It’s been a busy old…

…12 months at Share My Telly Job..

2018 started off with a bang – organising the flexible working event which we hosted in May.  I’m delighted to report that we’ve (finally!) cut together a ‘best bits’ from the evening so we can share some of the wonderfully insightful and inspiring talks from our excellent panel very soon!

It’s taken this long to get the event film together because I’ve been job-sharing ever since then. With job-shares, lots of exciting SMTJ plans in the pipeline and two bonkers kids to balance, I was left with about 28 minutes per week to dedicate to editing!

I’ve finished for a while now and thought it would be a good idea to share what I’ve learned over the past 9 months. In 2018 I did five separate and very different telly job shares. All were edit producer roles, but on very different shows and the majority of them were on new formats. I shared in situations we would have previously advised against and learned a lot about best practice, all of which I wanted to share here in this mega-blog.

We want employers and freelancers to know just how easy it is to implement and how successful it can be and, as we’ve said many time before, how it’s the best solution for creating part-time jobs in telly..so, grab yourself a cuppa and get comfy – there’s a lot to talk about!

JOB SHARE 1 Game Show Pilot for a US Channel

An old Exec I’d worked with years ago (who’s now the Head of Entertainment) got in touch with me and asked if I’d be up for sharing with their Head of Development, cutting a pilot for a quiz show they were making for a US channel. I didn’t know the person I’d be sharing with, so this went against my own ‘tips’ on how to go about job sharing, but I’d been offered a job share on a fun show so I snapped his hand off..immediately!

In brief it just worked very well. My job sharing Exec had spent 2 years on the development of this show so it was very much her baby and I knew I’d be there to plough through the work and let her lead it.

We saw each other from time to time but mainly handed over via email. I did 3 days a week and she did 2. At first we had two suites going but that didn’t raise any issues.

Communication, as always is the major thing. Handovers were straight forward but I’d always double check any points which seemed a little grey so I knew that I’d be handing over exactly what was expected. We both churned through notes from the channel and met all of the deadlines. My job sharing show creator knew exactly what she wanted and I carried out those requests – it was that simple!

What this job did reinforce is that sharers ideally need to be of equal seniority and experience. When one is more senior it’s difficult for the other person to make decisions and implement them, which can be quite stressful. Not impossible, but probably not ideal in the long term.

Another issue which was reinforced is that Editors must also be on board from the start. The seniority mis-match made it difficult for the editor on this one so I would say that it’s a very good idea for the 3 of you to talk about how it will work – that would have helped a lot in this situation. If you foresee any grey areas – address them at the start, don’t be afraid to speak up as it’ll inevitably come back to bite you on the bottom!

This was a nerve wracking job for me as it was the first time back in a big edit since my daughter was born (3.5 years earlier). It was an unusual set-up but it was great to be given the chance to work part-time. Within a week I felt like I’d got my editing mojo back and I felt 10 times more confident going in to my next job. I am really, really grateful for the chance to get that first EP credit back on my CV and to find my feet again..that first job back after a big break is tough but that’s all you need, then you’re off.

It’s not the skills you lose after a break but the confidence and that comes back quickly once you’re given that chance

 

JOB SHARE 2 brand new entertainment format for itv

Again, this was against our own advice where we’d said job shares may be better suited to long running formats. I take that statement back, we’ve totally busted that myth.

I LOVED this job. Firstly, I got to share with a great mate who I’d been hoping to share with for ages! It brings a new level of confidence and calm when you go in to a big job like this with a trusted pal.

We’d landed the job after she had been approached by the Exec (who she already knew). We sent over both our CVs and promised to make it work. And we did! We explained that we’d divide the week up and that she didn’t need to worry about any of the details. The PM sent out 2 contracts, agreed the same rate for each (we just invoice per day), then set up two of us to the system rather than one.

