Thursday, December 11, 2014

I MADE IT INTO TV: RTS

Dear gorgeous person you, 


So I've recently become a member of the Royal Television Society who organise some pretty cool events. Yesterday was an RTS Futures event called "I made it: On-Screen". To be honest, I was pretty reluctant to attend this because I've been to a lot of them. You get a panel who are big shots in TV, rocking up in their designer clothes and telling you in their very well spoken accents how there is a huge demand for new talent and how nobody cares if you film using your iphone, all you need to do is get in front of a camera and just talk and be yourself. They say things like oh don't worry about the quality of filming or editing, it's just your talent that matters.

So yesterday, I just thought well, what would it hurt? - I was already in Central London, had a very successful meeting with two fellow Chartered Physiotherapists, followed by an uplifting conversation with Veganuary about possibly working on a video series together - seeing as I'm becoming vegan (see my 22day Vegan Challenge Video here). It only took 20minutes to get to 44 Hallam street - the venue.

I didn't think I would recognise anyone but as soon as I got in, I saw some familiar faces - the beautiful Aida Fatemi, Ramraj Gogna and Ava Patel who currently works at KUDOS. Immediately, I felt welcome and was looking forward to the evening and I tell ya, it definitely did not disappoint.

The evening was hosted by Vernon Kay who is ridiculously tall and funny beyond funny! It was pretty obvious everyone on the panel wanted to be there and they genuinely wanted to give us advice. Not that they need any introduction but the presenters on the panel were Anna Richardson (Supersize Vs Superskinny, The Sex Education Show), Charlene White (ITV News), Sue Perkins (Mel & Sue, The Great British Bake Off) and Alex Brooker (The Paralympics Show, The Last Leg). Also on the panel was Holly Pye - Head of TV at James Grant - the agents who represent big shots like Ant & Dec, Davina, Chris Moyles & Fearne Cotton). Add Vernon to that mix and you definitely know we were in good hands. 

At one point, I looked around the room of what seemed to be about 70-80 people and I just 'took it all in'. I literally pinched myself (no joke) - I was in the same room as all these presenters I adored so much and to hear them speak so candidly about their experiences - they all had different stories to tell and approached their work in different ways. It certainly wasn't like any other 'talk' I had been too. Vernon Kay dug deep - he made sure we knew their individual journeys. I mean we saw some embarrassing clips of when they all first started presenting as well as some of their highlights. It was an absolute privilege.

Gosh it was lovely meeting Charlene. I saw her at the ITV CDN Awards (Read my blog about that here) when we were both dancing on the dance floor. I went off to take a picture with Warwick Davis and then before I knew it, she was gone! So it was lovely to take this beautiful pic with her. 

Charlene had a bit of an emotional moment at one point in the evening when she spoke about how proud her parents are of her, considering her parents are immigrants. I was sat in the second row and literally wanted to get up and give her a massive hug. Along with the rest of my family, I'm an immigrant too. I was born in Nigeria and lived there for the first 17years of my life. I was separated from mum for 8years  as she had to move to England to work. Life was tough as tough, she had no money, sometimes no food and had to look after my little brother who was always in and out of Great Ormond Street hospital with his terrible Asthma attacks. Life as an immigrant especially in England is no mean feat & its simply because of the amazing examples set by people like Charlene that give people like me hope, reminding me that the only limitation you face is the one you tell yourself. 

Like most ethnic minorities, myself included, Charlene has suffered racism and it was very interesting to hear how she not only dealt with it but what she's learnt from it. On occasions, people had written in to complain about a black woman presenting the news but Charlene understood why this would be strange to someone who lives in a remote village far up North. Diversity is currently a big thing in the media and TV people seem to be working really hard to correct that - hopefully it's not just a "phase".













