Working Mums that make it ‘work’

For the last three years TV Producer/Directors Alicky Sussman and Milla Harrison have been job sharing. Find out how they’ve made a success of their partnership and get their tips on how they’ve managed to get that elusive work life balance right in a creative industry!

As Producer/Directors we have made three 60 min programmes together for BBC2 science series, Horizon writes Alicky, edit produced on Channel 4 rig show, Eden and developed a C4 magazine style series.

How have you found the experience of job sharing together?

When we were given our first job-sharing opportunity, it helped enormously that we presented ourselves as a ready-made partnership to Horizon editor, Steve Crabtree. Steve was able to see exactly what skills and experience he was getting, and then make a judgment – in just the same way that he would have done if we were applying as individuals.

How did you persuade people to hire you as a job share partnership?

Opportunities are more likely to come from people you know, or in areas where you have a proven track record. Milla and I both had previous experience making Horizons, and we had both worked with Eden’s Series Editor, Sunshine Jackson. A huge part of making the job share work has been these supportive bosses, who knew and trusted us.

How flexible do you have to be to make it work?

For all the productions we have worked on, we have tried to be as flexible as possible to fit in with programme needs. On Horizon Milla worked 4 days a week spread over 5 and I worked 3 days spread over 4. To make this work budget-wise, we sacrificed having a full-time researcher (a Horizon is usually staffed with a full time researcher and full time program director). When edit producing on Eden we were contracted to work 2.5 days each, but agreed together at the start of the project that we would work an additional half day (usually at home) to fully hand over to each other.

How do you make it work in practice?

Milla and I have a similar but not identical skill-set, and a combined 40 years TV experience. Together, we are quicker at writing scripts and making decisions. On location we take turns to be the Director or the Researcher/Assistant Producer, reducing the pressure of a big shoot.

In the edit, we work on different sections of the script before passing to the other to refine. On days off, the films whirr away in the back of our minds, allowing for new, more creative ideas. Organisation and communication is key to making the partnership work. In the edit we avoid repeating or contradicting by writing detailed daily handovers, which include a plan for the following day.

Do you think job sharing can work for everyone?

You have to trust your job-sharing partner and accept that there will be times when you have to compromise – job sharing may not be for everybody! When it works as it has done for us it benefits both employers and freelancers in a life-changing, work-enhancing way – we are both looking for work now so I hope more employers will be receptive to job sharing ongoing.

Milla Harrison is a Producer/Director with over 20 years’ experience in the TV industry. She has worked across a diverse range of factual output including Horizon BBC 2, The One Show BBC 1, long form documentaries (C5, C4, Discovery Channel, BBC 2 and BBC 1), observational films, magazine short films, live events, and ‘as live programming’. Connect with her on LinkedIn.

Alicky Sussman is a Producer/Director with over 20 years’ experience in the TV industry. She has worked across a diverse range of factual output including Horizon BBC 2, The One Show bbc1, long form documentaries (C5, C4, Discovery Channel, BBC2 and bbc1), observational films, magazine short films, live events and ‘as live programming’. Connect with her on LinkedIn.

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