If we needed to change days or work out viewing schedules, we always did that between us. We did this for all of our jobs last year – this is the detail you can keep between yourselves. Both of us were copied in to all emails so we were able to pick up where the other one left off and nobody doubled up on work or admin. We always offered one late night each per week each too so we were able to commit to those extra hours when needed. Any more than 2 late nights needs to be discussed!

For most of this job I did 3 days and my partner did 2 but she also covered me for 2 weeks full-time when I went on pre-planned holiday mid-contract!  You can’t do that when you’re on your own!

This has been an unexpected bonus when it comes to job sharing. The flexibility allows you to take time off for school and nursery commitments/holidays/sick kids etc. If you work that out between you, you can cover any absences with a lot less stress. I’ve had to pass up many jobs throughout my career because I’d book a holiday or I had a wedding to go to, as I’m sure we all have.

This was a beast of a show with mountains of rushes to tackle. It helped as the show was broken down in to 3 parts so we each had stand-alone stories to work on which meant no hand-overs to begin with!

We sync pulled our own stories and followed the same filing system on Avid so we could easily find anything we were looking for. When we did need to look through each other’s pulls, they were in manageable lengths and easy to watch quickly so viewing rushes isn’t a problem in a job share – especially when they are logged. (always ask for logs!)

We’d make very detailed notes during viewings and email these across as soon as the viewing was done – we were always on top of changes and notes, even when it wasn’t our ‘work’ day. 

We managed to stay ahead on this show too, there is always the need when you’re sharing to finish at a ‘good’ point to handover in the week so we found ourselves working like maniacs to finish a story or handover with ‘all’ of the music in or we’d finish ALL of the notes before we handed over – this is why pairs are so efficient – we work, really, really hard, all of the time as you never want to let your job sharer down.

There was always a lot of work to do on this show, the format changed throughout and we left it unfinished but in good shape with a happy commissioner. Nobody felt any difference having two of us on this episode – the editor enjoyed it as his week went quickly and we never felt any different to any other suite. Here’s a note from the exec, Clair Breen:

“The job sharers did a fantastic job.  I did have some initial reservations about how the handover process might work and if it would slow things down/send things backwards in the edit, but they were both total grown-ups, independently keeping each other informed and staying on top of the work load, notes and delivering for viewings.”

JOB SHARE 3 edit producing – x factor

I left my job sharing pal on this one and was paired with a friend of a friend who I’ve not actually seen for about 5 years (I still haven’t! When you’re sharing you are passing ships so rarely see one another). Another one of our myths busted – a job shared perfectly well with someone I’d never actually worked with before – The Series Producer put us together, knew we could do the job and it worked seamlessly – again!

The beauty of X-Factor is that you’re working on fast turnaround parts which change day to day so we rarely had anything to hand over. I did 2 days a week on this so I’d usually be picking up a part post Exec notes or I would start on something new. The handover was a phone call the night before or a text saying ‘nothing to hand over’.

I absolutely loved working on X-Factor. We worked with 3 different editors, all who were very supportive of the job share which is a massive help. Because parts would need to be finished quickly, it did feel that, even in the short time I was there, there was some ownership over what you were working on. There weren’t many late nights either – the team were super and totally supporting of job sharing and all things flexible, the job was fun and it felt like the show could handle all variations of flexible working.

There was another job sharing pair on this series and one of the parents could leave at 5 to do the small person pick up. The edit was set up really well so if there was any outstanding work, parts were passed around suites with ease. This meant in extreme times, when you can’t stay late but there is still work to be done, there were plenty of other suites on hand to finish.  On the days I worked late I would have no objections to picking up work from other suites and Senior members of the team, who were always the last ones out of the edit, were on hand to pick up work too.

I’ve talked about this set-up a lot as I feel like it is a great way of making more programs parent friendly. BUT, I am often met with the thought of “do other people not get annoyed that they have to stay late and finish other people’s work?”

It’s a fair point but what I would say to counter that is that usually, as a job sharer, I would be in earlier than most people, I never took a lunch and worked my socks off every day to get through the work so I could leave early. I would, if I needed to, pick up some work at home too.

