Production coordinator Avneet Chauhan on the ScreenSkills Make a Move programme

Production coordinator Avneet Chauhan is currently part of ScreenSkills’ Make a Move programme, one of the flagship programmes of the High-end TV Skills Fund. It encourages the on-the-job training of crew members identified by productions as ready to move up into a more senior role. She started in her present role as production coordinator on Mammals, in April, where her mentor is line producer Joel Stokes.

Avneet grew up mostly in Bedford and studied media at Birmingham City University. She always knew she wanted to go into television and thought it would be in unscripted work, but it was  meeting production manager Katie Player at the Edinburgh Television Festival that caused her to consider drama. “She helped me to envision what my career path could be,” says Avneet. “I did a couple of jobs with her and learnt how the industry works under her guidance.”

Avneet regards Katie Player as her first mentor, and now she has built another rewarding relationship with Joel Stokes as part of the Make a Move programme.

Mammals is the third production they have worked on together, and he suggested her for the programme.

“The first time I worked with him was as travel coordinator, and then as an assistant coordinator, both on Britannia, and now as a coordinator on Mammals. So each time has been a step up for me,” Avneet says.

“When I started on the Make a Move programme there were certain things I wanted to achieve, such as managing a team. Not just in terms of getting the work done, but both Joel and I are very keen on understanding people's mental health and that aspect of the job. We're trying to advocate good working hours and a good life-work balance.

“And in terms of my own career progression, I hadn't done child licences or clearances before and I'm overseeing that alongside managing the production team. And like everyone else in the industry I'm learning how Brexit affects our work.”

During continuing Covid restrictions Avneet finds it a challenge not being on set as much as she normally would - but one that can be overcome. “As a coordinator, I talk to so many different departments and not dealing with them in person is harder, but you bridge that gap with a lot more Zoom and phone calls.”

Joel says it was Avneet's work ethic that first impressed him. “She has an innate ability for the work and the workload, and has an appetite for growth,” he says. “She is not someone who wants to tread water, she wants to take on more responsibly and is always hungry for more information.

“I really do think she's a star in the making. She has some way to go, of course, but she's got what it takes to reach the top and Make a Move is a solid step in her career.”

Joel had previously benefited from the ScreenSkills Make a Move programme as well, when he was moving from production manager to line producer. “Every transition comes with a steep learning curve and when you're a freelancer you often don't get the training for a role that you might have in other industries. The Make a Move mentorship offers a bit more structure to that transition. I think it's a fantastic programme.

“It comes from a really good place – the idea of nurturing talent is such a good thing. Sometimes people move up the industry too quickly and that can be bad for the person because they can be put in a role before they've had the chance to feel confident in it and that can be damaging for them, and damaging for the production.”

Joel says the key to a productive mentor/mentee relationship is communication and trust, and he and Avneet have a built that over the few years they have known each other. “I know that I can be open with her and trust that she will be able to take on board what I'm saying in a way that is meaningful and constructive, and equally that she is able to trust that what I'm saying is helpful.”

Avneet agrees. “When I'm struggling or if I know someone from the team is struggling I can go to Joel for advice on how to manage it, and also if there's an aspect of my job I'm confused about, he's like, 'Here's how you do it'.”

During prep for Mammals, Avneet and Joel were able to schedule time each week for a dedicated mentor/mentee meeting but now during the shoot they have work catch-ups every other day, while conversing daily.

“It happened organically that Joel would be my mentor and we have developed a really good working relationship over three projects,” Avneet says. “Make a Move is an important step up in my career.”

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