My name is Stevie Lee. I run a tiny film and TV production company called Runaway Fridge from home. I have two children: my son Joss is 10 (and profoundly autistic), Bebe is just 4.
I’m a development producer script editor who was ‘raised’ to producer status with the film FRANK by a particularly generous and loyal producer partner. The scope of my job hadn’t changed – I’d edited and developed films right up to production before – but David Barron is a particularly lovely and fair-minded man and he insisted that I was awarded the credit where no one ever had before. I’ve also EP’d a couple of TV films – THE MAKING OF A LADY for ITV, and THE DOG THROWER for Sky Arts.
To be honest I’d love to have a proper full-time job within a big broadcaster or company. I’d LOVE it, love to be a small cog in a big wheel. I’m slightly exhausted by working mainly alone and by the ridiculous struggle of getting any projects formally commissioned and financed and by the horrible feeling of letting down writers who have given their all because I don’t have the elbow with the people who count. Commissioners know me and vaguely like me simply because I have been around for so long. But I don’t have the heave-ho to truly get their attention and I feel rather invisible.
I’d also love to be a reliable breadwinner who could ease the pressures on my husband, who also works in TV. I’m lucky that Runaway Fridge has some financial backing and support but even with that in place I am FAR from properly contributing to our life, which is not a good feeling. Some days the job can feel like an elaborate and indulgent hobby!
But even if I could get to be considered for those kind of jobs I wouldn’t, if I am honest with myself, be able to fulfil the demands. Before I had Joss I just worked and worked and worked, was available 24/7 and never once resented it. I loved being able to be so committed. But my children, especially my son, who can’t be cared for by many people at all, simply don’t stick to a schedule firmly enough to allow me to be at work in an office every day of the week – however much care I put in place, there aren’t many weeks where something doesn’t come up that means I need to be somewhere with them or for them during basic working hours.
So really the only way for me to ‘balance’ things is to work independently and at least be able to make up time lost to doctors and dentists and sports days at night (I work a lot at night!)
I’ll not lie, it is frustrating.
But I am so much luckier than a lot of women in my situation. At least there is this compromise to be had. I don’t know how mothers who work in production manage at all – I just about juggle things by being only half good at any of it, but at least I’m not expected to be the first in and last out on set. When I was EP’ing the challenging MAKING OF A LADY I thought I might break in two – I either had my daughter (then 18 months old) up in Manchester with me with a massively expensive nanny, or I missed seeing her at all for days on end. My son struggled so much in that time.
Even being more in charge of my work schedule I manage to miss important days and moments in my children’s lives, and I find the gear changes at the end of days really hard to negotiate even after 10 years. It tells especially in my relationship with Joss who is non verbal and terribly vulnerable – I can only understand anything about him and what goes on in his head by paying attention to the SMALLEST changes in his behaviour and more often than not I am a bit slow on the uptake. And apart from my husband I am the only conduit he has really of communicating his needs and fears.
Sorry this sounds very woe-is-me! When actually I feel lucky every day to have my kids and, like many of the people who have written testimonials for the site, I know that they have brought me bags of pragmatism and common sense and a much readier sense of humour – all of which informs my work in a really positive way. I think the experience of having them has made me a better person in every single way – and a better script editor for sure. And I’d go nuts not working at all – I love both my children but they are children and are frequently boring and annoying, and I know by now I’d have been arrested for the abuse of members of the public who all too readily reveal their ugly prejudices against Joss and his tribe on a daily basis. So on with the compromise — but thank God for this site which might actually force some changes in an industry that doesn’t really recognise family responsibilities.