Deborah Sathe is the Producer of the EastEnders online spin-off series, E20, which is written by young, emerging writers. She tells us about her theatre background, keeping executives happy and trusting your gut instinct...
Full name/age/job title:
Deborah Sathe, 36, E20 and Diversity Producer.
Please give us an overview of your average day.
On E20 anything can happen! My editor and I have just finished editing the last episode of Series 3 and I am now trying to organise our E20 Schools Tour. The cast, script producer, writers and me will be visiting schools across the UK and delivering drama workshops. I am really looking forward to taking the show on the road – I feel we have got something really special this series and can’t wait for the audience to meet our new characters. I am also trying to get a couple of other projects off the ground, but there isn’t enough time in the day!
What is the most common misconception about your job?
There are a few misconceptions to those who don’t work in the industry, and even to a few that do – firstly that when you are a producer at the BBC there are still people above you, production executives, that need to be consulted on all major production ideas. On this series of E20 we had three executives and they don’t always agree with each other; it is up to the producer to negotiate between them to find a solution that everyone is happy with.
The second is that as a producer you have loads of money to play around with. This is never the case. As a producer I try and make the money go as far as possible – tough in a time of cuts. On E20 we have a fabulous crew who go the extra mile to make E20 look great, which isn’t easy on our budget!
What is the hardest thing about your role?
I think the hardest thing about my role is letting people go. This can be a writer who has worked really hard and been with the series since its inception, or an actor that has been through the whole casting process with you and doesn’t make the cut in the end.
Inevitably there are problems a producer has to solve, and normally has to solve quickly. If people don’t do what they say they are going to do, it harms the production and you have to move on without them – but I am glad to say this doesn’t happen too often on E20.
For all productions, promotion and marketing will always be tough – particularly in a big organisation like the BBC – but the E20 fans are strong, as are our social media campaigns. Go online and check it out.
When did you decide what you wanted to do with your life and how did you set out to achieve it?
I started out wanting to be an actress, and while I was studying at Birmingham University I had a go at directing. Once I started directing I knew that I much preferred being on the other side of the stage (and cameras). I spent 10 years working in theatres all over the country, finishing up as Producer at the Theatre Royal Stratford East, before moving to the BBC as a Radio Drama Producer to set up Silver Street (a radio soap).
From Radio Drama I crossed over to work for John Yorke (Controller of Continuing Drama Series). John wanted me to create a new training ground for young talent that coincided with the 25th anniversary of EastEnders. Diederick Santer, the then Executive Producer of the show, wanted to have an online series and so the new talent initiative and the online series were combined. Now, as Series 3 is about to air, I can’t quite believe where it started and where we are now.
What can you do to get a head start?
Have a go – join in, find local organisations and work with them. If you want to write, act, crew, direct, anything, go out and find organisations that will let you have a go. It doesn’t matter how humbly you start, or how little you are paid, you will inevitably meet people who will help you on your way.
Could you describe the creative element to your job?
Everything is creative about my job – every aspect from storylining to casting, to filming and editing. Everything boils down to the same question, if you were the audience, would you watch this? If the answer is no, you have to go back and make it so they would.
What’s the one thing you wish you had known at the start of your career that you know now?
Follow your gut instinct. If you think a story, casting or a moment you are filming doesn’t work, speak up! Your gut instinct is usually right. Be brave – failing is not trying, trying and failing is a whole different ball game.
Which organisations/websites/resources do you think would be useful for people entering your industry?
I would look at theatres that run great new talent pushes – Theatre Royal Stratford East, Arcola, Lyric Hammersmith – then the BBC website for entry points, Production Trainee placements, work placements, new talent schemes and finally, write to all the independent film companies to be a runner. Watching other people work helps you focus on what you want to do.
Watch E20 online or on BBC3 on Fridays at 8.30pm.
Read our interview with Corey Montague-Sholay, a writer on E20.
Would you like to be featured in Job of the Week? If you work in the creative industries and would love to share your advice, expertise and experience with IdeasTap members, get in touch with our deputy editor at Luiza@ideastap.com.