Unscripted TV's Verity Sutton Barrow on why freelancers must invest in themselves

Verity Sutton Barrow is the Director of Production and Operations at Optomen and chair of the Unscripted TV Skills Fund’s Business Skills Working Group.

Previously Head of Production at Betty, with a long career in senior production management in various unscripted production companies, Verity shares her insights about the Unscripted Skills Fund (USF) and working with ScreenSkills.

Verity Sutton Barrow, chair of the Unscripted TV Skills Fund Business Working Group 2023

Describe your involvement with the Unscripted Skills Fund

I’m chair of the Business Skills Working Group, having consulted on the Fund’s creation and then a member since its inception. Our group advises on and discusses accessible online short courses which aim to cover essential and useful skills required in the TV industry.

How do you decide what to prioritise?

We tend to bring to the meetings what we are facing in the moment at the coal face of production, so that we are hopefully reacting to the needs of the community. The short courses are a good way to quickly put in place resources as we see the need for them.

What successes would you like to highlight?

That there are so many courses to choose from, so hopefully there is something for everyone. The Connect and Inspire events have been a great success and give an opportunity to try out new trainers or subjects to see if they are suitable for a more regular slot.

What are the challenges you see ahead?

The way the Fund has been set up so that a percentage of production budgets form the basis of funding means that as long as there is content, we will be able to continue. This means, however, that we need the broadcasters who have signed up to the Fund to keep going, keep growing and keep commissioning in an economically challenging time.

What is the most exciting thing about work in unscripted TV?

That no day is the same and there is always something new to learn even after all these years!

What’s the best piece of advice you can give to somebody wanting to start a career in unscripted TV?

Don’t assume a degree in media studies or TV production is the main route of entry. We like to see people with a variety of subjects, prior work or just life experience ready to bring their enthusiasm to the table.

What is the key area of training you would recommend for freelancers to help them build and sustain a successful career?

Resilience is so important and there is a short course available online.  Also take time to invest in yourself. Do the one-to-one coaching sessions offered and anything that allows you to stay calm and stress-free in a challenging industry.

Why work with ScreenSkills?

The industry has been crying out for organised and recognised training with it being such a ‘learn on the job’ industry, where people tend to be thrown in the deep end and left to sink or swim. Now freelancers have the opportunity to undertake formalised training and feel they have the tools to be confident in their work and fill any skills gaps they have encountered from one production to another.

What does it personally mean to you?

I’m honoured to be in a position to help increase training opportunities and feel good every time I send the monthly course list around the company. Freelancers often tell me they are rarely offered the time to do courses or have any suggested to them, so it is nice to know the Fund is appreciated. I really believe this is already helping to address skills shortages in the industry as well as taking decent steps towards greater inclusion.

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