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Initial exec heads production at Banijay UK

Banijay UK has appointed Sandra Smith from Big Brother producer Initial to the newly created role of director of production for its group of prodcos.

Sandra Smith

Smith, who previously held the same title at Initial, now reports jointly to Banijay UK’s chief financial officer Derek O’Gara and director of HR and operations Bella Lambourne.

Jody Collins will be promoted to head of production at Initial following Smith’s departure. Currently a production executive at the company, Collins will oversee Initial’s production slate and work with MDs Cat Lynch and Katy Manley to shape business strategy.

Meanwhile, as a member of the senior management team at Banijay UK, Smith will work alongside label directors of production and heads of production to ensure consistent and best working practices across the group.

Focusing on the unscripted side of the business, Smith will also take head-of-production responsibilities for the group’s smaller labels, including Douglas Road and Definitely.

Providing support across the group’s production management teams, Smith will work on production procurement, alongside head of operations and projects Louisa Lockett, and talent sourcing, as well as working with studios and facilities in the UK nations and regions as the group expands its production activities outside London.

Smith, whose career spans over 30 years, was appointed head of production at Initial in 2010, working across Big Brother, Wipe Out, Soccer Aid and other shows, before being promoted to director of production in 2016.

Prior to this she held several production manager roles at Endemol and other companies, having started her career in news and current affairs.

This week Banijay UK announced a new fast-track programme for diverse talent and has pledged to invest £500,000 (US$687,000) to advance the careers of mid- and senior-level production talent. Aimed at underrepresented, black, Asian and minority ethnic talent, the scheme will launch in September.

Banijay will offer 10 editorial or production roles at assistant producer/production coordinator level or above on 12-month contracts. The candidates, each of whom will have been sponsored by a label within the group, will be attached to productions across Banijay UK.

As part of the contract, they will receive bespoke leadership and development training, mentoring from both an internal MD and an external industry commissioner, as well as career coaching.

At the end of the 12 months the objective is that those taking part, as well as having at least two production credits, will be ready to step up into more senior roles within the group and the wider industry.

Lucinda Hicks, CEO of Banijay UK, said: “The industry is crying out for more diverse talent in senior production roles and we want to do something substantial and proactive to bolster the careers of those coming through.

“Talented freelancers are not progressing at the speed we would like them to as they are moving from contract to contract, often at a frenetic pace, and training, development and career planning can be put on the backburner, or just not be feasible in the light of squeezed production budgets.

“By offering 12-months contracts, we can use time alongside and between productions to build up this vital training and mentoring to really boost these careers.

“As a global group, Banijay is committed to improving diversity and inclusion across the industry. And while we very much hope that talent will stay with the Banijay family at the end of the 12 months, we are also investing in the wider industry for the future.”

In addition to the fast-track programme, Banijay UK has committed to offer 30 four-week production work experience placements across the business, designed to encourage and support those who would not ordinarily have such an opportunity.

An additional fund of £50,000 has been set aside to cover exceptional costs and remove barriers that might prevent talent being able to take up these opportunities.

These schemes are in addition to a wide range of diversity and inclusion initiatives across the group, Banijay UK said.

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