Written by Emer Gillespie
Being a mentee on the Women in Film and Television (UK) Mentoring Scheme in 2012 changed my life, and here’s why.
I’ve worked in this industry, first as an actor, then as a writer, since I was sixteen and I’ve had a fair bit of success along the way. Somehow, though, in the last few years I lost much of my confidence. Three children down and pouring my heart into good work, I felt very isolated. Focusing on the creative side, I had neglected the strategic. I hadn’t quite got round to a website and as far as networking was concerned, there always seemed to be something more important in my day.
So I applied to be one of twenty women to take part in the WFTV Mentoring Scheme. In being selected I gained a support network of great women from the same industry who are not my competitors, not my employers, but equals. These are women who care about what they do, women who are still hungry, women with great ideas and hard-earned skills, women with lively eyes, women who face difficulties because of the way the industry is structured. I learned to stop taking it all so personally. Men and women enter the industry in roughly equal numbers but we see a significant gender gap by the age of 35. Once we understand that work dries up for many of us, we can work out how best to prevent this from happening.
On the scheme, as well as the 6 1-to-1 hours with my mentor, I had to deliver an hour-long seminar to the other mentees on what it is I do. Amazingly this went well I learned so much from the seminars given by the other mentees. I gained new skills in time management and CV presentation, was asked to look at myself through fresh eyes and think of myself as a business. Instead of getting disheartened by rejection, I was encouraged to look at other routes, to work out whereabouts my skills can fit into the industry in ways that perhaps had never occurred to me.
Throughout all of this I was part of a group of peers and equals. The relationships we have forged on the WFTV Mentoring Scheme are unlike any others I have in my life: friends, but not friends who need to know domestic detail; colleagues, but supportive colleagues who offer advice and contacts.
And the people who run this scheme – Women in Film and Television (UK) - really want us to do well. That is such a great feeling. They are there to open us out and then take pride in our success. Even after it’s over there is still that sense of connection. My year took an upturn. I published a piece in The Sunday Times, won a script development award, published my first collection of poetry, The Instinct Against Death, dug out a play that has been in my drawer for years, Spinning Circles, which has now been chosen for a rehearsed reading by a new company in London, and a short I’ve written, Ada and Jim, is being directed, assistant directed, produced and lit by a team of fellow mentees. Who wouldn’t want to be a part of that?
To find out more about Women in Film and Television (UK) and the WFTV Mentoring Scheme, which is supported by EON Productions, Creative Skillset, Channel 4 and BBC Diversity, visit: www.wftv.org.uk