Edinburgh International TV Festival: ‘The Network’ Recap
Four days, three hours sleep per night and a lifetime of knowledge and contacts in the TV industry. Yero recaps ‘The Network’.
I didn’t want to call myself an established writer when I hadn’t written anything for the screen.
Only a few months ago, I emailed my editor to ask if he could ‘possibly change the sentence in my contributor bio from screenwriter to an ‘aspiring screenwriter’ because I was applying to an entry-level TV talent scheme called ‘The Network’ (as part of The Guardian Edinburgh TV Festival). I didn’t want to call myself an established writer when I hadn’t written anything for the screen. Rightly so, he denied my request and sent me the link to this gem
Fast forward to August 2015, post-competitively gruelling interview process by The Network, and that has all changed. I’ve now written a script for two top notch actors, (under the guidance of head writers, producers, directors and executive producers from BBC drama), crewed on the shoot (of my own script) and got to sit in on the edit. All in the space of four days and it’s all down to ‘The Network’. It celebrated its 25th anniversary last week, and I can proudly call myself an alumni.
Upon arrival, we were immediately thrown into the world of TV. I got to have my CV spruced by the head of BBC Comedy, BBC Factual and BBC Drama. After a posh lunch, the delegates spent the rest of the afternoon learning about how to network. Taking part in a workshop about how to speak to your peers or even industry executives might sound strange, but learning about the proportion of small talk and big talk came handy, especially when bumping into people like Steven Moffatt
In such a cutthroat industry, it was extremely refreshing to hear about the power of perseverance, taking on jobs and the importance of friendship. Executive producer, Ben Winston told us about his first running job at Knowle West Media Centre, filming the hit TV show ‘Teachers’. He went from being a North London boy with no production experience to a producer on the show. He made friends with a hilarious person his own age called James Corden, and fifteen years later he is now moved to Los Angeles and is the executive producer of ‘The Late Late Show with James Corden’. Ben also reminded us that we should ‘be aware of that you’re not great at and make sure you work with people who are good at it’.
As part of ‘The Network’, we got to attend lectures and take part in intimate master classes with top industry people. Imagine spending a Wednesday morning asking channel controllers and commissioners how they aim to tackle the lack of diversity in commissioning. I would never have gotten this opportunity elsewhere. Jay Hunt, Chief Creative Officer of Channel 4 said that young people engage in more complex things; this allows Channel 4 to serve audiences that wouldn’t be served by any other channel. She also thanked all of those people who streamed ‘Empire’ illegally in the UK, forcing Channel 4 to acquire it. Go team, go.
Don’t try and copy other YouTube talent; although with integrity comes fewer views
In a masterclass with fellow Network alumni, comedian/viral video producer/content creator/extraordinary human being, Mawaan Rizwan – he urged content creators to keep hold of their originality, ‘don’t try and copy other YouTube talent; although with integrity comes fewer views’. I got to sit in the same room as Armando Iannucci as he delivered his remarkable Mactaggart lecture. This is the man that gave us ‘The Thick Of It’ and ‘Veep’. Thank you, Armando.
As part of my drama skills workshop, my fellow delegates and I had to pitch an episode idea to the ‘Holby City’ team – similar to any other writers’ room. Our ideas were merged together and we partnered up with a director. We had just one night to each write a scene to be edited in the morning before we went out and filmed it. Imagine our joy when we had the opening party that evening. As dedicated young professionals, we left just after 10pm and ended up scripting until the early hours of the morning. In the morning, two actors from ‘Holby City’, Chizzy Akudolu and Niamh Walsh flew in from London and script-edited with us at Screen Academy Scotland while our directors went on a recce. Each one of us crewed on the shoot. We had just five hours to film five scenes (with stressful curveballs included). We all pulled through and got to watch our episode with fellow delegates and mentors. It was an entirely collaborative process and I learnt so much in four days, it’s unreal.
Overall, ‘The Network’ was an invaluable experience for me and I’d be lying if I could summarise it in one article. Whether you’re in to producing entertainment shows or researching factual documentaries, I sincerely urge anyone who wants to work in the TV industry to apply next year. Not only have I made contacts, gained exposure, made life-long friends, but I’ve also started calling myself a writer. You have to put yourself out there, it’s a tough industry to crack, but ‘The Network’ was my first big industry break, and it can be yours too.
Details on how to apply to The Network 2016 will be available in January, so keep an eye out. Are you trying to get in to the TV industry or have you managed to bag your first entry level role, let us know — @rifemag
Check out Knowle West Media Centre where Ben Winston got his first big break in the TV, filming on ‘Teachers’.