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NFTS graduate Lucy Smith is one of Edinburgh’s Ones to Watch 2019. She explains how the MA course helped her become one of TV’s ‘best and brightest’
What made you opt to attend NFTS and to choose the course you did?
I’d always loved watching, deconstructing and coming up with TV shows, but having grown up in the Yorkshire countryside, I didn’t know anyone in the industry. I was working in marketing when a colleague introduced me to Sean O’Riordan – a development exec at the time and an NFTS alumnus, whose career trajectory was hugely inspiring.
He suggested I consider the Directing and Producing TV Entertainment MA course.
The NFTS offered opportunities to meet world-class producers, leading commissioners and industry tutors. I loved that the course allowed me to work on projects with other students across departments – composing, cinematography and editing – and learn from their expertise.
Another big draw was the technical focus. I only had experience with handheld camcorders, but after graduating I could shoot on C300s and FS7s, edit on Avid and Premiere and had the technical confidence to singleand multi-camera direct.
However, primarily I was excited by the prospect of developing and producing formats that could reach millions and have huge commercial potential.
How did the course prepare you for your career and what were its most valuable and enjoyable elements?
Everyone’s a ‘preditor’ in telly – able to produce, shoot, edit, write the theme tune and sing the theme tune. The NFTS course was demanding, but immensely rewarding and equipped me to take on the challenge.
Where else would you get the opportunity to multicamera direct or pitch ideas to Phil Edgar-Jones within weeks of starting your career?
In particular, developing and producing my graduation pilot, Against All Odds, really fast-tracked my skills as a producer. During this project, I worked alongside my NFTS colleague Jamie Minty to develop an original gameshow format, which we pitched to commissioners.
We were completely involved in the production pipeline – from negotiating access to filming on location and polishing the online edit.
It was full-on, but the skills gained on my graduation show have proved invaluable in my career. The format itself has since been optioned by Betty and was awarded Best Unscripted Pilot at the New York TV Festival in 2017 – a testament to the hard work of our brilliantly talented crew.
Another great part of the course was the opportunity to take industry placements. I worked on Strictly Come Dancing and with core development teams at the BBC and Zig Zag Productions. The contacts I made helped set me onto a career path in development.
What have been the achievements in your career to date and what are your ambitions now?
I’m currently working as a development producer at MultiStory Media and have enjoyed working with brilliant teams at Firecracker, Betty and BBC Creative Label. Particular career highlights include working on ITV series Gone To Pot from development through to production and helping develop and secure MultiStory’s first Netflix commission.
It was also a real honour to be chosen for Ones to Watch scheme at ETVF this year.
Over the next few years, I hope to climb the development ladder to run a team, and I have big ambitions to establish my own factual entertainment indie in my home town,
Leeds. With Yorkshire’s creative industries already thriving and Channel 4 moving there soon, NFTS is now opening a Leeds hub. I hope I’ll get the opportunity to play my part in transforming the county into a region for some of the best creative work in the world.
What’s the best advice you’ve been given during your career?
“Be nice to people on the way up, because you’ll meet them on the way down.” I’ve heard so many stories of executives firing runners, only to have them turn up as commissioners a few years on. I’ve worked with some mightily impressive runners and researchers that I have no doubt I’ll be pitching to in the future.
Applications are open for the NFTS Directing and Producing Television Entertainment MA until 20 October and the course starts in January 2020. More information at nfts.co.uk/tvent