BU graduate, Charley Packham, has pursued a career in media and production since graduating from BA (Hons) Television Production in 2015, and it has recently been announced that she has been selected by Disney Imagine UK for its new, short-film incubator programme centred on the theme of ‘Evolve’. Charley works as a Freelance Producer and Co-Founder of COOC Productions, which she runs with fellow BU graduate, Oliver Deacon.
We asked her a few questions about her successes, her future goals and the advice she would give to others.
What’s your favourite part about your job and your greatest achievement so far?
My favourite part of the job is the people; building relationships with all different types of people and finding your team and collaborators that you work well with. The job is very people oriented and I love the idea of bringing something to life. Sometimes projects can get stuck in the idea phase, so I love spotting something and being able to see it through to a tangible finished product.
Disney commissioning our short film, Lionhead, is so cool and I’m really excited for how that materialises. We applied for other funding pots, and we kept getting shortlisted, but not quite getting it. It feels so good that we’re finally able to make it happen as I really believed in the idea from the get-go. We threw our hats in the ring and went for it, even though we knew it would be very competitive applying for this scheme. To have the support of Disney and the NFTS means we can create the best possible version of what this film could be.
One of my greatest achievements so far was when a project based on a short film we worked on at BU, called Class A, was selected as a finalist for a development competition in Cannes and we had to pitch to hundreds of professionals across the TV industry. Having never done anything like that before, it was so out of my comfort zone, but afterwards we felt so accomplished and now we’re one step closer to getting that project realised as well.
What can you tell us about your project with Disney Imagine UK and how did you come to be selected?
The project is called Lionhead and it’s about a British-Chinese Lionhead dancer who strikes up an unlikely friendship with the most popular girl in school and is forced to choose whether to abandon his dance performance in favour of the neon lights of his new love interest’s house party. It’s a really beautiful story about internalised shame, cultural heritage and belonging and it’s such a visually striking and original project. The writer, Alvin Yu emailed me out of the blue in February last year. When I read the script before meeting with him, I just fell in love with it. Alvin and I got on really well and from there we applied to lots of different funding pots until we got selected by Disney as a finalist. We’re going to be filming in May with post-production due to be completed around October to hopefully take it to film festivals.
It all came about from a chance email and then has just gone on from there! I’m really excited for the casting process, I’ve got a Q&A with the Director of Encanto to discuss story and it’s incredible to be able to have these creative conversations to get the project on screen.
What is your next career goal after working with Disney Imagine UK?
I’ve just finished shooting another short film with the British Film Institute which is in post-production and should be finished around March, so that is my immediate focus. Then I’d love to make the leap to longer form projects and carve out a career as a creator and producer of scripted series and TV shows from our company’s slate. I would also like to try working in North America.
Class A, the project I mentioned earlier is currently in late-stage development, so we’re starting to take that out to broadcasters and, hopefully, land a commission. That project started life with a group of friends at Bournemouth University, so it would be a great full circle moment. It’s funny how these things go, as coincidentally my first internship was with Disney, as a production intern within the marketing department, and now I’m on the other side producing a project with them!
What advice would you give to students looking to follow a similar career path?
Your network is everything, as nurturing connections with your peers and keeping tabs on projects people are working on can lead to some great opportunities. It’s great to have skilled people to hand for when you suddenly need help with a project. However, I would also say be wary of trying to emulate someone else’s success because the amazing thing about this industry is that everyone follows a different route, and it only starts to make sense in the rearview mirror.
Unless you have the luxury of being financially supported, it’s very rare that you get to make intentional choices over what is next, so you just have to find the next best thing to keep learning and developing to eventually get to where you want to be in the industry. It’s important to have that long-term goal, but it can be a strange route to get there, so try not to compare yourself to others as everyone’s paths will look totally different. You also have to remember to look after yourself from a wellbeing perspective as well. The industry is notorious for long hours and difficult working conditions, and the freelance nature of the work means there’s not a lot of job security. It’s important to bear that in mind, as getting where you want to be may take longer than you expect, and you have to give yourself enough energy to stay enthusiastic and focused. So, it’s important to keep yourself fulfilled and find ways to keep yourself in the game without it completely taking over your life – make sure you have a balance.
My own career so far has been all over the place! I’ve worked in lots of different roles within media and production all over the world and often one thing leads to another, so just show up, do your best and be a nice person to be around and it will likely lead on to something else.
Do you think your time at BU helped you to achieve your career aspirations?
Absolutely, it gave me a solid foundation for a lot of different aspects of film and TV, and I felt like I graduated with employable skills and a portfolio of work to showcase. Studies aside, it’s so important to seek out those placements and real-world experiences to get hands on knowledge wherever you can. BU opened a lot of doors for me; my first internship with Disney was through a connection with BU and I worked with FIFA for the World Cup in 2014, which was also through BU. A lot of my early career opportunities and exposure to the industry was down to BU, which was great, and I met some wonderful friends and collaborators during my time there.