/, The Long Read/I, Daniel Blake: Alison Carter-Goulden and Erline O’ Donovan Talk Job Sharing

I, Daniel Blake: Alison Carter-Goulden and Erline O’ Donovan Talk Job Sharing

Erline O’ Donovan: This was the first time I’d job shared. I got put in contact with Alison through a friend I’d worked with on a previous project. I knew that I was about to work on another project that didn’t pay that well, so my friend thought it would be useful for me to have another job.

Alison Carter-Goulden: I’d job shared before, with someone I knew a bit socially, so I knew from that it worked quite easily as long as there’s good communication. Right now, I’m working part time for a commercials edit house called Trim Editing, as an Organisational Development Consultant, helping them run the business internally – but it was for them that I first job-shared, as a producer, and they have two producers that job-share their role. I was a bit anxious about doing it on I, Daniel Blake with someone I didn’t know, but got a recommendation from someone I trusted. It turned out that we had a similar working methodology, which as an assistant editor is quite easy.

Erline: We met before we started working together – and we could have said then, “I’m not feeling this.” I made it clear that I wanted to adapt to her way of working as she had got the job and I was added on. That helped: it wasn’t both of us who got the job and wanted to do it our own way; there was no clash.

Alison: One of the main advantages was that two heads are better than one; Erline and I had slightly different experience, (I have more experience with 35mm) so we were able to help each other figure things out. I don’t like working totally by myself, I like having someone else to work things out with. It was a small film that only needed one assistant, which was unusual in itself as there are usually a few, so I would have been thinking of friends to ring to help me figure out any problems that came up. 

Erline: I definitely learned a lot from Alison, because this was shot on film and I’d only done that once a long time ago; it was the digital workflow that I was more used to. I hadn’t thought about job sharing before, I thought it was only for people who had kids – but for me, it was because I had a job that wasn’t paying at the time.

Alison: I think the key is to have a shared email address – we set up a new email address, and then we could both see all of the communications, including the sent emails: no-one had to remember to copy us both in. On the days that you’re not working, then, you can keep an eye on things; if I saw an email that Erline didn’t have the answer to but I did, I could jump in.

Erline: The joint email address was the most important element, so we could keep track of everything that happening during the week, instead of my coming in on Wednesday and having a whole load of new information to take in. The face-to-face crossover hour was really useful as well: it was great to have Alison there to tell me what had happened in the first half of the week, and what needed to be done.

Alison: We would do a handover on a Wednesday lunchtimes: we’d have an hour together. Anything that came out of a conversation or a phone call, we’d make a note in a big page-per-day diary, and then when we did the handover we’d go through that diary. We had one big document with our workflow for shooting and rushes, and we both added notes to it, revising backwards and forwards. We put it on Google Docs, it’s such an easy way to share work. We sat down together at the beginning and worked out our workflow, and then we kept extensive notes all the way through.

Erline: The worry for a bigger production than I, Daniel Blake is that they need someone to always know what’s going on, and they always need to have access to someone – but with a job share, it would be OK as long as they know that there’s always someone available during working hours, and both assistants know everything. So it could work on a bigger production, as long as all of the communication practices are in place. With editing, you’d have to choose who you were working with in a very different way, because that’s a creative job. Collaborations between editors do happen, so whether they work together or on different days shouldn’t really make a difference.

Alison: Sometimes you have more than one editor on a film, so if they were job sharing, they’d have to find a different way to collaborate. As long as the director was happy to see one person half the week, and the other person the other half of the week. It could work for people returning to the industry, too: it’s a good way to share the hours and the figuring out of new tech.

Erline: The difficulty is that not all production companies are open to doing anything differently. Sixteen Films were really open, we didn’t have to fight.

Alison: Sixteen saw I was experienced and they wanted me to do the job, but they saw I had a young child and had to think about how to approach it. They cared about it and so were supportive. They’re also not a company that forces anyone to work long hours anyway – meant I could get home and see Felix before he went to bed, which was very important to me. Jonathan [Morris, the editor] and Ken [Loach, the director] work 9-5.30 every day. They’ve worked together for years and know what they want – also Ken is 80, and although he has boundless energy, it’s tiring work.

Erline: They must have seen over the years that if you work until 5.30, you still get things done. Everything gets done, the long hours aren’t necessary.

Alison: And they’re not like the internet generation, mooching about and looking at things online. They come in, have their coffee, go out for a sandwich at lunch, and otherwise they’re on it. They put in a solid day’s work.

Erline: It was great to see there was a possibility of not working six day weeks and horrendous hours, another way – not just because you’re pregnant or have kids. I’m editing pre-vis on a studio film with lots of visual effects. It’s totally different! But there’s two pre-vis supervisors on the film, so one was able to go home early because something happened with their kid, because there’s two people in that role.

Alison: I do think that’s why there are so few female editors: it’s not just pregnancy, it’s that if your kid is sick, you can’t leave early. As a BECTU committee member, I want to get it all on the table: to have working rights for women and increased diversity in the workforce, and for all carers, we need to find ways for them to work, and continue working, in the industry.

Erline: We should be talking about encouraging job shares for fathers because that would enable women to return to work as well. I’ve heard from several women who want to job share, but I haven’t heard the same coming from men. I worked with a VFX editor on Tarzan who had a kid, and he and his wife had a system where one of them would work on a film, and the other would stay at home, and then vice versa – but job-sharing might work better for both of them.

Alison: Some of it is a mindset of being willing to share, rather than to compete – where people are happy to share skills, develop and learn from each other. It’s the same with joining BECTU – people shouldn’t be thinking “What BECTU can do for me?” but what we can do together. If we all stand and support each other over minimum rates and overtime and all the things we’re negotiating, we’ve got power to support each other.

Erline: I’ve been persuaded of that. I wasn’t a member, but when Alison joined the committee she posted on Facebook asking if we had any questions. After seeing some of the answers, I joined.

A: Post and editing have never been very unionised here in the UK – whereas in the US, it’s the norm. It’s depressing when we work on a big studio film because our US counterparts get overtime and union rates. The main thing for me is to improve working conditions for people – there’s an old image of the union as just complaining and being angry; but that’s not how it is at all. It’s about working out how to make things better, and negotiating these changes with PACT and the production companies.

Erline: If a couple both work in film, with the long hours, erratic schedules, unplanned Saturdays, it makes it really difficult to have children. It might not work unless one of them left the industry. But if job sharing becomes a thing – for men as well, because then we could both go part time – that would make it possible. It’s not great to think that if you have children, you have to leave the industry. But with job sharing, you can have a bit of a life!

Alison: You still have to structure it. On I, Daniel Blake we worked quite set hours: Erline couldn’t jump in for me if I had to leave early, and in post-production I did most of the days as she was working on another project. But Sixteen Films was very good at working it out with me, so sometimes I’d go in for the evenings and get things ready for the next day, when my husband could be at home.

On a couple of mornings I had to bring Felix into the cutting room with me; I brought in a few toys for him – and once Eimhear [McMahon, the line producer] came by to hang out and play with him while I worked. Felix doesn’t really know what a film is yet: his association with work is that’s where Mummy and Daddy disappear to. But I think this film is great.

Erline: It’s brilliant.

Alison: It’s goes much more back to the style and content of his earlier films, which were more kitchen-sinky. It’s a small story where not much happens, but people have really connected to it. But I hope it’s not preaching to the choir.

You wish you could force the Tory party into a room to see it.

Erline: Even if people haven’t seen the film, I hope that people around them who have seen it will be talking about it, and that’s how it will start a conversation.

2018-11-22T18:19:28+01:00October, 2016|Production Stories, The Long Read|