Leaving work early to collect children isn’t ‘easy’, it’s really quite stressful. You’re rushing to nursery powered by anxiety, followed by the food, bath & bed saga. You continue to work when they’re asleep then go to bed late usually soothed by your parental guilt to be woken at 5am the next day and start that all again. The occasional late night in the edit for me is actually a great break from life!

JOB SHARE 4 brand new constructed reality series

I was back with my partner in crime for this one who’d lined this up for us both. It’s worth mentioning, that when a job comes your way, what we did is just tell the SP/Exec that we’d like to share it – we explained that we sort the week out between us, we have comprehensive handovers and we really are just ‘one-person’, we sent both CV’s (which have been re-formatted to look the same!). This worked every time. I think if one of you has a relationship with that person then they can pretty much trust that you aren’t going to partner yourself with somebody who can’t do the job!

So, this was another new format – constructed reality, something I’d never done so I was excited about this one! We tried a different set up on this one, we flip-flopped 2/3 days so each week we’d alternate the Wednesday – it gave us a bit of time off to catch up on life every fortnight and worked a treat. It really doesn’t matter how you plan your week until it comes to viewings. There were occasions where we would change days (only when possible) if one of us had worked on the majority of the notes for a channel viewing or something similar – this didn’t happen often but it is always good to have that flexibility.

The TX date of these eps were very close so a lot of the time was spent working on other episodes and helping out other suites which is a great set-up for a job share – our ability to dip in and out of jobs day by day is getting pretty brilliant! We were given our own ep which was brilliant – we flew through that and then went on to help other suites cut their shows. It was a great team and we both thoroughly enjoyed working on it.

It was a tough job as there was an awful lot of work to get through (isn’t there always?!). Because we were working to a tight TX deadline, there was a lot of chopping and changing between episodes and editors which did add an extra layer of pressure to the job. What I’ve taken away from this job is to be very mindful of edit schedules and to take a lot more notice of them in the future. A quick turnaround means a lot of fast paced work, a lot of changing between suites, editors and episodes and a lot of pressure in the edit.

I do think we made history on this show by being the first job sharing Edit Producers to be paired with job sharing Editors. We were slightly concerned about the amount of handing over that would happen in those two weeks as we all worked on different days but it was brilliant. Special shout out to Lucy Palmer, our Series Editor for being so pro-job sharing and not questioning this mega partnership!

It helped that the job sharing editors were beyond brilliant and hand on heart, those two weeks of a job share – job share combo were some of the most fun and most productive I’ve ever had in an edit. Without doubt this was down to Penny & Sarah being absolutely superb editors!

It is very easy to write about this show and say it went brilliantly and all was great but it is worth mentioning that new formats come with a LOT of extra work. The series is evolving as you’re cutting it so you must be ready for a large volume of notes to work to. There is definitely an extra layer of stress that comes with a new format so think carefully about that when you apply for it. If there is a lot going on at home with kids/school/activities etc. then new formats aren’t the best option for achieving that work/life balance. They are totally do-able but you do need to give 100% at all times!!

JOB SHARE 5   new entertainment series for bbc 3

We stuck with our job share pairing for this job, another job my partner had arranged with a SP she’d worked with before. – we had our own 30’ episode from day 1 to work on and did the 2/3 day split where we alternated Wednesdays.

This was a tough show to work on. Schedules are tight these days, as we know but the turnaround on this episode was 4 weeks for a new format, it’s almost impossible and that’s how it felt throughout – just relentless.

In the end though, we made it across the finish line on time and the      Commissioner and Exec’s all agreed that it was a great episode.

This job rubber stamped the need to be much more mindful of edit schedules when you are in talks about a job. On paper it was always going to be difficult because the turnaround time wasn’t long enough and this really did ramp up the pressure. Even if you’re only doing 2 days a week on a show like this they are seriously intense days.

Because of this determination to show that job shares are bloody brilliant you can work yourself in to the ground on the days that you are there. I’ve honestly never worked so hard in my life. There was never a lunch or a pop to the shops time, not once! I know my job sharers were exactly the same.

