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An insight into the world of TV for our July masterclass

This month’s masterclass saw us focus on the world of television. Hosted in the fabulous offices of top law firm Herbert Smith Freehills, the evening kicked off with Dawn Beresford, Talent Executive at independent production companies CPL Productions and Arrow Media talking about her route into the industry. She said:

“Work with people you respect and can learn from. Don’t close yourself off to opportunities and trust your gut. If a door is open, walk through it. And never burn your bridges; be mindful that this is a small industry.”

Satmohan Panesar, spoke about his journey from Princess Television working on the Friday Night Project, via Betty, Maverick and Silver River, to his current role as commissioner of factual entertainment at ITV.

Head of Drama at Sky, Anne Mensah was then introduced to the panel, talking about how she used her Film Studies A-level at Sedgehill School in Lewisham as a springboard for her career, then going on to UCLA Film School. Of her current role, she said “I get to meet amazing people who tell me amazing ideas and help me bring them to life. Working at Sky means that we need to have a different voice to the Broadcasters. We have an output deal with HBO which means all their content is automatically on Sky, but my job is to commission things that have a unique voice. British people want British content.”

As a black woman in a senior position, she spoke about the responsibility she felt to ensure the output and the crews she works with are representative of society. She heaped praises on Sky’s tough diversity targets which require 20% of all writers and 20% of all actors in leading roles to be BAME.

Commenting on diversity schemes, including Creative Access, Satmohan felt that they “make sure opportunities are extended to everyone and not just falling in the laps of few.” He cautioned though that:

“If you’re not good enough, you won’t get hired. People remember those who work hard.”

The panel were all asked what they liked best about working in television. Dawn said that “no day was ever the same”. Satmohan commented that you “get to be creative and meet loads of different people. You get to respond to the business need to make money, by using creative solutions.”

He continued with some valuable words of advice to the interns and alumni present: “We are all imposters in our own lives, but as soon as you become too comfortable in a role, you should move on to something else.” Anne advised to “find someone who can help you, do your research and then work harder than anyone else. People don’t open doors for you; you stumble through them. TV is too hard a role to do if you don’t absolutely love it.” She also emphasised the importance of the Creative Access network, saying:

“Sometimes you’ll feel wrong, lonely and different, but that’s why your peer group is so important – to support you.”

Layli Foroudi who is currently interning at FT Weekend Magazine, asked the panel whether they thought a story could be told be anyone. Anne answered this by saying “it depends on how much truth you want. I don’t believe in curbing imagination, but truths come from the life you live and which only you can tell.” Satmohan added that “you need to be authentic, otherwise people won’t connect.”

A huge thanks to our phenomenal panel for their wise and inspiring words and to all the team at Herbert Smith Freehills LLP for their generosity and assistance.