TV Production

Posted on 1 October 2014

Horrible Histories

‌My IPUP internship was with Horrible Histories learning about the TV writing process and how history is presented to children. We worked with Greg Jenner and his colleague Steven Perring (both York alumni) observing the writing process, doing research, and learned about the planning stages of sketch comedy shows. This was a wonderful work experience, and the only bad part was that it was only a week long!

The entire time we worked with the Horrible Histories writing team, we were treated like a member of the team. Their level of professionalism and emphasis on a friendly atmosphere made this a very enriching experience. There are many funny stereotypes about internships, but I felt my opinions and observations were both valued and appreciated.

The first day was a bit scary at first, since we’d never met anyone besides, but we were immediately comforted by the casual atmosphere. There were about 15 of us sat in round-table style in a meeting room, which generated a vibrant working atmosphere. We had plenty of snacks and tea to fuel our creativity, and we spent the day discussing and reviewing a packet of historical information collected by the consultants.

The focus of this meeting was to go over the information itself, and then bounce ideas around about how it’s presented to the public, how each historical event could work in sketch form, and potentially turned into a sketch. We discussed ideas about animations, and ways for kids to associate pop culture references with these historic events. Examples included historical figures taking selfies, tweeting, or posting updates to Facebook.

The following two days were research days, as was our last day, Friday. We used University College London’s library for these days, researching our respective subjects we were assigned. This required a very different form of research – not concentrating on one particular thing, but instead focusing on broader concepts and funny (“Think gross or weird!”) anecdotes from history. I did not find much trouble with this, as history sometimes tells us hilarious stories when we least expect it.

Thursday was a script-reading meeting in order to gauge whether certain sketches or topics were appropriate for the show. I cannot divulge the sketches themselves because of confidentiality reasons, but this was my favourite day as it gave me the chance to try my best silly voices. We spent a lot of time discussing and sharing ideas – and of course laughing! I learned an immense amount about paying attention to demographic, as well as how shows like Horrible Histories cover potentially touchy subjects in history.

Overall, this was a wonderful experience. I am immensely grateful for having the opportunity to work with Horrible Histories. This internship solidified my desire t to pursue a career in public history in some form – be it TV, museums or through historical interpretation.

Jenna Laang pic

Jenna Laang

Public History Internship‌