Mentor or Mentee? Maybe both!

By Zoe Goodwin-Stuart ACO and Maiya Rose

Lockdowns and Coronavirus has been a tough time for all of us within our industry but some great initiatives have come out of forward thinking, webinars and conversations between various associations and partners across the board.

One of the most influential in my view has been the mentoring schemes set up by the BSC, ACO and ScreenSkills.

Having watched the enthusiasm from keen members of Camera Departments all over the country towards the ACO and BSC webinars, it was clear to see the knowledge and experiences of Cinematographers and Camera Operators alike being enjoyed by many across all platforms. As a participant of a webinar for the ACO myself, I realised the role we can all play in communicating about our own experiences but also by listening to others. This was fundamental in my decision to apply to be a Mentor for the ScreenSkills Mentoring scheme. They were looking for mentors from across the screen industry to give six hours over six months to a mentee. In essence, to share knowledge, cultivate and develop the future workforce whilst also extending my network and giving back to the industry as a whole.

I was thrilled to be given the opportunity and ScreenSkills matched me to two mentees. I was then sent personal statements from both and a brief explanation about their current job role and future aspirations. No names were given just initials. On this basis I made my decision on the personal statement I felt connected with me the most and the one I felt I could help in their personal and professional development.

From this point I was put in touch with my Mentee – Maiya Rose. She has organised regular Zoom meetings with me and we have an agenda for each chat in which we have covered many topics ranging from my career, handheld operating, working with HODs and how to cope with stressful situations. All these meetings are informal and have a loose agenda, which means Maiya can ask me pretty much anything. This best thing about this process is it works both ways. Through a mutual love of the craft of operating our meetings are more conversational than formal and therefore allow open and honest discussions.

Here are her thoughts.

Over the past three months, I have been having one-to-one, hour long zoom meetings with my mentor, Zoe Goodwin-Stuart ACO, where we discuss practical and creative aspects of camera operating and personal experiences. These sessions have been a wonderful opportunity to discuss, listen, and develop my understanding of the role of the camera operator and conducting sessions over a prolonged period of time allows me to take away advice and put methods into practice, knowing that I can come back to revisit previous conversations in a new light.Meeting with a dedicated mentor, compared to one-off/group workshops, has been a very personal form of support in the face of a daunting prospect… how do you grapple with stepping up into a position, when you don’t see many people like yourself working in that role? I learn more knowing that I have a specific point of contact, who can dispense advice with background knowledge on areas I struggle with, and knowing that there is someone who has volunteered to keep tabs on you, even in a small way, gives me the confidence to work towards operating, without feeling alone. 

It has traditionally been a danger in this industry, when stepping up, that you can face a sudden drop in your work and a financial hit, which now more than ever, people cannot afford to risk. Hopefully this scheme will help normalise stepping up and down, allowing people with smaller support networks to take the additional time that a successful and safe step up requires.

The recent push to diversify camera teams from the ground up, has changed the industry for the better. I do however, appreciate that this scheme was aimed specifically at experienced crew members, who may have already climbed the ladder and are struggling to break through the glass ceiling. Support in higher job roles is the fundamental next step to diversifying camera crews.

I’m grateful to the industry bodies and mentors who have gathered to support crew from under-represented backgrounds in these trying times, and I look forward to practical, in person mentoring when the climate allows. 

With this positive action I realised that maybe I would benefit from being a mentee myself. We are never too good or too old to learn from others, and as Francis Bacon once said “Knowledge is Power”. So, with this in mind I applied for the recent POP Crew community Virtual Networking event. An opportunity to meet and connect with DPs and Producers and have a conversation about goals, career paths and the art of storytelling through film and television. The meetings were 10 minutes each with Shabier Kirchner ( DP Small Axe) and Gerardine O’Flynn (Supernova and Perfect 10) then, Julian Court (DP Killing Eve) and finally John De Borman (DP Luther, World on Fire, The Full Monty) with Ronnie Castillo (Noughts and Crosses)

Although they were only ten minutes the conversations were extremely informative, positive and although short they were altogether very beneficial.

I believe they shall be holding more in the future and I would highly recommend it.

I think as we move forward into a post-Covid world, we are all more keen to be open to new people and networks, communicate and listen to others from different generations and backgrounds and maybe by sharing our learnt experiences and skills we can not only bring new people through our industry but also bring about real diversity and inclusion.