Next Gen Talent | Windfall Films | Production Secretary Trainee Scheme

Next Gen Talent celebrates exciting new talent within the Argonon Group. From interns to production secretaries, we’re highlighting some of the newest, up and coming members of the team, or those responsible for finding the industry’s next gen talent.

This month we spoke to Maria French, Head of Production at Windfall Films. Launched in November 2021, the Production Secretary Trainee Scheme was developed by Maria after noticing a shortage of Production Managers due to the pandemic. We spoke to Maria about what the scheme offers to production talent wanting to get a head start in the industry.

What was your main reason for starting the training scheme?

We really struggled last summer to recruit Production Managers, and whilst we’ve all been working from home, it’s also been recognised that our opportunities to bring on the next generation of Production Coordinators have diminished. Whilst Production Managers can often access training, there’s not always the chance to get that initial ‘foot in the door’, especially in last year’s restricted working environment.

We created the scheme in the hope that in 12 months’ time, it’ll help us overcome any coordination shortages, and will ultimately help support the next generation of Production Managers.

How many applicants did you get?

We had over 150 applicants.

And how many applicants were successfully placed in the training scheme?

Due to the restrictions in the number of people we could collectively have in the office at the time of hire, we decided that the scheme would offer four training places.

What sort of training will they undergo?

The scheme was devised between myself and a Senior Line Producer who was previously a member of Windfall staff. It was for an initial period of six weeks, broken down like so:

Week 1: Intensive classroom-based training with the Trainer/Senior Line Producer, working through the basic timeline of a production and key roles and responsibilities of a Production Secretary.

Week 2: Continuation of Week 1 and application of skills in real-life situations – we offered up the services of the Production Secretary Trainees to existing productions who asked for help on music cue sheet input, research on visas, travel itinerary planning and release form logging/checking.

Week 3-6: Productions were identified as having a suitable opening and each took a Production Secretary Trainee for a four-week period to continue their training on an active production.

What sort of Windfall Films productions have the trainees been working on?

The trainees joined the following productions: The Royal Institution Christmas Lectures 2021, Lost Treasures of Egypt (Series 4), World’s Most Secret Hotels and a new series for Nat Geo.

Since then, the trainees have gone on to either have their position extended for the duration of the production or have moved on to other productions.

What progress and/or benefits has Windfall Films seen from the training scheme so far?

The trainees have done, and are continuing to do, so well – we’re really proud! They’re all successfully navigating their productions, the feedback around them is hugely positive and Windfall has received the benefit of enthusiastic team members who are keen to learn about production.

Post Production paperwork is getting wrapped up quicker, the Line Producers and Production Managers are getting additional support on their teams, and whilst the Production Secretaries do need a bit more support and guidance, it’s important to remember that we all had a first job in TV at one time, and it’s an opportunity to pay it forward.

What benefits do the trainees get from the scheme?

In the first instance, the trainees got a guaranteed two weeks of training and four weeks’ worth of production experience, a chance to prove themselves and therefore the chance to win the opportunity of a longer production contract. The trainees not only received the dedicated training ahead of their practical ‘on the job’ learning, but they also have continual professional development opportunities.

Working with some of our regular business partners, I’m in the process of setting up mini-training sessions with post production facilities, equipment hire facilities, production insurance providers, health and safety support… all the people that they’ll liaise with in their future production careers.

What are your hopes for the future of the training scheme? Is the scheme something you hope to continue in the future?

I hope that the 2021 intake will flourish into Coordinators within the next 12 months and will continue their careers within Windfall. And I’m currently aiming to revisit the scheme in November again, repeating the process for 2022 – ideally, this will become an annual scheme, that will feed and support the shortage of Production Coordinators and ultimately Production Managers.

I’m also hoping that it’ll be worth considering the next step up from Production Secretary to Production Coordinator. The idea is to possibly implement a scheme to facilitate some extra training in preparation for the role of Production Coordinator, or to open a Production Coordinator Trainee Scheme, not only to our former Production Secretary Trainees, but also to those Production Secretaries within the company who haven’t receive any formal training.

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