|Robin and Peagreen couldn't afford a Christmas tree this year so they had to make do with decorating the spider plant instead.|
It's a long running tradition on my mum's side of the family to include a neatly typed round up of the year that comes nicely folded inside Christmas cards and boasts about various achievements and holidays distant relatives have been on in the past 12 months. Every year I sit down to read what the family have been up to and every year I feel ashamed that I have no worthy achievements to smuggly declare to the rest of the world. The last time I went abroad was three years ago, I finished uni in 2008 and stayed in my uni town of Chester temping in mind numbing office jobs that refused to give me permanent employment and because of that I was slowly losing the will to live. All in all, my life was nothing to brag about and although I was constantly sending off job applications left right and centre it wasn't getting me anywhere and I was afraid that I would eventually lose sight of my dream and be one of those people that just give up trying and eventually become quite content moaning about how shit my life was without actually doing anything to change it.
This year has slightly more eventful however. Since moving to Salford at the very end of last year to pursue a career in the television industry, something that I've always wanted but had no realistic idea of how to go about obtaining one, I've had an exciting 12 months of personal achievements and I feel like I should shout them from the rooftops. So here it is, my round robin of 2012:
I was very excited to get a work experience placement at Red Production Company. I was there for two weeks and it was awesome, I learned so much about how a well established indie company works from a production point of view and I managed to get a day of floor running for a series of shorts they were shooting for BBC Learning. Plus, everyone who I worked with were all fantastic and lovely people. Red are based in Granada Studios and it was mind boggling to think that these amazing places (MediaCity too), which were like fairytale castles in the sky before I moved to Manchester, were now within walking distance from my little flat and have now become real places to me.
I started this blog because I felt bad about lying on my BBC Production Talent Pool application that I had a blog of this nature when I didn't. Two days after setting up Destination Telly Land I got the rejection email from the BBC but this blog is still going strong which surprises me more than anything from the whole of the year. I was always terrible at keeping a diary as a teenager. I'd have three or four day spats of half heartedly pouring my heart and soul out onto paper but only writing things that I thought I'd find funny or poignant in years to come (I found one of my diaries a few months ago and it hasn't stood the test of time) and then not bother for the next six months. However I've found that blogging about my career struggles and achievements has been rather enjoyable and therapeutic and a good source of bed time reading before an interview.
I worked as a street caster for Sing Date (it's on Sky Living) which involved me loitering outside the reject door of The X Factor auditions and persuading people who had just had their hopes and dreams dashed at the first hurdle to come and audition for this show instead...it was good fun even if most of the lads who I spoke to thought I was hitting on them (I obviously had to find out if they were single and looking for lurve before launching into my speech and some of them seemed to not understand that I wasn't on the hunt for a penis for the night). Aside from that it was quite amusing and a minor milestone in my career as it was my first paid job in the industry since moving to Manchester.
After going to a networking evening and getting business card envy I set about creating the best business cards ever. I ditched my cheapskate ways (I was brought up by a Scotsman, it was bound to rub off on me) and decided to invest time, effort and money on rebranding myself and this is what I came up with. Now people introduce me as: "this is Fiona, she has the most awesome business cards!" I also started to work a lot on Dickinson's Real Deal. I love working on that show, all the crew there are like one big happy family and it's just a lovely environment to work in.
I got asked out of the blue to work as a set dresser for a Hollyoaks promo which of course I said yes to. It turned out to be the most exciting and brilliant two days ever and would be, as Zac Effron and Vanessa Hudgens once sang, the start of something new. I had never worked in the art department before and although I have always been a rather crafty person, it has never been something I had thought about as a career until then. I spent two days running about in a wood, planting fake bluebells and poppies and putting up tents, flags and bunting everywhere. It was amazing and I had some great feedback from the rest of the art department. On top of that I had to register myself as self employed and create an invoice and everything which was highly exciting in itself and a little bit terrifying. It signified the start of a some sort of adult career, with responsibilities and hopes for the future...not just some mad pipe dream. Seven months later I still get excited about sending invoices to people.
In June I trundled down south to work at Whipsnade Zoo to work with the lovely guys at SGA Productions. They specialise in event management and they put on some amazing fantastical feats of wonder. I was working with them on a Shaun the Sheep related sports day type event that included silly costumes, sack races, sheep hoppers (they're like space hoppers but woolly), welly wangling, cuddly cabbages and giant sheep that you had to roll around an obstacle course. Plus I got to dance around to S Club 7 five times a day wearing a very sexy sheep hat with dangly ears. What's there not to love?
This was a hella exciting month for me. First up I went to Sheffield to volunteer at The Children's Media Conference. It was a fun packed four days of meeting people who were just as excited about children's television as I was, networking with people who otherwise would be completely unobtainable to speak to in the real world and much partying. I had the responsibility of ensuring everything ran smoothly in one of the show rooms, there were some really important speakers and a really tight schedule to work to. It was slightly daunting to start with but after the first session (there were nine altogether) I bloody loved it.
After that I went down to Bournemouth with the BBC Learning team to help out on Blue Peter's Big Olympic Tour...as in BLUE PETER...as in that blue ship thing I've got tattooed on my back. When I got that call I was literally over the moon. Blue Peter! Although it was for just one day and it was voluntary I didn't care, it is Blue Peter after all. It also turns out that the BBC Learning team are a huge bag of fun and it was a pleasure to work with them and experience what they do.
The other exciting thing I was involved in during July was Heston's Fantastical Food. I was there for the giant tea party in Darwen and I actually spent many hours the day before shooting sewing up a giant tea bag. It was all very exciting.
During August there were lots of Cbeebies and CBBC events to get involved with at MediaCity. From Justin's House Party on the Piazza to Sam and Mark's Sports Day (I may have mentioned to their face that I was on Pop Idol the same year as them singing songs from the Rocky Horror Show in my underwear). By far the best event that went on during the summer months was the Sing-a-long Cbeebies and the highlight of that has to be Rastamouse singing a song about how to pick your nose correctly! It was pretty cool.
I also got to work with the guys at SGA again for a couple of summer festivals this time a bit closer to home which was lovely.
September and October
September and October was mainly filled with running around in Herefordshire set designing, dressing, prop buying and having all of my cigarettes pinched by the 1st AD for a feature film called Here & Now. Initially I was taken on as a set dresser but during the recce I soon discovered I was to be a one man band art department and had two weeks to source and obtain the entire props list before 3 weeks of solid filming..no pressure then! It was crazy, manic, exhausting and a rather steep learning curve for someone who hadn't worked in the art department for very long but it was such good fun (despite the extreme weather), which was helped by the fact that the rest of the crew were absolutely amazing guys to work with.
In November I got my first ever onscreen TV credit. My little name scrolled up my television screen after Heston's Fantastical Foods and it was all rather exciting. I also signed up to BECTU, the trade union for the media and entertainment industries. Both of these things made me feel like I'm on my way to a real career or something. I also won an £800 bursary for some kind of training of my choice from a tombola which was quite exciting. I'm on the look out for some really good courses in set design or prop making so if anyone has any suggestions I'd love to hear about them.
I've just finished working as an audience manager for Applause Store down at MediaCity for a new quiz show called Britain's Brightest. It was a nice little side earner and it was good to experience another aspect of studio programme making.
All in all, I think I've had a fairly successful first year in Manchester, much more so than if I had stayed in Chester at any rate. I've met so many fantastic people along the way and have enjoyed and benefited from every part of my journey so far. Thanks to everyone who I've worked with and spoken to and had a couple of beverages with and to all those who have given me advice. It's been a blast so far and I'm very excited to find out what 2013 has in store.