Wingspan Productions: Programme research

Posted on 12 February 2014

Wingspan Productions is a company that produces documentaries for television. Their primary output is directed towards the BBC, and they have enjoyed a great amount of success through their pairing with Ian Hislop, as presenter.

My internship was intended to support the production of a new, three-part series that would also be presented by Ian Hislop. More specifically, I would be undertaking preliminary research that would be used to decide what would be included in the third episode. This involved conversations with my line manager, Ashley Gething, over the telephone every two or three days, when we would discuss the next avenue to explore. He would then email me a list of questions that he wanted to be answered by my report. The next two or three days I would spend working on my computer, researching answers to the questions that Ashley had sent me, and trying to work out an interesting angle that would catch people’s attentions through the television programme.

It was fascinating to think about ideas and people that I already knew about through a different medium; not academically, but with a view to entertain. This greatly altered the way that I wrote my reports, and gave me a fresh appreciation for people such as Thomas Hardy. Through my work, Thomas Hardy – who was not included in the original treatment of the episode – will now have his own sequence, the majority of which consists of my research. I also directly contributed to the knowledge base of a conservation organisation, the Council for the Protection of Rural England (CPRE).CPRE logo

I really enjoyed the freedom to work my own hours through this internship, and it has (rather unfortunately) consolidated my belief that I rather like working from home! The main challenge was knowing exactly what sort of level the reports had to be, but Ashley always gave me very constructive feedback, and after the first week I knew exactly what was expected of me and my work.

Campaign to Protect Rural England

I chose this internship because it seemed to appeal to so many of my strengths. I am already a freelance writer, and so I was used to writing large amounts to a deadline. Through my Masters and my undergraduate degree in History and English, I was used to reading a large amount of information, and then bringing it down to the vitals. But I wanted to transfer these skills to a job that actually valued them, and I have always wanted to learn a little bit more about the world of television.

By working on these reports solidly for just over two weeks, I feel that I have a much better understanding of the immediacy and the pressure of researching in television. I also had a massive rush when I was told that my work was of a high enough quality to be included in the programme – I had such an amazing sense of pride. I can’t imagine what it would be like, working in a similar way all year round! But I also know that there are periods of slowness, which would be a much harder slog. Much of the treatment work was completed before I came on board.

Through this internship, I have gained a much better understanding of the complex work that goes into creating an accurate television programme – I’ll never underestimate it again! I’ve also further developed my research skills, and my freelance writing skills are much stronger now I have worked to such tight deadlines. I really hope that this experience will help in my writing, and perhaps in my career plans if I decide to pursue a career in the production side of television.

Emily Murdoch

IPUP Intern