Amy Merry is a film and television graphic designer, nominated for the Craft & Design Award for Best Titles
, Royal Television Society, for her work with Yianni Papanicolaou on BBC Two’s THE HOUR, where she was also an art director. She has also worked on Secret Diary of a Call Girl, Frankenstein, Upstairs Downstairs, The King’s Speech, Bright Star, and The Firm. You can see examples of her work on her website
Sarah Solemani holding sign designed by Amy Merry
Your sign for our recent red carpet campaign to ‘Budget the Baby’ was a last minute request – can you tell us a little bit about why you got involved?
I’m a graphic designer for film and television, usually as a member of an art department in prep and production. I’ll design and make graphic props and scenery.
As a new mum I found coming back to work on set a challenge. As we know, the hours are very long, unpredictable and inflexible. I wanted to be involved in this because I’d like to hear more public conversation encouraging and enabling young creative parents to feel empowered when it comes to their career choices.
Can you tell us what you’re currently working on? How did you make it work with/around your childcare responsibilities?
Currently I’m working on the BBC period drama series, Call The Midwife. I’ve been lucky to team up with another graphic designer who has young children. So we split the week. It’s working well so far and I appreciate the opportunity to continue my job on a part time basis. This is the first production either of us have done as a job share. We’re hoping we’ll be able to convince other producers and art departments of it’s value. Essentially they get two heads for the price of one and we get to see our children.
I’d like to hear more public conversation encouraging and enabling young creative parents to feel empowered when it comes to their career choices.
Have your caring responsibilities shaped – or even changed – how you’re working now as supposed to a few years ago? Are you surprised by where you are now?
I was definitely a workaholic before becoming a parent. I still have the same creative drive and passion for a good , project, but now of course there is an additional project in my life. This one requires me to work harder and think even more creatively!
What advice would you offer someone thinking about becoming a graphic designer/art designer and wanting to have a family life as well?
I think it’s early days for me in terms of offering advice to other graphic designers in film wanting to have children. I’m still finding my feet and working out what’s next career-wise. I guess my only advice would be: don’t beat yourself up. One new parent might feel that they want to go back to set straight away and another may decide to pack it all in. I suppose the debate is how do we enable a choice based on what’s best for individuals and their families, rather than simply what’s practical?
My only advice would be: don’t beat yourself up.
Do you involve your children, your partner or your other family members in your work? If so, how?
My partner Gareth and my parents are a huge source of support. Realistically, I wouldn’t be able to work in film and television without their help. It’s not possible for me to take our son to the studio with me, he’s an energetic 21 month old toddler! Sometimes I may work from home, but this is not usually encouraged, and is not often practical. On a filming day I’d expect to be absent from the home for around 16 hours. So we are always juggling around who drops off and picks up our son from the childminder!
Your partner Gareth also works in the industry – does this help or hinder when it comes to childcare responsibilities?
Gareth also works in the industry. We have a mutual understanding and appreciation of the practicalities and passions involved in each of our areas of film work. We realised quite early on that we couldn’t work simultaneously on full time projects and afford the corresponding childcare. We also didn’t want to.
As a working family, we currently recognise Gareth as the main earner so it makes more sense for me to pursue part time work for the balance of our budget as well as our family life!
I’m hoping that art department job-sharing will become more accepted and commonplace.
What would you most like to see change about the industry? What changes would help you most in pursuing your practice sustainably?
Personally I’m hoping that art department job-sharing will become more accepted and commonplace. It seems to be a good option for those parents who feel that they need their time on set to balance with their time at home.