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Tales of a dynamic director – Isher Sahota

Our former intern, Isher Sahota, current Director of BBC One’s Doctors shares his amazing CA journey with us and reflects on the key steps he made to succeed in TV and film-making… 

Bold, diverse and new stories. They’re all the film and television industry says it wants, but the reality of gaining commissions and credits as a writer or director is far from straightforward. The only thing that can prepare you for being a director is directing. It seems so obvious but the only thing producers can go on when considering to hire you is looking at work you’ve directed.

By far the most valuable thing I did when studying English Literature was directing student plays, and meeting like-minded people.

It taught me the craft of working with actors and a production team, and pulling off projects with little to no budget. I met someone through student theatre who wanted to make films. We then started a company and began pitching for commissions to make music videos and online content for brands and companies; with our profits we made short films which were passion projects.

At the same time, through Creative Access I was able to start my professional, industry filmmaking career by securing a role in development with brilliant factual indie, Dragonfly Film and Television.

I had had a meeting at Creative Access, and was given great advice on my CV. I was recommended a role in factual development, which is something I never would have thought of myself (I had initially thought my way in would be scripted development) but I loved working at Dragonfly and coming up with documentary ideas for all the major broadcasters.

It kickstarted my career, and Creative Access has supported me well beyond my internship, making some incredible introductions and recommendations on my behalf.

My job at Dragonfly led to further roles at ITV in factual, but it was always my dream to get into drama. It’s off the basis of my short films that I gained a coveted place on the fantastic New Director’s Scheme which is run by the BBC’s Writersroom. By September this year I will have directed 10 episodes of BBC One’s Doctors, which has been an invaluable experience. The fast paced nature of the show means you gain a lot of experience very quickly in all aspects of the directorial process, from script, casting, pre-production through to shooting and post.

Moreover, the challenging schedule has developed my directorial method, giving me confidence and enabling me to work in an instinctive, decisive way. The support of the production team and various departments around you is magnificent, and I have been lucky enough to collaborate with wonderful guest and regular cast. I am also a writer. I was lucky enough, thanks to a Creative Access introduction, to find a perfect collaborator in the form of an agent at the brilliant Casarotto Ramsay and Associates. My agent has similar tastes to me, gets what I want to do and shares phenomenal contacts and advice. It’s my dream to get an original TV series and a feature film idea in development with a top production company.

What got me noticed by a top agency among countless unsolicited scripts, I think, was my background. I wrote a TV script for an original comedy-drama series about Indian gangsters set in the underground world of the Punjabi-run illegal alcohol trade. I had insights into this unknown world because I grew up in Southall, the little India of West London.

Use and own your distinct background to reflect the world as you see it, and you’re going to create something bold and new. That’s what the industry is apparently hungry for, but I have yet to experience first hand how genuine that supposed commitment is.

My only advice would be to surround yourself with brilliant people who you respect, and who respect you, and keep making films together.

You can follow Isher on Twitter and Instagram at @ishersahota and check out some of his fantastic work here