A law of unintended consequences

I work for a TV production company. TV production is notoriously difficult to break into – it’s highly competitive, entails lots of unpaid work, and getting a break often depends on having a friend or relative already in the business.

In autumn 2010 I began work on a pilot project that aimed to address those problems by giving disadvantaged young people access to the TV industry. I wanted to bring a group of youngsters from Community Links (an east London charity with whom my company has worked for several years) together with friendly TV professionals who could offer them advice, support, and an insight into working in TV.

The original idea was simply to give the young people their first contacts in the industry. The whole group would meet, chat for a while, then split off into pairs – each young person would be matched with a TV pro who is experienced in their specific area of interest (so a youngster interested in camera work would be paired with a cameraman).

The idea took shape in my mind over a few weeks. As soon as I started discussing it with other people, though, it evolved beyond all recognition.

Jamie, a friend who does executive coaching, encouraged me to think bigger: more people, more time, and more benefits all round.

Then I found Mark, the colleague who was to help me run the programme, and he made that more ambitious vision a reality: it turned it into a full day of practical skills, close contact with TV pros, and career advice.

We ended up giving three young guys a morning of camera training, an hour of on-screen training with a well-respected presenter, and an afternoon of edit training.

Better yet, everything they learnt contributed to a tangible outcome: by the end of the day each participant had created a 60-second film that focused everyone’s minds and can now serve as a showreel.

None of that would have happened without the input of the two guys who transformed my original idea.

That’s a law of unintended consequences: through discussion with others, an idea can develop into something you could never have imagined alone.

I’m now working on a successor project, with a vision that is grander still: three companies, four departments, five days, six Community Links participants, and at least twenty of my colleagues.

Bring on the unintended consequences.

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Here are some photos from the day:

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