Emma Bell was a WFTV mentee in 2017 and currently manages the development slate at
Stolen Picture, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost’s Sony-backed TV and film production company. Emma started out as a journalist, and after a stint as a press officer at the Edinburgh Fringe she began her TV career at Paramount Comedy. Creative roles as a writer, script editor, director and producer followed. She spent over a decade working across Sky’s biggest entertainment brands, and held several senior roles including Head of Digital Entertainment and Head of Development. She took part in the WFTV Mentoring Scheme following a short career break. Emma’s Mentor was Natalie Humphreys, Controller of Factual & Daytime at the BBC, who now works as an exec in the independent production sector.
We caught up with Emma to find out about her experience on the scheme, how it has impacted her career and what her current role involves…
‘It felt like a great opportunity to learn, accompanied by a supportive group of like-minded fellow mentees from across the sector.’
Why did you apply for the WFTV Mentoring Scheme?
I was returning to work after a career break and keen to explore how I might use my skills and experience next. The scheme combines traditional mentoring with peer-to-peer training, as well as providing opportunities to attend industry events such as the Cannes Film Festival and Sheffield Doc Fest. It felt like a great opportunity to learn, accompanied by a supportive group of like-minded fellow mentees from across the sector.
What were you hoping to get out of the scheme?
To meet and learn from a diverse group of inspiring people, to feel excited about work again and have a bit of an adventure along the way.
Was it what you expected?
I went into the scheme with an open mind and gave myself permission to explore all sorts of things for six months. I basically said yes to everything – the Cannes Film Festival, Sheffield DocFest, events, screenings, seminars, training, meetings – and had a blast.
Were you at all surprised by the mentor you were paired with?
Not surprised – delighted! I knew a huge amount of thought goes into matching mentees with mentors, and I was looking forward to exploring what had made us a match. Natalie is hugely experienced, smart, funny and inspiring. We laughed a lot and I learned a huge amount from her.
‘The seminars were fascinating and I learned so much from my peers during those sessions.’
How did the relationship with your mentor work during the scheme and what do you feel you gained from it?
During our first meeting, we introduced ourselves and agreed our terms of engagement – key themes for discussion, a plan for the six months, how each of us liked to work. We met in person for that first meeting which was important. After that we were both happy to mix it up – meeting in person when we could but also via FaceTime and email if geography or schedules got in the way. It worked well for us and I gained a huge amount of knowledge, clarity and perspective from our regular sessions.
The unique aspect of the scheme is how it uses peer-to-peer training as well as mentor support, how did that work?
Every Wednesday evening the group would meet for two hours. Each mentee commits to delivering one formal seminar lasting an hour during the scheme. The seminars were fascinating and I learned so much from my peers during those sessions. Subjects were wide-ranging and included masterclasses in acting, directing and producing as well as insights into costume design, sound design and the camera department. Other topics covered included business affairs, finance, agents, commissioning, acquisitions, development, distribution, the LA Screenings and navigating international film festivals. The conversation continued in the pub afterwards, and subsequently via email, the WhatsApp group and regular meet ups.
How did the mentoring scheme change your career and how did it lead to your present role?
I have met so many brilliant people through the scheme, from all over the industry. As well as my wonderful mentor, and my amazing group of mentees, I was introduced to other mentors and mentees from other years. These conversations sparked other conversations, all of which helped me to discover new opportunities to use my skills in new ways and encouraged me to take on new challenges.
Can you tell us about your current role/work?
In 2017 I joined Stolen Picture, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost’s new Sony-backed production company. As the Development Producer, my role is to work with the team to build a slate of TV, Film and Digital projects. Over the past 18 months we have developed a slate that includes comedy, horror, sci fi, drama and YA projects plus a couple of big literary adaptations too.
What would be a ‘typical’ day at the office for you?
Every day is different and ranges from working with established writers to supporting fresh voices, talking to commissioners, agents, producers and directors whilst finding and developing ideas, scripts and books with the Stolen Picture team. It’s interesting and energising to work with so many talented creative people across the industry every day.
What’s the best piece of career advice you’ve been given, and who was it by?
“Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.” ~ Anaïs Nin.
When I started on the scheme, a good friend sent me a card with this quote by Anais Nin. It really resonated for me.
What advice would you give someone thinking of applying for the mentoring scheme?
Do it. And don’t mess about – really go for it. Keep an open mind, throw yourself in and, most importantly, make sure you have an enormous amount of fun doing it!
WFTV would like to thank Emma for taking part in this interview.