Fact to Fiction

Fact to Fiction

How one production manager in factual TV got a job on a high end tv drama.

Many production crew members working in factual TV want to move across into the growing high end TV Drama sector. Many are unable to make that transition and are often left frustrated at the lack of opportunities, despite the High End TV Companies huge demand for capable production staff.

thecallsheet.co.uk posts lots of production jobs in High End TV Drama (HETV) and consequently receive lots of applications from factual production managers and coordinators keen to make that transition over to scripted.

Most job posts for HETV shows come with the stipulation that candidates “Must have experience in HETV”. Recruiters in HETV will, for the most part, automatically reject applications from factual crew seeking to move directly across as being unsuitable and unfamiliar with the environs of scripted production. It can be incredibly frustrating for both the recruiter (not getting applications that meet the criteria) and for the applicant (unable to even get an interview, despite years of experience in a parallel role).

It would appear on the surface that a production manager in factual TV would also be able to do the same job in drama, but it is not that straightforward. There are multiple differences in the execution of the role and the size and scale of the production. It takes time to understand the procedures, protocols (written and unwritten) and to understand and anticipate where problems might arise. Getting out in front of a problem is an essential part of production management. 

While it is difficult to move across from factual to fiction, it is not impossible. We spoke with one person who managed to make that transition. Here’s how it happened.

Nan Gourlay is a well known PM with over 20 years experience in factual TV, commercials and corporate films. Keen to move across into HETV, Nan began to explore her options in 2016 and signed up to a Movie Maker Scheduling & Budget course.

Nan was aware that despite her wealth of experience in factual, HETV productions would be unlikely to take her on as a PM, so she targeted job opportunities at production secretary level.

She applied for a job on a HETV production that was posted on thecallsheet.co.uk that indicated in the job post that it was open to receiving applications from factual production crew. That production was series 2 of Harlots, a show made by Alison Owen and Debra Hayward’s company, Monumental Pictures for Hulu (released on July 11th 2018).

Line Producer Rhian Griffiths met with Gourlay and wanted to offer her the job of production secretary.

Once that meeting had taken place, the production company tapped into Creative Skillset’s HETV Make A Move Fund. The application for funding was successful and this support meant that Gourlay, a single parent of 2 was able to take the job, which was away from home, and cover the necessary travel and childcare expenses.  

We asked Nan for her thoughts on the differences between factual and scripted, she said: “The biggest difference is the scale of the budget and the layers of communication. You have to get familiar working with scripts and learning about the processes”.

It’s not just production crew that can access the Make A Move funding, Nicky Ball of the HETV team at Creative Skillset explains: “Make a Move is a fantastic professional development scheme which supports and enables HETV productions to tap into funds to develop individuals which they identify who are ready and willing to step up or step across. Production is a great example of this and the Make a Move fund has also supported crew working across Costume, Make up, Art department, Accounts and Locations. Whilst the funding can cover salaries it also supports mentoring, attendance at short courses, childcare and travel as appropriate

After working on Harlots 2 as production secretary, Nan moved onto work on ‘The A List’ for the BBC, filming in her native Scotland.   She has now been offered a Production Manager role on series 2 of the Netflix teen drama series Free Rein produced by Lime Pictures, which she will go onto later in the summer. 

At thecallsheet, we have long held the view that even the most talented and organised factual PMs need a job or two to get familiar with the processes and procedures on scripted projects. A PM or PC in scripted is a central cog of the entire production and they can have huge ripple effects throughout the rest of the departments. It is better to learn the ropes with less responsibility, at a lower level, and then progress quickly back up the ranks.




For more information about the Make A Move fund for High End TV, see the Creative Skillset website:  http://creativeskillset.org/high_end_tv/make_a_move

Harlots 2 will be available to stream from July 11th on Hulu

To register with thecallsheet.co.uk, simply Log in or Sign Up