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Diversity: one trainee's story

Sophie Duker always knew she wanted to make people laugh.

The 23-year-old had written some shows with friends, dabbled in improvisation and stand-up, and even performed at Edinburgh – but it wasn’t until she stumbled across a lost wallet on a train that she found her calling.

“I was on the tube and there was a wallet on a seat.  I picked it up to find some details, and realised I’d found the wallet of a producer,” Sophie said.

She returned the wallet, got talking and earned herself her first production gig, making videos about art.  But it was an application to the Indie Diversity Scheme that really kick-started her television career.

The Indie Diversity Scheme was launched in January this year.  The companies involved now are:

Supported by Creative Access, it aims to connect independent production companies with people from under-represented groups.   Companies offer a paid six-month internship, giving the hopefuls hands-on experience in areas in a variety of production areas, including social media and second screens, artistic and literary copyright, camera operation, music copyright, storytelling and scriptwriting across platforms, and the freelancing business.

Sophie Duker spent her internship with Hat Trick Productions, starting out as a runner on a comedy pilot for BBC3.

“When I started I was completely terrified.  But it was so nice to work on something new.  You can learn so much, and talk to everyone.”

In the six months that followed, Sophie worked in a range of roles – doing everything from collecting lunches, to conducting research, to recruiting contestants for a quiz show.   At one point, she even jumped behind the camera.

“We were shooting a hidden-camera scene and the cameraman was in the toilet. Our presenters started interacting with a member of the public and I knew that if I didn’t set up the shot we’d miss out on getting footage of what might have been a great reaction,” she said.

“Through the Indie Diversity Scheme, I'd had some camera training.  I made it record and made sure it was pointing it at the right person.  I feel a lot more confident about taking on that sort of thing now.”

Sophie Duker was one of ten trainees to graduate from the 2013 Indie Diversity Scheme.  All now have jobs in television.

“Hat Trick has extended my contract until the end of the year,” Sophie says.

She’s just spent a long day on a shoot for a new scripted comedy pilot.

“I’m helping out and observing for a few days before moving on to work with Hat Trick’s comedy entertainment development team,” she said.

New recruits

The Indie Diversity Scheme is now entering its second year, with a new batch of industry hopefuls set to begin their internships in January.  Creative Access will source the trainees, and share salary costs with the indies.

Maddy Allen, Head of Production at KEO films says signing up was an easy decision for her organisation.

“Keo Films takes diversity extremely seriously, both in our team and our on-screen output.  We are keen to encourage people from as many varied backgrounds as possible to enter a career in television and we felt that the Indie Diversity Scheme offered a well-structured and well-supported means to achieve that for people who may not otherwise have had the opportunity or avenues to get into the industry.”

Bella Lambourne, Endemol’s Global Head of Human Resources, says the scheme has been of huge benefit to her organisation – giving Endemol access to diverse new talent.

“The chance to collaborate with Pact and the other indies was an opportunity we would never miss.  By working together, the breadth and scale of the training we have been able to offer has been taken to a new level.  The young talent involved with this scheme are being given the tools to achieve their maximum potential, fast.”

Success

“The first year of the Indie Diversity Scheme was a huge success, for the trainees and the companies involved,” said John McVay, Pact’s Chief Executive.

“Successful shows must reflect the community, and indies have long-recognised the importance of diversity.  However, we wanted to make sure we were doing more than just talking about it.  Through the Indie Diversity Scheme we have achieved real results, with people who might not have otherwise had the opportunity, now working in the sector.  I am so pleased that even more companies are now joining the scheme for 2014.”

Sophie Duker is unequivocal in her praise for the scheme.

“I think it’s been so useful, the training in particular,” she said.

“It’s an unprecedented opportunity to learn.”

And with a wealth of experience under her belt, Sophie Duker has her eyes on the future – one where she’ll get the last laugh.

“Eventually, I’d like to produce comedy,” she said.

“I’d just like to make funny stuff.”

For more information about the Indie Diversity Scheme, contact Joyce Adeluwoye-Adams.