Assistant producer Jayne Austin benefited from ScreenSkills’ Children’s TV Make a Move scheme to take the step from assistant producer to junior producer on Let’s Go For A Walk, a series produced by Glasgow-based Hello Halo Kids for the BBC’s CBeebies.

Productions that pay into the Children’s TV Skills Fund can apply for financial support to employ and train individuals into higher grades. The flexible subsidy can be used to cover salaries, mentoring or expenses such as short courses. It is one of the many ways in which industry contributions are used to tackle grade and skills shortages.

Hello Halo requested the support to help Jayne to develop a range of useful skills on the series, which stars Ranger Hamza as he takes a gang of child ramblers on walks to find places for fun activities.

“I had an amazing training experience making a production during Covid-19,” Jayne says. “We were one of the first productions for the BBC to be filming with children during the summer (of 2020).  It was an interesting time.”

Jayne worked closely with Hello Halo director of children’s television Terri Langan, and series producer Ewan Torrance to glean as much experience as she could.

Jayne had worked with Ewan before, in-house with Children’s BBC in Scotland, and had been working in development for a year with Hello Halo Kids.

When Terri and Hello Halo got the recommission for Let’s Go For a Walk, Terri thought it would be an interesting challenge for Jayne to work on one of her productions and identified the ScreenSkills Make a Move programme to help.

“They (Terri and Ewan) really held my hand throughout the process of stepping up to junior producer and dealing with those challenges, particularly making a production during Covid-19.”

Shot in the summer last year using ever-evolving Covid-19 safety protocols and ever-changing location requirements was a baptism of fire for Jayne.

Challenges included casting children from households rather than schools, only being allowed to meet in gardens or outside spaces and honing new skills in trying to gauge how children might behave in real life from a Zoom call.

“Everyone’s job was heightened. I felt I got a really special experience because everybody was trying to solve problems that they had never seen before,” notes Jayne. “Everybody was on their A-game, it felt like a really special and unique time to do it.”

As assistant producer she was used to looking after casting or scripting or editing in isolation. “But in the junior producer role you’re looking across everything and taking responsibility for decisions that affect the entire production.”

Jayne got involved in the entire planning process, locations decisions and casting and worked closely with the producer-directors on beat sheets and scripts.

“We would have beat sheets and provisional scripts that had been signed off and we were taking children out and asking them to use their imagination,” she says. “I would be on location all the time with cans (headphones), listening to all the suggestions that children would make.”

She says that often children come up with better ideas than could possibly be scripted and she would relay these ideas and concepts to the director.

For the edits – conducted remotely in isolation, Jayne also got access to cuts of the show and contributed notes to the senior Hello Halo team and the CBeebies commissioning editors.

“It was really interesting to be part of the conversations with the series and exec producers and also the commissioning editor,” Jayne says.

She would certainly encourage other production companies to use the ScreenSkills Children’s TV Make a Move programme to help crew step up.

“The training is tailored to you and your needs which is unique. It identifies areas where your strengths and weaknesses are and gaps in your experience,” says Jayne. “And to be working with professionals who are at the top of their game, you’re getting to make those decisions in the proper context.”

Jayne studied children’s television at Glasgow University.  She applied for the BBC Production talent pool and the runner’s pool and went on to be a runner for BBC Scotland’s children’s tv working on children’s dramas including a sojourn in Newcastle to work on The Dumping Ground and Wolfblood.

She then worked as a shooting researcher for CBBC show All Over the Place Asia on her return to Glasgow and worked at BBC Scotland in house as a researcher and AP before hearing about Terri’s move to Hello Halo.

Jayne emailed Terri asking if she was looking for someone in development. Her journey began with studying Terri’s productions such as Swashbuckle and Biggleton on a big screen in a University lecture theatre and now she’s working in-house at Hello Halo with Terri as a development producer, taking the lead on various productions in development.