Meeting Anna Richardson was a definite highlight. She is so warm, friendly and welcoming and oh my God, she is ridiculously pretty as fuck - those blue eyes - That is all I'm saying!!! She is currently signed to Arlington Enterprises - the same agent I was signed to up until a year ago. They also represent Kirstie & Phil (Location, Location) & Alan Titchmarsh. I remember being in Greece last year and getting the news that broke my heart - my agents had dumped me! I cried so much because I knew not only was I gonna miss out on having a lovely agent, I was also gonna miss out on having a lovely friend - Jennifer Waterman. She believed in me right from the beginning and signed me straight up, after just one meeting. I had been in the Arlington family for 18months but as much as Jen tried, we kept hitting a wall. I was a new presenter - no broadcaster knew me and no one was willing to give us a chance. Eventually, we had to part ways due to pressure from above. To get over the hurt, I had to constantly remind myself how much I had achieved before I met Arlington which was most probably the bulk of the reason why I got signed in the first place. 

I had single-handedly arranged meetings with Head of Depts at BBC3, pitched my documentary ideas to them myself (like whaaaa!), I had done my bloody research and on many occasions,  gone to work as an unpaid runner for respectable indies - making tea and doing photocopying etc. My sole purpose was making friends with the development team so as to get them to take on one of my ideas. It worked!!! Within two week of working at Mentorn Media, they snatched up one of my documentaries about my life as the daughter of a polygamist - we were given the go ahead by Zai Bennett - the then BBC Controller, now director of Sky Atlantic. Long story short, I wrote fantastic original ideas and with the help of my lovely agent, got to work with people like Chris Shaw - Editorial Director at ITN, Ian Lamarra and Paul Sommers (Co-founders of Alaska TV) and found myself as a 'special guest of honour' in places like The House of Lords - invited by Lord Erroll himself. Gosh - all the memories. If my former agent is reading this - I just wanna say - thanks for all your hard work Jen  - we were a team and a half. Right now for me though, it's onwards and upwards. Charlene White said she was dumped by 3 agents and has changed agents SIX times now. That gives me hope as right now as finding an agent is high on my priority list. 

Of all the people on the panel, I was most nervous about meeting Sue Perkins. I get worried about meeting funny people because I think they have such a way with words that I never know how to take them but I have to say - Sue is an AMAZING woman! I managed to ask a few questions to the panel during the event and told them all about my experience in media - agents, writing etc and just as Sue was leaving, we took this picture. She held my hand and literally said to me - "Don't you dare give up. You're doing all the right things, just keep going". She ignored the member of staff who at this point was hurrying her to get into her taxi and gave me a massive hug and proceeded to say to me how hard it was for her but look - she's done it.  By now, I was getting so emotional that the rest of it was a blur because in that split second, I realised she was really being genuine and really wished me well - it was my 'moment' with Sue and I cherished it so much. I hope I meet her again and have the opportunity to thank her properly. As soon as she left, I broke down & made sure no one saw me - wimp! :D


Speaking of diversity - it was absolutely amazing to see Alex Brooker- not just because of the obvious but also because as opposed to most people on the panel, Alex is relatively new to the industry. He is only a few years older than me and got his big break just two years ago when he entered Channel 4's Half a Million Quid Talent Search aimed at finding disabled talent to cover the 2012 summer Paralympic games. Since then, he's obviously gone on to do amazing shows like The Last Leg. It was very refreshing to hear Alex talk about the rejection and discrimination he faced, especially as these are all very recent. He told us about when one agent declined representing him because they thought he would struggle to get work once the Paralympics were over. Oh I bet now they're kicking themselves!

Okay I know what you're thinking and look, you don't even have to say - this is an absolutely terrible picture with Vernon Kay. I had one opportunity to take a picture with him and rather than being confident in my selfie abilities, I passed my camera onto this very lovely girl but undoubtedly not the greatest at photography so I'm now left with a wonky picture of Vernon Kay and I but hey - I'm gonna hold on to this with so much pride until I meet him again and take a better one. 

I have to say, as well as learning from the panel, I felt like I was in presenter class. Vernon is ever so the professional and oh my God, his style of questioning is amazing. I listened very attentively, not only to the questions themselves but also how and when he asked them to each member of the panel. I paid particular attention to the way he effortlessly formed relationships with the last answer given by a member of the panel to the next question he asked a different member of the panel. Call me a geek but this is what I live for - studying how to help tell a story through careful questioning.


So I guess in the end, after all that mingling, the girls and I had to take a cheeky selfie! Lovely to meet these lovely ladies.

Until next time,

Lots of love,
J
xo xo

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