Anaïs Baker is an Executive Producer for BBC Studios Unscripted Content Partnerships and a Commissioning Editor for BBC Brit and BBC Lifestyle in South Africa. Having worked at a variety of production companies, distributors and now on the channels side, she is experienced in all stages of the IP pipeline from creation, development, production and international exploitation.
Anaïs took part in the WFTV Mentoring Scheme in 2016, and her mentor was Amanda Groom, Managing Director of The Bridge and a senior international and digital executive with 20 years’ global television programming experience.
‘The group of women I met were a fantastic powerhouse of creativity, drive, ambition and support.’
Why did you apply for the WFTV Mentoring Scheme?
I applied for the scheme at a time in my career where I was enjoying the role I had at the time, but was so focused on it, I felt I wasn’t sure what the path ahead could, or should, be. I wanted some time to step back from my day-to-day role, and really envisage what my professional future could look like, and importantly, want I wanted it to look like.
What were you hoping to get out of the scheme?
Insight, clarity and an opportunity to focus on myself and carve out my future. Having an external mentor, removed from the business in which I worked, and without any bias, felt the best option to ensure constructive observations around my current position on the ladder, and clearly defined advice on the routes I could take to reach my future goals.
Was it what you expected?
I wasn’t sure what to expect, but looking back, I can see it was a career-defining experience for me in a number of ways. It challenged me and set a lot of things in motion that have led to where I am now and I still feel like I’m only just getting started.
Were you at all surprised by the mentor you were paired with?
I was really pleased it was Amanda Groom. At the time, I was working a lot in Asia in the international formats space, and it felt as though we had a lot of similarities but in differing genres, which meant she was far enough removed from my day-to-day role to look objectively at my situation and experience. She could also push me while being aware of some of the limitations of my role at the time, for example being out of the country on foreign shoots a lot, etc.
How did the relationship with Amanda work during the scheme and what do you feel you gained from it?
We met up once a month, but in-between we would be in touch via e-mail etc. We tried to focus on certain topics or goals and then break down the work towards those goals. Together, we initially worked out a plan, but it was flexible as the scheme progressed. I gained an incredible amount of insight from Amanda and also a lot of confidence since she helped me acknowledge the amount I’d already achieved and how to build upon it. Amanda was a real advocate and cheerleader for me both personally and professionally and continues to be so as I develop in my career.
The unique aspect of the scheme is how it uses peer-to-peer training as well as mentor support, how did that work?
I think this was the one of the most surprising and beneficial elements of the scheme for me. The group of women I met were a fantastic powerhouse of creativity, drive, ambition and support. Throughout the scheme and beyond, it was invaluable to have a sounding board and a support network like that. And throughout my moves in the industry, I have often crossed paths with the group’s members and benefitted as a result of the shared connections and continued extension of the network.
How did the mentoring scheme change your career and how did it lead to your present role?
For me, it was a mix of my own personal development through the course of the scheme and the new contacts I made that became integral in moving my career forward. The people I met either directly through the scheme, or by the shared contacts and network we established, then became crucial to my ongoing career, particularly in the initial 24 months after we wrapped. Ultimately though, the scheme changed my outlook on what my career could be, it armed me with the skills and confidence to work out what I wanted, create objective goals to help me get there, and gave me the confidence to pursue what I wanted.
‘The scheme was career defining for me. It felt incredibly impactful at the time, and reflecting on the process now, I can see the true knock on effect.’
Can you tell us about your current role/work?
My current role at BBC Studios spans across development, production and commissioning, all with a focus on international formats. Across development, I work with both BBC Studios Production and our invested indie portfolio to help deliver an internationally-focused development slate of diverse and innovative IP to service the factual entertainment and entertainment formats pipeline.
I also work across finding new international opportunities for new IP, through potential co-development deals with international broadcasters, IP share opportunities and possible channel initiatives. Additionally, I work as Commissioning Editor for BBC Brit and BBC Lifestyle in South Africa, overseeing returning formats such as Come Dine With Me South Africa and new formats for the region such as the newly greenlit First Dates South Africa.
What would be a ‘typical’ day at the office for you?
A typical day is looking at pitches for potential new formats for BBC Brit and BBC Lifestyle, liaising with the production companies on our programmes currently in production and discussing elements such as casting, budgets, schedules, edit viewings and notes, etc. It may also involve reviewing new ideas coming down our distribution pipeline and looking at opportunities for the new IP in the international market, or feeding back on ways to tweak them to enhance their international appeal or to flag certain markets globally that are looking for new formats in this space.
What’s the best piece of career advice you’ve been given?
It’s ok to be ambitious and driven; it’s not something to be ashamed of. If anything, it’s a positive to know your worth and to keep wanting to work towards your goals, while being open to learning more along the way. Use the drive to push yourself and help others.
What advice would you give someone thinking of applying for the mentoring scheme?
The scheme was career defining for me. It felt incredibly impactful at the time, and reflecting on the process now, I can see the true knock on effect. I’d say don’t look back and just apply, it’s one of the only times I’ve been able to really try and stop and take stock of where I currently was, where I wanted to get to, and work out the potential routes there. In addition to mapping out where I wanted to go, it gave me the skills, contacts and confidence to start setting things in motion. I’m still feeling the benefits now and I’m sure I’ll continue to do so for my whole career.
WFTV would like to thank Anaïs for sharing her experiences.