Natasha Cox (English and Communication Studies)
Natasha graduated in 2008 is now a television and documentary producer working for the BBC and Channel 4.
What does your job involve?
I produce documentaries and factual programmes for television. This involves finding or coming up with ideas for interesting stories and filming them for broadcast. As a producer you are required to research your subject matter in-depth, know your contributors extremely well and guide editorial decisions in order to fairly represent the people or subject you’re filming and hopefully challenge perceptions in the process.
I either work closely with one director – usually on one-off documentaries – or manage a team of shooting producer/directors, researchers and runners across a series. In both cases, it is crucial that everyone works together in a “crew” and communicates well as events unfold. It is the producer’s role to write-up and consolidate new information in order to steer the narrative as the film develops and then oversee the edit until the programme is shown on TV.
How did your course prepare you for your job?
I studied English and Communication Studies at Liverpool and although I am a lover of literature, three separate modules captured my interest at University and took my attention slightly away from Dickens and Steinbeck. These were: Public Service Broadcasting, Political Cinema and Documentary. All three were taught in the Communication and Media department and helped me appreciate the importance of communication in the modern world.
I watched and learned about cinéma vérité - the notion of reality in film - the power of fly-on-the-wall, observational documentaries such as Paul Watson’s ‘The Family’ (a series that has shaped TV ever since). And I developed an understanding of public service broadcasting through long discussions in seminars and experience when volunteering at the BBC Radio 3’s Free Thinking Festival, when it was hosted at FACT in 2007.
Producing content that in Huw Wheldon’s words: "make the good popular and the popular good" and whether producers have a responsibility to their audience was of great intrigue to me during my time at Liverpool. I was able to read and discuss ideas in this area both in and out of lectures. For example, it was here that I first learned about the Reithian mantra: inform, educate and entertain, a philosophy that I still very much believe in. And those modules continue to be a hugely inspiring influence on my career.
What are your top tips for students wanting to work in your field?
For Liverpool students, I would suggest that you make the most of the vibrant and creative city you are studying in while you are there. Go and see films at FACT, visit the Bluecoat regularly, be on the pulse and establish what sort of films, programmes or documentaries you would want to make. At the moment there is a huge shift towards a digital media landscape and whether it is developing ideas for short online films or writing blogs about the media, be part of the conversation. Know who is doing what and watch a lot of content from a variety of sources.
Tips for after you’ve left Liverpool: become indispensible once your foot is in the door. Don’t just make the tea when you find work experience, carry out lots of research, come up with ideas, make calls, be confident and approachable. Trust is a huge element to working in television – whether that be with the commissioners or the contributors - as is being curious about all aspects of the filmmaking process: from drawing up budgets, researching, camera operating, to editing.
What was your best experience of studying at Liverpool?
Having the freedom to indulge in independent thought. And being part of a small group of people who individually had interesting contributions to make when talking about film or aspects of media power.
I feel extremely privileged to have studied at an institution that was not pompous and celebrated new ideas as well as being taught by people who were passionate about their field and were consistently re-evaluating their position.