On Thursday 30th September, we were joined at MullenLowe’s offices by four brilliant Creative Access alumni who are storytellers across publishing, TV and film, content strategy, and news reportage.
To quickly introduce the panel: our chair, Raveena Ghattaura, is an experienced broadcast journalist currently working as a reporter and presenter at ITV News Anglia. She is highly skilled in covering breaking news stories, self-shooting/editing and creating news content for online platforms.
Esther Akinola is an enthusiastic advocate for diversity in influencer marketing, storytelling and creative marketing. She’s worked with Twitter, Facebook, PMI and Netflix. Esther completed her Creative Access internship as a multimedia journalist at The Sun Newspaper in 2016.
Serena Arthur is fiction editor at Trapeze Books, Orion (a division of Hachette UK), where she is editing and publishing books. She joined Orion in June 2022 after just under three years at another Hachette division – Headline – where she started as an editorial intern through Creative Access.
Callum Akass joined House Productions as Development Executive in March 2021 to work across their TV and film slates. He was a Creative Access trainee in 2016 at Blacklisted Films and Leopard Pictures (Argonon group) and gained his first TV credit as script editor on Mackenzie Crook’s Worzel Gummidge for Leopard, before joining Urban Myth Films to script edit the 8-part series The Lazarus Project for Sky.
How does storytelling come into your job?
An editor at Hachette, Serena makes a clear distinction between enabling storytelling and being a direct creator or writer. The former is what she does as an editor; she shapes stories and the way that they enter the world in those final steps before they’re in the hands of readers. On the other end of the creative spectrum, she writes her own poetry, and has found that the two things have a symbiotic relationship when it comes to her understanding of stories and the relationships she has formed with writers through publishing. It’s a huge bonus to approach stories from these two different directions.
Adding to this idea of being an ‘enabler’ for stories, Callum thinks that as someone who develops scripts he thrives on working in the shadows rather than the limelight, and explains how cathartic and satisfying it can be to bring about the final state of something like series Sherwood (BBC) or Lazarus Project (Sky) from that more supportive role.
Raveena has a very direct relationship with storytelling as a news reporter, as it’s her job to pull the concise narrative from events and present this to a wide audience. The approach needs to be accessible and easy to grasp because she wants people of all demographics to be able to connect and take something meaningful from the story in question.
How did you reach where you are today?
Esther says: I don’t know where my degree is. The biggest lesson she has learned as she progresses in her career is to successfully pitch herself to interviewers and prospective clients, something that’s critical as a self-employed content strategist.
She describes how important it is to stand out from your contemporaries, especially in an area like branded social media where people are often talking about very similar things, and to present your ideas through something like a pitch deck. Even if interviewers aren’t explicitly asking for a portfolio – bring something along! The insight that this gives people shouldn’t be underestimated.
Callum, on the other hand, focuses on how important it has been for him to build relationships with those in the industry. This doesn’t need to mean talking to people with decades of experience. At the beginning, Callum says he participated in a monthly writing group with peers that was helpful when it came to comparing experiences and understanding what other people were up to. In this way they began to form a collective knowledge and wider perspective on how the industry operates that you might not have by yourself. In his words, ‘not much writing got done.’ It’s always worth reaching out to people for a tea or coffee with this in mind.
But… what’s the job really like?
Serena talks about her transition from editorial assistant to editor and what these two roles entailed. Being an editorial assistant can often feel like being a project manager, and is heavy on administration and maintaining crystal clear internal communications between teams so that projects progress as they should – all while learning the publishing process from the work happening around you. Now an editor, she says that anyone expecting to hide behind a pile of manuscripts might be disappointed. The role is highly social! This includes being in close contact with agents, authors, and other departments.
For Esther, this one is difficult to answer because her role title has been something different at each stage of her career. She thrives on this because it means constantly challenging herself and developing more knowledge through this. Esther adds that you can be excited by the chance to grow the skills you already acquired aren’t currently being used, rather than feeling frustrated.
Working in TV and film, Callum that sometimes having early starts and longer hours means that he tries to follow advice from his old boss – make the most of the quiet moments. Find time to switch off from your area of expertise completely, even if you’re itching to catch up with the latest drama or comedy film.
A huge thanks to Raveena, Callum, Esther, and Serena for their thoughts and sage words!