Want to be an Executive Producer?
Knowing he has worked with the likes of Anne Robinson and Trevor McDonald, I was a little nervous as I sat down to talk to BBC journalist and executive producer, Eddie Botsio.
But all anxieties were swiftly brushed aside as he began to tell his story with a warm and friendly charm.
Expecting him to have a string of journalistic degrees, he laughs as he declares that he ‘basically did a degree in PE and painting.’ Eddie was rejected from a BBC traineeship because he had no journalism experience, so had to save enough money to put himself through a postgraduate diploma in media and journalism. This is where it all began.
During this course he received an attachment to work on BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour where he gained valuable experience in producing a great idea: a programme that consists of reports, interviews and debates on health, education, cultural and political topics aimed at women and mothers. This, along with his formal postgraduate piece of paper, finally landed him that job as a BBC news trainee.
Climbing the media ladder
From here he worked in Northern Ireland during the conflict, in Manchester just after the Hillsborough disaster, in London assisting the newsroom with network news, at ITN appearing on News at 10 with Trevor McDonald, at BBC 1 Extra as commissioning editor helping with its launch, and most recently with the BBC in the World News Room. A wealth of experience.
Eddie went freelance two years ago, but as well as setting up a small production company he is also now the Executive Producer of a co-production between a company in the Netherlands and BBC World News on a show called ‘What’s up Africa’. A satirical take on news from Africa, this show is a combination of traditional and digital broadcasting presented on BBC World News, YouTube and Facebook.
Speaking of the trials he faces, he says: ‘This is quite a challenging role because the team I work with are based in Holland, I’m based in London and they shoot in Africa. So there are quite a few logistics to deal with.’
Imagining the stresses of long distance communication, I wondered what a typical day is like for Eddie:
‘The great thing about working in the media is that there is no typical day. For example, tomorrow we are reviewing some of the material that has been shot in Malawi. We will critique it, check scripts and suggest edits. We often discuss proposals and liaise between BBC Sport and BBC Africa. In pre-production there are lots of meetings, admin, scripting and editing. But it gets even more intense when we are actually on air.’
His warm nature made for easy listening and I got side-tracked as I welcomed the enthusiasm for his work:
‘Being an executive producer is the kind of role you grow into. You need to have creative flare, a commitment to quality programming, an awareness of how to budget and an ability to assess a project and work out where it will be most successful. You have to be able to get on with people and create a decent network. You have to be able to prioritise what needs doing now and what can wait. You’ve got to be able to understand your team, your audience and the different networks you are broadcasting on. You’ve got to be able to negotiate when your presenter decides he wants one thing done one way and you know it’s not going to work.’
We both chuckle.
‘You need to be able to persuade them otherwise. You’ve got to be able to read, write, pitch and present well. You’ve got to sell. You’ve got to pay attention to detail and be able to mentor.’
Always encourage others
While vigorously scribbling down the skills needed to be an executive producer, I catch a pause in his speech so I ask for some first-hand examples.
‘Well, the team I am working with are young and inexperienced. They’ve got a lot of energy and enthusiasm, which is great, but sometimes you just have to guide that in the right direction, because they will want to do things that we wouldn’t necessarily do in the BBC. They won’t always understand why you can’t just nick someone else’s logo and stick it on your broadcast. You’ve got to be aware of all those editorial issues at the same time as supporting their creativity and energy. You don’t want to dishearten them but you’ve also got to help them learn how to get round those kind of issues.’
Always have a working visa
He speaks with a genuine sincerity. I can almost imagine myself as one of those naïve team members. Intrigued, I ask for a memorable moment. Eddie laughs as he recalls the time he was lined up to do an interview with Naomi Campbell when she was launching her famous campaign to get more black models on the catwalk:
‘The interview was for Newsnight and it was only decided last minute. I didn’t have the visa to work in the United States so I couldn’t go. She had only agreed to do the interview with me and wouldn’t do it with another BBC journalist, so the interview went to Channel 4 News instead. It was extremely frustrating.’
‘Did you watch the interview she did with Channel 4?’ I ask.
‘Yes I did, and it was good. But mine would have been better.’
He’s joking, but I believe him.
Advice for you wannabe's
Moving on, I ask what advice he would give to students wanting to pursue a career in this kind of field:
‘Watch a lot of TV, critique it and come up with new ideas. It’s better if you can shoot and edit yourself, which you can do on your iPhone, and most of the successful people getting in these days already write a blog. I would expect most people who are interested in the media to come with a small portfolio of stuff they have already done. Even if they have just filmed a report on event in their local area. It doesn’t matter so much about the quality, but it’s the experience that counts.
‘Network furiously and get to know people. And when I say get to know people, don’t just know people in the industry. You’ve got to have a wide knowledge of all sorts of people. Some of my best stories have come because I know people in the fire brigade, the police service or in a particular office where a story has broken, and because they know and trust you they will tell you about that story before anyone else. You’ll soon find that you’re breaking stories that other people don’t know about.’
I’ve never even considered a career in this area before, but having listened to Eddie, I’m taking my iPhone for a trip to the annual town fete this weekend to shoot some footage.
Abi Collings is an English Literature graduate from UEA who is passionate about pursuing a professional career in writing and communications. She is particularly keen to develop her skills in content-production, editorial process, project management and marketing.