started writing Breaking into UK Film & TV Drama, I knew it needed lots of voices, not just my own, to make it truly invaluable for the readers: new entrants to the industry. So I turned to the most influential industry bodies and most talented freelancers in the business to ask them to write exclusive pieces of advice.
I sought out 50 individuals to bring their depth, range and experience to the pages of the book, doing what any good producer would: get the specialists in and trust them to deliver. (And they did.) They include industry executives such as Carola Ash, Director of Europe at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences; Amanda Berry, Chief Executive of BAFTA; Alison Small, Chief Executive of The Production Guild, and Dinah Caine, Chair of Creative Skillset’s Board of Directors. Joining them are producers Rebecca O’Brien (I, Daniel Blake) and Gillian Berrie (Under the Skin), director Amma Asante (A United Kingdom) and production heads such as Debbie Vertue (Sherlock) and Jacqui Taunton Fenton, Head of BBC Production Talent, Drama.
There are many more women in the book too; producers, script editors, production designers, script supervisors, costume designers, make-up designers, casting directors – all of whom share their unparalleled experience and advice in Chapter Four: Pearls of Wisdom.
As the pearls started to roll in, I was delighted to find the views and opinions echoed the mood, tone and content of the chapters I’d already written, which they hadn’t yet seen. While each contributor has their own unique take, they all share common themes, extolling the virtue of hard work, building contacts, be willing to start at the bottom (like everyone else), attitude, adaptability and persistence. There are also words of reassurance and empathy; it’s tough starting out and getting your foot in the door, and it’s OK to change your mind. One may think that they only want to be a director or writer when starting out, but there’s such an incredible range of skills and job roles required to make a film, from accountants to VFX artists, that, in the words of script supervisor Laurajane Miles (Gravity, Paddington, Wonder Woman), “There is a role for everyone in the film industry, if they want it enough.”
To say I’m honoured to have all these talented individuals involved in the book would be an understatement and, while I love all the contributions, I wanted to share a snippet of a particularly rich contribution from a familiar voice: Kate Kinninmont, CEO of WFTV:
“Lots of people do their jobs competently. You finish working with them and have nothing to complain about. Then there are people – at every level – who do their job superbly. They are efficient, cheerful, thoughtful, and collegiate. They think about the project, not just their own job – but they always do their own job first. They anticipate problems and have solutions to suggest. They don’t become huffy if their suggestions aren’t accepted. They smile, often make us laugh, and contribute to making the project as good as it can be. We like them. Those are the people we can’t wait to work with again. Whether you’re hoping to work as a runner or as a producer – or anything in between – you should aspire to be that indispensable colleague: the person with whom everyone wants to work.”
Kate goes on in more detail but this extract gives you a flavour of what you can expect in the book. I’m biased, of course, but I genuinely think that it’s absolutely essential reading for all new entrants and should be on the reading list at every film and TV university course in the UK. Because, like many people who work the industry, I get a lot of emails asking for help and advice, particularly from new entrants. While writing a lengthy response to one of these email queries in 2014, I thought an article on the subject might be useful to more than that single person. And if I was going to do that, then I might as well explain everything… Over the course of two years that article grew to a 300-plus page book, which covers every single aspect I could think of that would help a new entrant understand this unique and often baffling industry.
In Breaking into UK Film & TV Drama, I have presented an overall look at the size and shape of the industry, to help people find their way into it, but it’s the diverse range of contributors that gladly steal the show. With so many voices, and so much collective experience, their advice is, in turns, practical, supportive, cunning, empathetic and often blunt, but always inspirational.
The landscape of the business has changed since I started out myself, there are more women in senior decision-making roles now, but there’s still much work to do, as my friend Stephen Follows recently revealed in his report for Directors UK, Cut out of the Picture. However, the momentum for change is clearly building. Having inspirational women at the helm will undoubtedly speed up the process as we shape the future of our industry.