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“Out of adversity comes opportunity” … inspiring words from Satmohan Panesar

This week we were be joined for our Thursday Thoughts session by Satmohan Panesar, ITV Commissioning Editor of Factual Entertainment and Bradley Cumberbatch, Creative Access alumni and Senior Producer and Director of Celebrity Gogglebox

Sat began by introducing his role commissioning shows on channels including ITVBe and ITV4, which he has done for the past five years. , Sat grew up in a very traditional Indian household where he was expected to go into medicine, and he “never actually thought about working in television.” He did a science degree and then worked in a shop in London for a while before deciding to do work experience in TV which he loved. Though he looks back on his journey now through rose-tinted glasses, there were “lots of bumps” along the way. He “wasn’t part of any elite grad trainee scheme” and was quite out of his depth. Though, Sat said “what I did know is I really like doing what I was doing and I had really good work ethic.”

Bradley then gave an insight into his upbringing and career journey, which began pre-uni when he was involved in the theatre as a teenager. Also coming from a traditional family, Bradley studied Business Management at university, before later securing a role in BBC comedy as a runner through Creative Access.

When asked about how much work experience they did before, Bradley said that with his first role being through Creative Access, he “didn’t go the traditional route” and “carved his own experiences within the BBC.” Sat, who did do the traditional work experience, just carried on going in after finishing. In his words, “you’ve really got to make yourself noticed.” When speaking of BAME people in particular in the industry, Sat said that often they “don’t want to rock the boat” which is in fact “doing us a disservice… you’ve got to get stuck in and get yourself noticed, give your ideas and opinions, try and get involved.”

“In the creative industries we’re all gunning for the same thing… a diversity of voice and thought can really help.”

Sat was the only Indian on this team when he started out, and found himself “constantly walking around with iImposter syndrome.” Though, diversity is needed everywhere, particularly in industries like television. In Sat’s words, “in creative industries we’re all gunning for the same thing… a diversity of voice and thought can really help.” Likewise, Bradley was the only Black person in his team when he started, and was “always second guessing” himself. He said you need to “throw away your pride… shame and pride will keep you back.”

Sat and Bradley then gave career-specific advice, regarding getting ideas and pitches considered. Sat said that “in order to pitch an idea, you have to do your research.” You need to think about how your idea serves the channel’s needs, regarding things like demographic and style. Sat reassured that “ideas don’t have to come in from an established production company or someone experienced”, as they “want to hear ideas from everyone.”

Bradley then asked Sat about the impacts of COVID-19 within the industry. Sat said that it has changed and will continue to change the industry in many ways, hurting the freelance community more than anything. But Sat remained positive, as “out of adversity comes opportunity” and he’s “hoping that something good does come out of this that can redefine television.”

“Out of adversity comes opportunity … I’m hoping that something good does come out of this that can redefine television.”

After a couple more questions, the two spoke about the pressure “to be great all the time”, that is particularly faced by BAME people in the industry. Bradley described it as a voice in head saying, “there’s not many people that look like me in this industry… if I mess up, I’m messing this up for the next person.” Ultimately, “you can’t be great all the time” – and that is completely okay!

After then giving their respective career highlights and lows, Sat and Bradley gave their thoughts on putting your ethnicity on your CV, as asked by an attendee. While there isn’t a strict yes or no answer to this, as it is ultimately a personal decision, Sat said that it’s important to “use everything to your advantage to get that job”, and “if being BAME is what gets you to the front of a queue, grab it and get to the front of that queue.”

The session wrapped up with both Sat and Bradley being asked to give one top tip based on their experiences working in the industry. Bradley’s is to “be resilient”, and “if you’ve got an idea, stand by it.” Sat’s is to “be ready to be knocked down, and then get yourself back up… don’t give up, work hard and be honest in your intentions and what you want to say!”

A huge thank you to both Sat and Bradley for delivering a very entertaining session with very useful and inspiring words of advice!

Catch the full session on our YouTube channel here