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University Women In The Arts Part Three: Advice For Women Wanting To Work In The Arts From Anne Edyvean, Head Of BBC Writersroom

01/12/2016 16:05

Recently I was pleased to chair the third University Women in the Arts event, with Anne Edyvean, Head of BBC Writersroom.

Below are Anne's top tips for women wanting to work in the arts:

1. I quite often tell the story about how I came to the BBC. Because I was working in community theatre. Then I decided to become writer. I'd taken a part time job at a disability arts organization. I'd work part time, I'd write part time. The funding for that part time job fell through.Then the BBC advertised for directors who were used to working with writers and young people. I got the form sent. On the closing date my partner said to me, "Did you apply to the BBC?" and I went "They're not going to want me, I work in community arts". He said to me "That's very clever, Anne, its means you'll never work for the BBC and it will always be their fault". I was so outraged at this bit of cod psychology that I went "Right", filled in my form, put it on a bike - now, bear in mind, I lived in East London and I was on community theatre wages and that's a week wages, just to put it in context - and of course they gave me the job.

The reason I tell this story is because it's about self-sabotage. It's about the fact I wouldn't have applied. If I didn't think the BBC would employ me, then how many people think that and self-sabotage before you take that next step and actually see if they will? I think that's a useful lesson to pass on: don't tell yourself they don't want you. Because it's self-limiting. It's a self-fulfilling prophecy.

2. There are times to pick your fight and times to prioritise your own health and sanity and think the long game, think to the future and think "actually I'm going to let this one go".

3. Resilience is key. There are a lot of setbacks. The media is a really, really tough business and it's hard and it's competitive and there's a thousand people who will step into your shoes if you walk off.

4. You have to be positive. Don't get bitter. Nobody wants to work with anybody bitter. And we see it quite a lot.

5. I've been in the right place at the right time, but I've also been in the wrong place at the wrong time several times. Always appreciate your luck when you have it and appreciate the person who gave you that chance and made you that luck.

6. Work hard. Work really, really, really hard. I do. Most of the people I know who are successful work really hard. For example, if I'm going to an interview, I spend about a week preparing. I'll have notes, I'll have documents, I'll have researched it to the max. I go in with notes to make sure that I'm really prepped.

7. Be across everything. If you want to work in media, which is the bit I know about, watch all the British TV. If you want to work in drama, watch all the drama. Watch all the American dramas. Listen to radio drama. Go to the theatre. Watch comedy. Read Broadcast, read The Stage. Just be really across it because the competition you're against will be really on it.

8. Be nice to everybody. It sounds obvious, but be nice. It's an old myth that you have to throw your weight around to succeed. Be nice. Be decent. Treat people well. You know what they say. Be nice to people on the way up, you never know if you might need them on the way down. It's a business where everybody moves around, everybody's very fluid. You're always re-encountering people. Be a decent human being. And, contrary to belief, most people in the media are. There's a few who aren't and I avoid them. But mostly people are decent if you treat them well and just be nice.

9. I've got a lot more "let's not fly off the handle about this, let's just talk about it". Don't just be arsey on a whim. Take a breath, don't send that email.

10. Be prepared to work your way up. Don't be grand. Take whatever job is offered to get in. A lot of people start off doing research on shows like Holby, Casualty etc. Continuing Dramas are great places to get a start in the business. They have quite a regular turnover of people. Those continuing dramas - Doctors, EastEnders, Casualty, Holby - are also very good about promoting people and moving people up. So, take a researcher job, even if you feel you're way overqualified. Be really keen. Do it really well. And you'll move very fast into an assistant script editor job and then into a script editor job and they're very good at promoting script editors to producers. Just be very good at every stage that you do.

11. Lead by example. You can't expect people to be diligent about things if you're not diligent about things. If you haven't got integrity, you can't expect your team to have integrity. If you're not fair about the way you carry on, you can't expect your team to be fair. Show the behavior you would like people to show you.

12. I think kindness is an important virtue. Be kind to people, even if you are having to have a difficult conversation. Try and put yourself in their position. Think what it is they need to hear. Try and be clear but try not to have them walk out feeling like shit. I think kindness goes a long way.

13. Motherhood and the media is a tough mixture. And you have to make your choices and stick to them. Don't whinge. Make your deal with yourself, and your family, and your career. You can't actually have everything, but you can have great things from both worlds. It's a lot of effort, and exhausting, and sometimes you get it wrong. But I would not be without either part of my life. I suppose I'd like to see a mixed economy. So that there are some much more family friendly shoots and some you just accept are not.

14. At interviews, be bursting with ideas.


To hear about the rest of the 15 University Women in the Arts events which are free to attend and will be taking place over the next year, sign up to the mailing list at www.universitywomeninthearts.com

Advice from session one with Kate Rowland, founder of BBC Writersroom and the former Creative Director of New Writing at the BBC is available here: http://huff.to/2a1fQJQ

Advice from session two with Vicky Featherstone, Artistic Director of the Royal Court Theatre is available here: http://huff.to/2bUTt7q

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