There are three parts to what we do at DV Talent – all our services are for the TV and film industries. The first bit, which is what I run on a day-to-day basis, is a training school for TV (and to a lesser extent film and digital creatives) people. We’re the main training provider for professionals in the industry who are looking to develop their skillset, and we run lots of short courses in everything from directing to editing, producing to production management, research, storytelling, development and pitching as well as craft and technical courses in things like lighting, sound, data wrangling and cameras. More recently we’ve branched out into visual effects courses – teaching VFX producing, compositing, After Effects, as well as drama-related ones like script-writing.
As well as training, we also run The Kit Room, a broadcast kit rental company for cameras, lights and sound equipment, which is a preferred supplier to the BBC and ITV as well as lots of independent production companies. And the third element of what we do is run a site called The Talent Manager, which is like a LinkedIn for the TV and film industries. It’s essentially a cross between a job site and a social network, and it has become the main site for freelancers in TV or film and production companies to find one another, and develop their careers.
The business was originally set up by my wife, Sarah – who was a senior producer at the BBC. At first, she created DV Talent as an agency – the first for people working behind the camera, directors, series producers and the like – working in factual and documentaries. The agency’s particular niche was people who were self-shooting (Sarah had worked at the department at the BBC which had pioneered self-shooting) rather than crews. At the time, it was a new, specialist area of programme-making. Nowadays, most non-scripted TV is made by self-shooters.
We wanted to make sure the people we represented really knew what they were doing, so started offering training. Most of the training in the industry was – and much of it still is – done by people far removed from front-line programme-making.
And because we did training, we then had a lot of cameras and kit around so we started doing rental. Gradually the agency bit wound down and we set up an online offering – The Talent Manager – as the digital equivalent.
My background is that I was a newspaper journalist on Fleet Street for around 15 years, mainly writing news and features. I worked all over; I did freelance bits for the Guardian, I worked for the FT for a while, I was at The Daily Telegraph for seven or eight years and spent several years in Hong Kong covering the handover. In my last few years as a journalist, I was the media editor at The Telegraph and elsewhere, so I knew the media and TV beat. Sarah started DVT in 2001 after our daughter was born. By the time we had child number three we wanted her to have a bit of time away from working and running a business, and I wanted a change from Fleet Street, so ‘’applied’’ for the job. After a very rigorous job interview over the washing up, and with no other applicants forthcoming, she (reluctantly) offered me the gig. Actually, it made sense, as I knew about the business and the industry already.
We now have ten staff and a big pool of freelance trainers. Some of our staff have TV backgrounds but others, like our Talent Manager team, have technical development or digital marketing backgrounds. The business is great when it goes well because – to use horrible corporate language! – there are some fantastic synergies across our client base. But it can also be hard; we are currently focused on getting the company to that next, slightly bigger stage where we can have a little more staff delineation and infrastructure. That will allow Sarah and me to focus better on each separate strand without having to be so involved in the day to day minutiae; currently, we can find ourselves being spread quite thin.
We moved into Shoreditch in January 2015. We had always been in North London, where we had offices in Kentish Town. We ended up around the corner here in a temporary place in Curtain Road for about six months and then this came up in Atlantic House.
One of the reasons we were in Kentish Town is that there were a lot of production companies there, in Camden. However over the last 5 years, a lot of the mid-sized companies have been bought up and moved elsewhere, and most of the new and fastest growing production companies are here in the East. This is definitely the place to be! It’s where most of our clientele are and it’s so convenient; we’ve got parking, it’s just outside the congestion zone, and it’s easily accessible for everyone from our kit hire clients to our training ones.
Our only moment of regret was the day we completed on the office contract: that evening, Sarah and I were watching the London evening news on TV, and there was suddenly an item about how ironic it was that the much trumpeted Silicon Roundabout had totally rubbish broadband. Lo and behold there was Tristan from Them Design (who had built our website) saying it was so bad it was virtually impossible to work! Sarah and I looked at each other and said, ‘Oh God, what have we done: trying to run a digital business from an office where there’s no usable broadband.’ It was something that hadn’t even occurred to us to check. Thankfully, two years on, we’re just about getting there.