I Am Looking For

Return of an Award-Winning TV Producer

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Jonny Ashton, an award-winning Freelance Documentary Director who left Bolton School in 2005, delivered a series of inspirational talks to boys in Years 9 and 11 and  students in the Sixth Form. He described his job as being all about ‘telling stories’ and that this is different from producing news items or being a journalist. Having made documentaries for many channels – his latest show ‘Murder 24/7’ is airing on BBC2 – he stressed how it is important to get to the heart of characters and stories and to ensure the audience is emotionally involved. He said that whilst it is good to have a plan you need to be ready for surprises and that if you make a show which is exactly as you originally intended then you are probably not listening to people properly. He showed an example from the BAFTA-nominated ‘Mighty Redcar’, where a young man learns that he has been offered a music deal in real time and how this changed his life – and the course of the programme. He has also spoke about producing other documentaries including: ‘Celebrity Hunted’, ‘24 Hours in Police Custody’, ‘Ambulance’, ‘The Paras: Men of War’, ‘Surgeons: At the Edge of Life’ and ‘999: On the Frontline’. 

Jonny recalled how he was interested in drama at school but went on to do a Psychology degree and then started on the bottom rung of tv production. He recalled driving the van, making the tea and carrying the equipment. He said he looked after the camera in his hotel room on shoots and was allowed to play about with it. This was great, he said, in allowing him to learn as much as he could about how the cameras work. He advised the boys to never be afraid to ask questions and to watch documentaries on You Tube to get a feel for how they are made and how interviews are conducted. He also advised that learning a language is a very good thing – for example, a command of Spanish would allow you to work in many countries. He said the best advice he could give is to have a sense of what you want to do but be prepared to be flexible and change. When you get to university, he advised, join as many clubs as you can and he recalled how he ran the Drama Society for 2 years and how it was a free ‘trial run’ at running a small business. He also advised of lots of other societies to join such as TV and Radio Clubs. 

The boys also enjoyed listening to former pupil Luke Crompton who left 5 years ago and is now an advertising copywriter and Jamal Niaz, a sports and entertainment journalist. 

Luke told how he initially dreamed of becoming a film-maker and of his studies in Film and TV Production at Newcastle University. His initial work involved making short films for Instagram and Twitter for a wide range of companies but since last September he has been working as a copywriter where he thinks there is a more promising career progression. 

Jamal told how he had always wanted to be a sports journalist, how he studied Broadcast Journalism at the University of Salford in MediaCity. Having worked freelance since his university days, he shared some of his work covering boxing and football. His advice to boys wanting to enter this field was to market themselves at university and beyond and to not always go where the money is.

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