I, Daniel Blake: Line Producer Eimhear McMahon on Bringing the Team Together

From the moment we met Alison [Carter-Goulden, assistant editor] and started talking, her competency and efficiency convinced me that a job-share could work well. Her and Erline [O’Donovan]’s relationship with Jonathan [Morris, editor] was the most important thing, and that worked perfectly. Alison and Erline set out very plainly how they saw it working – and once they introduced us to the idea, it was an absolute no-brainer. As long as they were confident in each other’s ability, it was the smoothest transition, you wouldn’t have known it was two people each working one half of the week.

As a line producer, you give someone that responsibility to find the person they’re most comfortable working with – both people have to take responsibility for making it work. We didn’t need convincing at all, because they’re two incredibly talented, skilled women, but I’m delighted it worked and hope to do it again. If Alison and Erline aren’t available, then we’ll definitely be searching around in the future for other people – particularly women, who are still under-represented – who might benefit from this.

I was talking to an editor I know who has just got pregnant, and she was wondering about how it’s going to work. I’d never have considered that job sharing was a possibility before, but now I could tell her about it, and she said, “Of course!” But then she didn’t think many people would support it. So it is about making it happen, changing attitudes, and meeting the right people who believe it’s possible. You can’t even see why there would be a problem, people just need to get on board.

Not every department or job role could be shared, but the assistant editor’s job was perfect for it. I think it would be difficult for a line producer to job share, for example particularly during production: but you could probably split certain tasks and responsibilities. And you do delegate work anyway, especially once you have a production manager and co-ordinator, but in terms of all the information you store in your head, coming from the conversations  with the director, producer and heads of department, it’s down to how each of those people do their jobs.

You’d just have to get down to the nitty-gritty of how it would work in practice in a given role, particularly if it’s a creative role. There’s no reason that it can’t, let’s say, for a camera assistant, focus puller, boom operator, or sound recordist, because those are down to specific abilities and tasks. It’s no different to getting a daily in, really. It would be about showing the individual head of department that you can make it work. It may be different when there’s creative thought involved, as people might struggle with sharing that creative process, but why not?

It’s really about getting people used to the idea of employing more women – and men, of course ­– who also want to look after their kids. Job sharing is one way to address the problem the industry has with people who are doing caring. I’ve heard a lot of stories about people being afraid to disclose when they are pregnant, people who work behind the camera and in front of it, and that absolutely has to be stamped out: it’s unacceptable. Everything is possible when you have someone who is perfectly capable of doing their job, then the team just makes it work around what they need.

For example, our production co-ordinator on I, Daniel Blake worked up to a week before she gave birth. Courtney’s a young, efficient, super-focused person who was able – and chose – to do that, and we never doubted her. Her husband’s a floor runner, and we were able to employ him because we needed the role filled, and because he’s good at his job. So they were able to make it work because they were on the film together. They both left a week before the birth, and we just filled those positions.

It’s complex for carers: people have to work very hard to put in place measures where they can have the hours to work and look after their children, or can afford to do both. Alison did it incredibly well, so that even if we just needed a play-out, she was willing and able to come into town with Felix for a morning – she would set it up, and Felix would run around entertaining the rest of us. It worked fine, and Felix and I bonded over pastry and card games.

And I, Daniel Blake is a film about making better communities as well. The ownership people have of the film is incredible – I think it comes from the sense that [the protagonists] Daniel and Katy are ordinary people. At Q&As we’ll hear from people who have far more extreme stories than Daniel and Katy, even though the press have accused the film of exaggeration about the benefits system. But we know it’s not exaggerated, because we’re hearing people’s stories.

I work for Sixteen Films all the time: I see the film from the very start to when it goes into cinemas. The reaction to I, Daniel Blake from audiences has been the most powerful thing for me. What we’re seeing now is people grabbing it and running with it, using it as a tool to further the debates they’re having in their communities. EOne, the distributor, have been great at working with regionals to make sure it’s being screened everywhere it can be. And they’re happy to facilitate charities, organisations, and activists that want to book the film: people can contact sales manager Ben Metcalf (details below).

We came across a Facebook page, that was nothing to do with us, where people were pledging cinema tickets to our film for people who can’t afford to go, and maybe haven’t been to the cinema for a long time. It’s important for people to see their own story on film, and maybe see there’s some hope that things can change, step by tiny step. And hopefully, babies that see it at parent and baby screenings will love it and spread the word in their crèches!

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