Name: Ruth AJ Wilson
Notable Works: The X Factor, A Place in the Sun, Richard & Judy
A little bit more about Ruth...
Ruth AJ Wilson is a Producer, Director and Editor of Television and Branded Content. Ruth has a wealth of 16 years’ experience under her belt! She’s directed dozens of TV shows for Channel 4 & UKTV on household names such as A Place In The Sun, The X Factor and Fantasy Homes by The Sea. Notably starting her TV career by being sent up and down the country for Richard & Judy!
Ruth’s worked with many of London’s top agencies and has created branded content for companies like Neutrogena, Eharmony, Gilette, Kodak and Maybelline. She *accidentally* made 4 television commercials for Weetabix at the tender age of 24, but that’s another story…
Not to forget online; she’s also worked with some of the UK’s biggest influencers; Zoella, Tanya Burr, Jim Chapman and many more.
Ruth chats to us today, telling us all about how she started in the industry and what it’s like to be a Producer/Director!
What influenced you in becoming a Producer/Director? Is there a specific piece of work or a particular encounter that inspired you to step into this career path?
I started out by studying English alongside Film studies at a Scottish Uni, but I quickly realized that I felt most alive when I was doing project based work with other team members. I enjoyed the creation process and working together as a team to achieve something and from that point I knew I wanted to go into production rather than having a normal office based career.
In the time we’re living in right now, how has your work schedule changed? Have you been up to anything exciting in your newfound free time or have you found that you’re working more creatively with your time!?
My work schedule has changed massively – obviously I would normally be out and about filming or at the very least in an edit suite rather than being at home all of the time. Right now, I’m trying to bring in paid editing work which I can do from my macbook at home to make sure I can cover the mortgage.
I’ve also been developing a little conscious cartooning project to encourage positive mental health values called @littlest_nopes. I’m also a qualified life coach and support other creatives. This is an incredibly difficult time for everyone and I love offering a safe space where people can talk and be fully supported with their goals.
The biggest shift in the wake of this crisis has been becoming the ‘content’. Usually I make the content, but people are now asking me to come forward and contribute to zoom interviews and blog posts, so that’s been really exciting and new.
I’m surprisingly busy overall!!
With the current atmosphere of uncertainty surrounding the film industry, do you have any predictions in regards to how the industry will transform after the pandemic? There’s already been significant changes like radio shows being broadcasted and talk shows being recorded from home. Do you think this will change the way productions are made?
I think one of the blessings to come out of this crisis, is that in the TV industry, the working conditions and rights of freelancers have been really been put under the microscope. People are questioning how responsible should the networks and broadcasters be in supporting us right now? Why do production companies insist on having so many types of freelancer for different stages and job roles?
Many freelancers in the UK have fallen through the cracks of government and this has forced unions and industry leaders to pull together and lobby for our rights to government.
It seems scary and chaotic right now for the average freelancer who is out of work, but if you look at the bigger picture, these are conversations that we’ve needed to have for years about the rights creative freelancers to be supported and protected.
In terms of the way we make content – certainly until lockdown is over, we are going to see a lot more ‘user generated content’. It might be that people become their own broadcaster, such as celebrities making content from home. But I think the broadcasters will start to create formats that they can collate footage from several sources and then edit it from home. We are still going to desperately need content now more than ever, so it’s going to become all about being resourceful with the options that we have at our disposal.
Do you have any advice you could share for people who want to go down the producing path?
I think the key for me with Producing is trying to think ahead and make sure all bases are covered. What might be needed before someone asks for it. And always being ready with a back up plan if something goes wrong eg. Do I have an indoor location if it suddenly rains. It’s about looking organized and in control so that the team morale stays high and the production keeps moving forward.
With directing, it’s really about being fully present. It’s about listening carefully to every word that’s said. It’s looking hyper critically at the moment to check nothing is out of place. It’s about having energy and charm to motivate presenters, actors and contributors on screen and make sure they stay upbeat to give their best performance.
As a Producer Director, What can you share about the processes of creating a show? What aspects do you feel most passionate towards in the making?
In the producing side I love being extremely organized and I do feel more in control when everything is planned fully. That being said, your best laid plans can quickly change and go up in smoke without warning! So it’s also about being reactive, flexible and coming to a place of acceptance that not everything can be 100% in your control, but making sure you can adapt and surrender to make the best of the situation you’ve got.
With directing I really do love the coaching side and the human connection and interaction, making sure I get the best out of someone and that all that nice energy comes across when you watch the footage back.
You’ve produced a lot of different shows! How do you select the projects you work on? Is there anything specific you look for in a script or idea?
For me, it’s got to fit into the lifestyle category. Anything travel, food, fashion, makeup. Earlier in my career I did some reality TV and morally it just didn’t sit well with me, I like to make positive, beautiful, inspirational content. I’m not about all of the drama, gossip or the general stirring that can be encouraged to make reality TV formats.
With all the shows you’ve produced, you must have travelled to some incredible places! Can you recall one of your favourite places to shoot and why?
One of the most luxurious shoots I can recall was being sent to Dubai with Virgin Holidays with a lot of famous Youtubers from the UK (Zoella, Marcus Butler, Alfie Deyes, Joe Sugg) We were in this 5* hotel (which is not normal if you work in production!) with these amazing 180 views across the coast of Dubai. The Youtubers had negotiated this amazing contract that they wouldn’t work after 2pm each day, which was phenomenal for us because that meant we didn’t work past 2pm every day either! We would go to the waterpark in the holiday resort everyday and then stuff ourselves silly at the amazing buffet!
But even the work we did before 2pm was amazing. I’d film the guys going sand duning in buggies, riding camels, going down water slides and filming fashion lookbooks in the penthouse. Best job ever!
What is the most difficult thing you have to deal with, as a TV producer, and how do you find yourself managing those challenges?
It can be incredibly stressful and things do go wrong on shoots all the time! Managing people, their emotions, their stress levels, as well as your own can be tough.
But it has taught me to be able to manage my emotions and stay calm and push through no matter what. I see my role as being the rock, so I think it’s important for me to stay in my power because that then has a knock on effect to the whole team.