Q&A with Television Developer, Hollie Abbott

Meet Hollie

Hollie is multi-talented Assistant Producer currently working Development. Hollie is a trusted BFI Network and BAFTA Crew member as well as an avid telly watcher.

COULD YOU EXPLAIN YOUR JOB ROLE IN YOUR OWN WORDS?

My role is incredibly varied. The main focus is coming up with new and innovative TV programme ideas for a range of different channels. After coming up with an idea we think has legs the process then involves some or all of the following; shaping the idea (is it a format, an observational documentary series etc.), gaining access to the company or individuals at the centre of the story, coming up with a great title, writing up a treatment, shooting and editing taster tapes and then using these materials to pitch the programme or series to channel commissioners. 

HOW DID YOUR CAREER START OUT?

I actually trained as a dancer at University. TV and Film hadn’t really entered my head as a career option. In my final year, we were offered a wider selection of modules and I took screendance which was the first shooting and editing I had ever done. I further developed these skills and landed a job running my Uni’s student TV station, Fresh TV. I got my first proper TV gig as a runner on Obsessive Compulsive Cleaners after a friend recommended me to their production manager.

It was a bit of a baptism of fire, spending a week on location in a hoarder’s home but it was an incredible learning curve. I worked as a runner for a year on a mixture of programmes including The Undateables, BGT and some branded content before heading back for the next series of OCC where I was given my leg up to Junior Researcher.

HOW WOULD YOU ADVISE OTHERS TO GET INTO DEVELOPMENT?

I would recommend researching the companies that make the sort of TV or films you want to make and then approach their talent manager with a cover letter that shows you are engaged with their content. The scatter-gun approach rarely works and you may end up getting stuck doing development you don’t particularly enjoy or that inspires you.

WAS THERE A PARTICULAR CLIENT/JOB/FILM THAT WAS THE CATALYST FOR YOUR CAREER?

I have had a range of influences and support systems throughout my career- there are some really great organisations from the student media bodies to things like Go Think Big, the Youth Production Network, Creative Skillset and most recently, BAFTA and the BFI Network. I jumped on as many opportunities as possible, especially as I knew so little about the industry. The best catalyst for your career is always going to be you!

COULD YOU TELL US A BIT ABOUT YOUR LATEST PROJECTS?

I’ve just started my own Indie with a producer friend which is both terrifying and exciting! KAKAW Productions will focus on scripted and non-scripted TV & film content that promotes new and diverse talent (both on and off screen). We have already filmed a pilot episode of a scripted comedy and a taster for a music doc-series that we will start pitching to commissioners in the coming weeks.

WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO SOMEONE STARTING OUT IN THE FILM INDUSTRY?

Take advantage of all the opportunities you can, there are loads out there from new talent schemes (BAFTA Guru, Edinburgh TV festivals ‘The Network’) to networking events (Production Base do free monthly talks and networking events, Raindance also host regular events).

Don’t just copy and paste cover letters, tailor it specifically to the job and company you are applying to. It takes more time but it shows that you really want the role and it really does work!

Always look for opportunities to improve your skills and create content. I’ve made short films using just my phone on holidays or even just assembled bits and bobs of footage to music to keep my framing and editing up to scratch and also develop my understanding of producing stories.

WHAT IS IT THAT YOU LOVE ABOUT YOUR JOB? (IF YOU LOVE IT, OF COURSE!)

My job is awesome. Every day is completely different- I might be on location shooting at a wildlife hospital, at a channel pitching directly to commissioners, speaking to fascinating experts, sourcing cadavers for an autopsy series (yes really!), meeting talent to discuss new ideas, editing together found footage and of course…loads of creative brainstorming sessions.

DO YOU HAVE ANY TIPS YOU CAN GIVE SPECIFICALLY TO YOUR ROLE?

This may sound obvious but you would be surprised- watch films/TV! Programme and channel knowledge is like currency in development. My first conversation of the day is usually about what people watched the night before and what they thought of the programme. Become a content sponge. Whether that’s watching films, tv, youtube videos, podcasts, journals, books will all help inform your ideas.

WHAT’S THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE YOU FACE IN YOUR CAREER?

Securing a commission is always tough. For every hundred ideas you have, the odd one or two may land with a commissioner- if you are lucky! You get very used to handling rejection and developing a thick skin. It’s not for everyone. But, there really is no greater feeling than getting your idea commissioned or funding secured.

IF YOU COULD TELL YOURSELF ONE THING ABOUT YOUR CAREER TO YOUR YOUNGER SELF WHAT WOULD IT BE?

Probably that it will all work out ok in the end and to work on projects you enjoy. I was quite impatient to move up the ladder.  I think in doing so I may have missed out on a few fun shows. Entry level positions are great for trying out a range of genres and acting as a training ground whilst your responsibilities are low. I think I could have been a bit braver and taken more risky roles that may not have resulted in a step up but would have taught me a lot and been a good laugh. It’s all about balance and if you get it right, you will love your job at every stage of your career.

 

 

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