It was during lockdown that Vic Cook, who has previously written for and presented on CBBC, realised that she wanted a change of direction in her career, but moving into development “felt like a mammoth leap”. She says: “I thought, ‘How am I going to get from here to there?’”
She had always wanted to get be a producer but never sure of the steps to take. The initial lockdown served as an opportunity to look at things in a new way and for Vic, that meant “finding a way to do what you love!”
So she looked on the ScreenSkills website and found its Development Researcher Training Programme for Unscripted TV. “I was so pleased when they took me on. It was a total game changer,”
“They lit the fire in my belly for it and I learned how to bring over my skills to this new area. We learnt how to do sizzle tapes, for instance. I had been going bits on my camera about things I found interesting and making my own little docs, so I asked if I could show them a sizzle I had made about women’s weightlifting and they pumped me full of confidence.
“They taught us how to write pitches, identify what you were writing and what channel it was going to and all those skills that I had no idea about.”
Vic was born in Whitley Bay, North Shields, and grew up in a small former mining village and, as she says of her education: “I didn’t go anywhere fancy.” She also didn’t know anyone in the media but loved going to a local community centre that put on shows, where she “did a little bit of acting, a little bit of writing and a little bit of directing”.
That led to her doing sketch comedy and, after winning a BBC comedy writing competition in 2012, Vic started writing for various TV and radio shows, including CBBC’s DNN: Definitely Not Newsround and Newsjack on BBC Radio 4, eventually moving over to presenting as well.
Vic is full of praise for “the brilliant” Sophie Morgan, a Bafta-nominated, RTS award-winner, “with heaps of experience in the industry” who was the course tutor on the Development Researcher Training Programme for Unscripted TV. She helped Vic develop an idea about the work she does for a charity for neuro-divergent people, teaching them how to perform stand-up comedy.
Sophie also helped Vic identify her transferable skills from writing and presenting, to “brush up my CV, listing all my writing and performing over the years and how they can apply to working in development”.
“I really enjoy talking to people – just being a Geordie, basically – and wanting to know how things work,” Vic says. “Having a writing background was a massive asset, and the comedy too – being able to be humorous in a pitch can win the attention of commissioners.
“I didn’t realise that I could create programme ideas on my own. As a scriptwriter you’re working to a brief all the time, but I’ve learned how to do things from scratch. I had a book full of ideas, but I just needed that boost of confidence from people already in the industry who had been doing this for years to look at my stuff and say, ‘Yes this is good enough’, and steering me in the right direction.”
Vic’s course was supported by the Unscripted TV Skills Fund, which aims to address skills gaps and shortages and build a more inclusive workforce in the industry. “ScreenSkills is such a great resource, particularly for people of my background,” she says. “Because I’m coming into this quite late and I’ve got two kids and was a single parent for a long time, there was no way I would have been able to afford it a career change.
“It’s important to encourage those who don’t come from a media background that there are definite pathways there, and ScreenSkills can help so many people to achieve that.”
After working as a freelance for a couple of small companies, Vic is currently working for Lizardfish as a development producer. “My comedy background and where Lizardfish is heading at the moment – into more comedy and docs – is a good fit,” she says, “and the ScreenSkills training gave me the confidence to apply.”