//Testimonial: Mel Heseltine

Testimonial: Mel Heseltine

Having a career in the media was the only job I ever wanted to do. I sorted outwork placements at any opportunity and when I was offered a job at a post-production house in Devon, during my time at Falmouth College of Art, I jumped at the chance.

Being an Assistant Director was something that found me. Suddenly my anal, but organised (!), mind, being a stickler for a routine/schedule and talking to people from all walks of life was an actual job. I couldn t believe my luck! I threw myself into my career for many years. I worked my way up, from a runner to 1st AD, head of department.

Don’t get me wrong, freelance life wasn’t always a bed of roses; there were periods of unemployment, times when I had no social or love life and dealing with not so nice people at work but on the whole I absolutely loved the job.

I knew that when I did eventually meet someone that I wanted a family. I had a sneaky suspicion that the hours of my work and being a Mum wouldn’t mix. I’d yet to come across any female married 1st ADs, let alone any with children.

I didn’t really consider the impact having children would have on my career. I assumed I’d want to go back to work but now looking at my two amazing boys I can t begin to get my head around juggling the two. I don’t want to be working three or four hours away from my children during the week or even leaving the house before they are awake and getting home when they are safely tucked up in bed.

For me it’s not why I had children, I know that isn’t the case for everyone. I find it so frustrating that there isn’t a balance to have this career and be a Mum. What if I were to call one morning and say I couldn’t come in as one of my boys wasn’t well? I can’t imagine being employed again and word would soon get out that I was unreliable and uncommitted.

Taking a long career break I’m not so sure would work. The pace of the industry – rules, regulations, health and safety, not to mention the advancing kit – means you’d be totally out of the loop. As an AD, you’re the person people come to, to ask questions, not the other way round. Plus all your contacts would have moved on to someone else.

There’s talk of job sharing in other departments. It sounds great but handing over to someone else on a regular basis would be pretty time consuming. Would Production really want to spend an extra day on this for both parties? You’d haveto learn to press the switch off button too.

In my early days as a runner we had an actor who was breastfeeding her new-born daughter. Production accommodated this by putting together a heated nursery in a disused hospital. At the time, when I was in my early twenties, I didn’t think much of it, but looking back it was a rare situation. Although hand on heart I know they wouldn’t have accommodated a member of crew and their baby in this way. Why can’t crew have the same adaptations made for them?

The idea behind this website, Raising Film, and reading other people’s testimonies, has been very encouraging in many ways and it’s a relief to know that others are in the same boat. I’m expecting the right job will land in my lap. I know in reality this is highly unlikely. I need stability and to know there’s no shame in putting my family first. In most other industries women can change their hours or work part time. Let’ s change the way people think and make them see that working mums bring so much to this industry, not less.

2015-06-10T09:00:09+01:00June, 2015|Production Stories|