SuperSizer – Interview

Jennifer Gilroy

Firecracker Scotland

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Jennifer Gilroy is Development Executive at Firecracker Scotland and was a delegate of the pilot SuperSizer programme, which ran from October 2017 to April 2018.

Firecracker Scotland are the team behind shows such as Scottish BAFTA nominated series Class Of Mum and Dad (Channel 4) and Getting Hitched, Asian Style (BBC Scotland).

In November 2018 Firecracker Scotland won a 15-part commission from BBC One Daytime – ‘The Customer is Always Right’. We spoke to Jen about how the skills learnt on SuperSizer led to this commission, amongst other key takeaways from the programme.

“I liked the concept of SuperSizer from the beginning – it’s about encouraging companies in the Nations and Regions to be ambitious and come up with big returnable series. Why can Scotland not produce the next Hunted or 24 Hours in A&E?
I loved the ambition of the programme, which is something I think we share at Firecracker Scotland. The course chimes a chord with what is needed in the Nations and Regions – commissioners need to see that there are companies here that can deliver at the high level required for big, returnable series.”

Creative Diversity in the Development Team

“The first session of the programme absolutely changed my approach to the creative process. A crucial thing that I’ve taken away from the training was the learning on unconscious bias and different types of creatives. People often hire those in the same creative mould as themselves. From the training, I now know that I am an ‘implementer,’ so now when I go to hire, I look for those who have a different creative type from my own. It was a real lightbulb moment, and one from which I can see tangible results.

When developing The Customer is Always Right, I hired someone to help with the casting for our taster tape. The person I ended up hiring had a very different background to me and therefore a different approach than I might take. Their background helped them bring together a diverse cast that we pitched as part of our taster tape to the BBC. As well as loving the idea itself, the BBC said that the taster tape and the diversity showcased was a key reason for the show being commissioned.

Part of our big ethos at Firecracker Scotland has always been about diversity – from class to ethnicity. Now, we’re also thinking about diversity of approach and creativity – something I can attribute to the training on SuperSizer.”

Peer Learning

“I’m still in touch with everyone in the course – we still keep in touch via the Whatsapp group, discussing everything from advice when you’re having a tough shoot, recommendations for staff and celebrating each other’s wins. There’s a real sense of camaraderie. Working in Development especially, it’s difficult to having working relationships outside of your own company, due to the confidential nature of the business. With the SuperSizer group, although we weren’t discussing our own personal projects, there was a support network there. TRC brought together a diverse range of people, all working on different genres and projects, but all ultimately in the same boat and coming up against the same obstacles.”

Exclusive Commissioner Access

“The one-on-one time with commissioners that the course provided was invaluable. The sessions were intimate insights into them as people, as well as their role as commissioners – what they’re looking for and what their department is looking for – but it also gave us the freedom to throw out questions to them. I think the commissioners really responded well to it because they were able to say ‘you’re our suppliers and we need to have a mutual understanding.’ It felt like very privileged access – I got so much more out of these sessions than from bigger commissioner briefings. The setting allowed everyone to be really honest, which was invaluable.

Ricky Cooper [BBC Commissioning Executive, Popular factual and factual entertainment] delivered part of his training on ‘What I wish I’d known when I was a Development Executive.’ It was funny and self-deprecating, but incredibly useful. It made Factual Entertainment at BBC feel massively accessible. We’re always ambitious with our ideas and have regular meetings with that department, but I think the SuperSizer programme really cemented those relationships for the future.

It works both ways too: the programme allowed the indies to show the commissioners who we are and the calibre of talent in the Nations and Regions. It allowed us to showcase what we have here, and hopefully these relationships will continue. We’ve followed up with all the commissioners from the programme and have some ideas in with some of them. Having formed relationships with them through SuperSizer has massively helped.”

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SuperSizer is an original training concept by TRC.

SuperSizer is funded by BBC Nations and Regions, Channel 4 and Screen Scotland.