On Wednesday afternoon, as I left the Sunderland Live office, I noticed a voicemail waiting on my phone. I immediately thought it was related to the job interview I’d had the week prior but it turned out to be something even better and consequently I made one of the most spontaneous decisions I’ve ever done!
Months ago I applied for The Network, was placed on the reserves list and thought nothing more of it as the deadline for my opportunity to get a place came and went. However, Wednesday’s voicemail brought very exciting news. I was offered a last minute place due to someone dropping out if I could get up to Edinburgh!Just a couple hours after rushing home, checking trains, calling back Rhiannon from The Network and having a driving lesson, I was on my way to Edinburgh. It all happened so quick I didn’t have time to process it all, I literally threw some clothes in my case and sat staring out the window (the view on the way to Edinburgh on the train is so lovely) wondering what the next four days would bring me.
I arrived just as the quiz was finishing, mingled with some of the ‘networkers’ (as we would soon be referred to) then headed back to the flat to get some sleep before the busy days that lay ahead.
Thursday began with masterclasses, we were split into three groups and I heard from Angela Jain (Director of Digital Channels and Acquisitions for ITV) who previously worked at E4 and comissioned the likes of Misfits and Inbetweeners. She was great to listen to and had a lot of anecdotes she shared with us.
It was great to hear about how the concept for Pointless came about and the switch from BBC2 to BBC1. I can also confirm that Richard Osman is incredibly tall and it was odd to see him sat on a stool rather than behind a desk with a laptop in front of him.
After lunch we split into three groups again and I heard from Graham Stuart (co-founder, alongside Graham Norton, and Director of So Television). As someone who regularly watches The Graham Norton Show, it was great to hear from Graham and he was keen to answer any questions so we could make the most of the masterclass with him. He finished the hour with the clip we’ve all seen of Will and Jaden Smith which is just brilliant television!
I then joined 12 other networkers for the ‘Creative Skills’ workshop, led by Joe, Carly and Danny from Thames. We spent the introductory session chatting about formats, generating ideas and finding out more about them and their route into the TV industry.
After rushing back over to the EICC we heard from Charlie Brooker, who was interviewing Vince Gilligan, the creator of Breaking Bad. I’d be lying if I said this wasn’t potentially the best part of the week for me. My boyfriend and I have recently finished season 2 since I got back from Edinburgh and since the show is on its’ sixth and final season, obviously Gilligan did make some points about characters I was yet to be introduced to and storylines I’d not yet seen develop. I don’t want to ruin the show for anyone, but he chatted about the development of Walter’s character and the turning point in season 2 with the overdose. Having seen that part now I can completely see where Charlie was coming from with his comments and I don’t feel like it ruined anything for me by seeing that before I’d reached that point. Let’s face it, if you’re in a room with the creator of Breaking Bad and you’re a massive fan of the show (like I am) you’re just going to be thinking “how amazing is this?!”
It was then time for the MacTaggart Memorial Lecture and who better to deliver it than Kevin Spacey! Yes, I’d just been in the same room as Vince Gilligan then into the McEwan Hall with Kevin Spacey. Incredible. He delivered his speech so well and it felt so personal, despite the hundreds that were in the room. I think perhaps my favourite part was when he said “let them binge” with regards to people watching a whole season of a TV show in one day and his message he went back to; “It’s the creatives, stupid”.
After a walk down to the Museum Of Scotland and having our dinner, we headed upstairs to the ITV opening night drinks reception where we were all off networking and I happened to bump into this guy…Yup, Vince Gilligan. He was so humble and polite and happily chatted to me about the character development and ideas behind the show. I don’t think I would have dared to ask for a photo with him if he hadn’t been such a nice guy. He also liked my phone case. What a guy and definitely the highlight of my networking experience; although I was stood about one metre from Kevin Spacey at one point too!
A full day of Creative Skills ensued on Friday, we were split into groups and after a few games and exercises to get us thinking, we were given our brief: to either
- “create a game or reality TV show for BBC3 where the prize is completely new or never seen on TV before”
- “create a game or reality TV show for BBC3 with a unique and interesting cast of people who have never been seen before”
We (Jamie, Natalie, Sinead and I) opted for the first one and soon enough found ourselves with dozens of sheets of paper with ideas. After discarding the ones we weren’t so keen on/were slightly ridiculous (space travel etc.) we were down to two strong contenders.
We headed back to the EICC for the Channel of The Year Awards (hosted by Dara O’Briain) and since our bus got us there a little early, we made the most of the freebies from YouTube. Free popcorn and ice cream, mmm!
When the awards ended (after only 45 minutes, pretty quick for any awards ceremony) we wandered back round to our accommodation, ate pizza and got ready for our final night party at The George Hotel (read: very posh) I didn’t take any photos at the party, instead I took the time to mingle with my fellow networkers, attempt to network a little (which backfired slightly when I thought someone on the dancefloor was a producer; it turned out he was really drunk and decided to do some form of salsa dancing with me…much to the amusement of the others who stood and watched!
Saturday morning saw an early morning for Cyclical (we really should have kept the name Green Giraffe considering 3/4 of us were originally in that group) as we hopped in a taxi at 7:30am to go make the final touches to our pitch before we had to present our idea, live, on stage in front of the BBC3 commissioner!
Before our pitch we saw Jamie and Matt take on The Million Pound Drop, which was very entertaining and unfortunately they didn’t win the (fake) money. Better luck next time, lads! Our team may not have won the pitch, but we were given feedback saying it was slick and well explained which was a huge compliment coming from a real life industry commissioner!
We got a chance to see the footage the Production Skills and Drama Skills had created in their short Casualty clip and the News Skills team delivered the news live seamlessly. It’s safe to say we all did really well. given the short amount of time we had to create and prepare in our workshops and we can all be proud of the work we did!
If you’re someone aspiring for a career in the TV industry then I completely recommend you apply for The Network. It’s an incredible opportunity and I’m hoping to go up again next year to help out as a runner or a steward. I really cannot thank Rhiannon enough for calling me on Wednesday afternoon and giving me that last minute opportunity to be part of The Network 2013! The best part is, it only cost me the price of my return train tickets! (well, and that Starbucks Latte…and a pint of diet coke) Once you get a taste of the industry, it just invites you in to want more!