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A Productions on being one of the UK’s Best Places to Work in TV

Katherine McQueen, MD of A Productions

Katherine McQueen, Joint MD, A Productions

Earlier this year, Bristol animation studio A Productions was named one of the UK’s Best Places to Work in TV for the second year running by Broadcast magazine. We caught up with Joint Managing Director Katherine McQueen to find out more. 

Congratulations on making the list for the second year running! What would you say are the key things needed to create a good workplace?
A Productions’ success is based on the chemistry of the teams we build. Ensuring a creative, inclusive work environment is key so I would say that encouraging collaboration, an open and supportive workplace, and mutual trust are all important.

What do you think makes A Productions stand out?
We have a range of initiatives that are focused on creating a collaborative atmosphere and helping employees reach their potential. These include an internal mentoring scheme, extensive and open staff feedback programmes, an ongoing diversity and inclusion training programme and a wellness programme. Celebrating success is very important to us, so we regularly showcase work in progress and completed programmes. We are also a dog-friendly studio and offer free life drawing classes.

What does this recognition mean to you?
We all felt really honoured to have been named one of the best places to work in TV for a second time. Creating an environment where creative teams can flourish is the key to our success and it was great to have that recognised with the award.

Tell us more about your company’s history?
A Productions was established in 1985 by Mark Taylor and is now led by myself and Mark as joint managing directors.  We are a leading, creative-led animation production studio that makes award winning children’s content for broadcasters and SVoDs in the UK and around the world.

We produce shows featuring some of the world’s most iconic characters, such as: JoJo and Gran Gran for CBeebies, the multi-award- winning first UK pre-school animation to centre around a black British family; Love Monster for CBeebies; The Tweenies for CBeebies; and The Monster at the End of This Story, Sesame Street’s first ever animated special for Sesame Workshop.

Since receiving investment from European powerhouse Cybergroup Studios, we are also moving into developing our own original creator-driven content which is exciting.

How many staff do you currently employ and what type of roles do they do?
Our numbers can vary depending on the projects we have in the production; we range from 35 people up to around 160. However, we always have a core team and some of those have been with us for more than 20 years! Roles range from production – coordinators, managers, producers – and then a whole range of creative roles – editors, layout supervisors, compositors, animators, 3D modellers and designers.

What type of job opportunities come up most often in your team and how do you go about finding new talent? 
We often find ourselves recruiting for all the roles mentioned above in a relatively short space of time, when a series has been green lit.  This can be quite challenging but also exciting as you never know what new talent you might find. We are constantly trying to extend our recruitment pool by advertising in a wide range of places. When there have been industry skills gaps, we have developed our own training schemes which have had successful outcomes.

We work with the ScreenSkills trainee finder programme to take on trainees and have taken on interns from Secret Story Draw and Creative Workforce for the Future. We also work with local schools and colleges to raise awareness of animation as a career and regularly provide work experience and internship placements.

Our strong links with the local universities offering courses in animation (University of South Wales, University of the West of England and Arts University Bournemouth predominantly) means that we regularly have students on internships, some of whom then end up staying on and working full time for us.

Through our Equality, Diversity & Inclusion programme, we strive to identify people with talent from non-traditional routes who have a passion to work in animation.  We offer structured in-house training and an internal mentoring scheme and provide financial support and time for staff to pursue additional external training.

We also encourage staff to explore other roles within the company, providing opportunities for them to move sideways or into an entirely different department, to broaden their skillset and develop their career.

What’s in the pipeline at A Productions?
We are currently working on a brand-new CG series for CBBC. This is co-produced with Cyber Studios which will broadcast next year. We’re also working with Sesame Studios on a series for Terrific Television and are moving into production on an exciting new pre-school show!

Finally… What’s your favourite thing about being based in Bristol, UNESCO City of Film?
It’s a creative city, full of talented individuals and a vibrant media hub. It also has a rich cultural life with thriving film, theatre and arts scenes making it a very exciting and dynamic place to live and work. I love it!

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