The positive bit about freelancing is that you can always have a break. It’s a funny kind of break that brings a cash flow crisis and constant low level stress about finding your next job but at least it’s time to take stock. Which is where we’re at.

Job sharing has proven to be a brilliant solution to finding part-time work but we’re now back to where we started – trying to convince telly people to give more of it a go. As I sit here typing this – I’ve just had an email cancelling the interview I should be going to today – the Exec went with the full-timer they met last week. This happens a lot, I know, even when flexible requests aren’t involved but it does feel like a bit of a kick in the job sharing teeth. On paper we’ll always ‘seem’ like the more complicated option but that just isn’t the case (sad but not defeated face emoji here).

a pocket sized guide to job sharing best practice!

1.Present yourself in a non-complicated way. Apply for a job with one job sharer. I’ve tried applying for jobs with more than one option to pair myself up with but that feels like more work for the employer. Present yourself confidently as a pair and make it clear that you can cover those weeks of the job without any issues. The only thing employers should have to question is your experience on your CV and nothing else!

2.With any job – set out your stall from the start. Don’t be afraid to say you can’t work late every night. Don’t be afraid to turn a job down and don’t be afraid to speak up mid-contract if it’s just not doable. There are two of you discussing the issues so it’s very likely that you’re right about the problems. 

3.Try and pair yourself with someone who has the same level of experience. When the seniority of a pair isn’t balanced it can make the sharing bit more difficult. You both need to be able to make decisions confidently. You need to be able to trust the changes which are being made in your absence.

4.Work as a team – if you are Edit Producing, make sure your editor knows what to expect, how decisions are made and who does what! This goes for any role – make sure your team are fully aware of how you break down your week, how you handle change requests, how you hand over. You can never give too much detail.

5.There is this fear, we had it with all of our jobs, that if anything went wrong then the job share would be to blame – that it wasn’t working as an idea or that we were failing to make it work which is why it’s really important to establish your rules at the start (on email) – you can always come back to what you formally agreed when things get a bit intense!

6.Job sharing gives you the ability to work on ANY show. There really are no limits – if you have a job sharer then go for any job, nothing is ‘too big’ – if you want to progress, you can this way – the stress is halved and the double input makes the output the best it can be! The decision about what to work on should be down to you, the job sharers and whether the level of stress that comes with that job is right for you both at that time.

The real beauty ..

…of a job share is that when you’re finished on a Tuesday, or a Wednesday – you really are finished. I’ll always be on the end of the phone for questions and will keep on top of emails but you can rest on those days off knowing that the work is getting done.

The best thing is that you always have someone to turn to, let off steam with and chat ideas through – I love a job share for that!

So, all in all, I’d say that last year was a very big job-sharing success. The more we do it, the more we learn and the more people become comfortable with it. There are so many freelancers who just cannot return to work if they don’t have the opportunity to job share. Bright, talented, eager people who have no option but to leave the industry.

Whilst it’s not the only solution it certainly is the best one for creating part-time roles in an industry that doesn’t have any and for creating much needed flexibility in the short term. I’d challenge anyone to who claims that it ‘won’t or can’t work’ on their shows. It does, and we’ll keep on proving it!

The challenge, as always, is to make more of it happen. To create more flexible working for freelancers we must keep on talking about it, keep on showcasing examples of people making it work and continue to this unfounded myth that job sharers are the weaker choice, or the last resort (we’ve heard this said!).

We’ve almost finished two of our short films which champion the cause and show stories of people job in very senior and successful roles – including the Heads of Daytime at ITV who I met and interviewed recently.

If you’re a job sharer and you’d like to get in touch with your story or if you’re someone who wants to job share, or,  if you’re an employer who thinks you’d like to give it a go and hire some job sharers on your next gig but you’re just not sure how to go about it.. then drop us a line..because the more people talk about it, the more it will become the norm… and that’s good for all of us!

speaktous@smtj.tv

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