Emine Yalchin on Children’s TV Make a Move

Experienced children's casting director Emine Yalchin benefited from ScreenSkills’ Children’s TV Make a Move programme to move from casting director to director on Yakka Dee!, a CBeebies children's show produced by the company King Banana.

Productions that pay into the Children’s TV Skills Fund can apply for financial support to employ and train individuals into higher grades. The flexible subsidy can be used to cover salaries, mentoring or expenses such as short courses. It is one of the many ways in which industry contributions are used to tackle grade and skills shortages.

King Banana used funding available through the programme to help Emine develop a range of skills she needed to master in order to step up to the role of director. They gave her the chance to do this on Yakka Dee!, a series that invites children to get talking as the animated character Dee zooms in on one simple word at a time and blends funny animation and real children to bring things to life.

"It's a really popular series that mixes live action and animation," says Emine. "Yakka Dee is one of the main shows with children from special needs backgrounds and different, diverse ethnic backgrounds. It is a very rewarding show to work on."

Emine had worked as casting director on the first three series of the programme. During this time King Banana identified her ability and thought she would be ready to step up to the role of director. They applied for the ScreenSkills support and to give her the chance to direct some episodes during the third series.

"The opportunity gave me the chance to try something different," she says. "I definitely love directing children, little ones."

The production was, like everything in 2020, hard hit by the Covid-19 pandemic. The fourth and fifth series were commissioned, but production was delayed by the uncertainty.

"Covid-19 interfered a lot because we had to stop in March 2020 and we were halfway through studio work," notes Emine. "We picked up again in July with new ways of working with safety measures in place."

Covid-19 also disrupted the edit process for the episodes and Emine's normal methods of working. "I was being sent rough cuts of the episodes remotely."

While the show is part live action, part animation, the animation content is created first. "We had to use the animatic in the studio as a guide when we were directing the kids," she says. "Then it all gets sent back to the animators to piece the live action and the animation together."

As Emine had worked on the first three series as a casting director, she was already familiar with the format and had been both in the South London studiowhere it films, and on location.

"It obviously made it easier for me to direct because I wasn't going in blind and had shadowed my colleagues and watched them," she says.

Having amassed almost two decades of experience working with children in her capacity as a casting director, Emine remembered "with little ones you don't really say action, you just say, 'ready steady go.'"

And with some of her cast as young as two she knew to turn the shoot into more of a game and " bring out the puppets and the toys and make them laugh at the camera and giggle.

"Normally, we would get a bit closer to the kids when we're directing them, but this time around we had to direct them at a distance with masks and things like that."

She was also involved in the locations and edit timelines, communicating with the team and making editorial decisions about aspects of the content, as agreed with King Banana when they set training objectives at the beginning of her Make a Move placement.

Emine has worked in various roles in house or as a freelance with CBeebies and CBBC ever since the BBC established both channels in 2002, starting as a runner after graduating from Westminster University with a degree in sociology and criminology.

Over nearly 20 years, Emine established herself as one of the go-to pre-school casting directors, casting producer, producer and director in children’s TV programme-making, working on shows including Peppa Pig Movie, My World Kitchen, Nick Cope Popcast and Something Special.

As a single mum, Londoner Emine temporarily shelved her directing ambitions to allow her to raise her son and carve out time to continue working in children's television.

"I ended up having casting director as being my niche. But I equally enjoyed directing when I tried it on Something Special. It was just hard doing that and being a single mum at the same time."

King Banana, founded by Katie Simmons and Lotte Elwell, is a female-led company that pushes for flexible working to allow parents to work better. This flexibility enabled her to combine exploring a career in directing with motherhood.

ScreenSkills’ Children’s TV Make a Move programme certainly provided Emine with an opportunity to expand her CV and push her professional skillset on.

"I love casting children," grins Emine. "I'd like to be able to do it all. That's the dream. I definitely would still like to direct after tasting it again."


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