Learning the Ropes: Meeting the Mentors

As the cohort is paired with their mentors, course participant Shania highlights the importance of mentoring and networking for underrepresented creatives

14 March 2023

Written by Shania Manderson

The first session of the six-month mentoring programme kicked off with a motivational speech from Dermot O’Leary himself. He addressed how important it is to create opportunities for individuals who face structural barriers preventing them from breaking through into the entertainment industry. As a result, the core design of this programme is to create a network that can help underrepresented creatives, like myself, enhance their future careers.

Following this, each mentor was called out and paired up with their chosen mentee. We were given time to introduce ourselves and discuss our career goals. This was extremely beneficial as it allowed us to open up in a safe environment and speak freely about our strengths and weaknesses, which helped us navigate how to make the most out of the mentorship.

I was matched with writer and director, Ali Naushahi, who is the perfect mentor for me. This is because the direction I see myself heading toward is situated between being a creative director and a documentary filmmaker. Ali has written and directed numerous successful true crime documentaries and drama series. Her expertise in this area shone through when we spoke. She gave me insightful knowledge on how to structure my ideas and what to focus on when considering applications.

The one thing that had been made clear when speaking with my mentor Ali, is that the sole purpose of the mentorship is to have a trusted advisor and sounding board who provides guidance, support, and encouragement.

The relationship you create with your mentor can be a transformative experience. Hearing Ali share her challenges made me more self-assured in my creative ability. She reiterated that once you put an end to that cycle of doubt in your work, you allow yourself to feel confident with where you currently are and boost your confidence, making you one step closer to achieving your goal.

After we finished the meeting, we got to hear from each mentor individually. They each spoke about their journey to success and gave encouraging advice. A common theme each mentor spoke about was how success is a process, not an event.

In order to become the type of success you are setting out to be, you have to start at the beginning by accepting all entry-level job opportunities. This way, you can learn everything about the entertainment industry without major responsibilities. They really encouraged us to make the most out of the beginning of our careers, as the skills and tools you develop at this stage will set you up to effortlessly thrive in your desired profession.

What really resonated with me the most was how most of the mentors learned their knowledge about TV and entertainment through the jobs they acquired along the way, and in order to expand your career you should be building on and expanding yourself as a person, this will make you more approachable to work with. I thought this was encouraging to hear because this is realistic and attainable, especially for underrepresented creatives that are often faced with advice that is inaccessible to us.

The mentors acknowledged that structural barriers pose the greatest challenge to young people's engagement in the arts and creative industry. However, there is still a level of nepotism that we engage in - the connections and relationships we develop with our peers and people we meet along the way. By doing this, we create our own communities of like-minded people from similar backgrounds and help each other develop within the industry, thereby creating more opportunities for everyone.

The night finished off with some networking, where we got the chance to interact with each mentor and our peers. Unveiling everyone’s creative minds exposed me to a different realm of entertainment and has now broadened my perspective, motivating me to put myself out there and connect with other like-minded creatives.

I believe mentorship is a critical component of professional development and being able to “learn the ropes” of the TV and entertainment industry from experienced individuals at the top of their game is an opportunity that would have never been made possible without the formation of this programme. I have learned the intricacies of the TV industry and acquired the relevant skillsets needed to kick-start my career.

I look forward to seeing how my knowledge and self-growth will expand over the course of the following mentoring sessions.