It’s that time of year again when thousands of excited young people are preparing to leave home and embark on degree courses as the first step to their chosen careers. But with so many others now questioning whether university is right for them, especially with the increase in fees over the years, The Brighter Times wanted to shine a positive light on alternative in-work training and asked Phaedra Hargrave-James how she became Sales Manager at TV and Film studio, Lionsgate without a degree.
Meet Phaedra Hargrave-James
Serious booty shaker
Engaged to Chris
Did you always know you wanted to work in TV & Film?
Absolutely. I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do, but knew I wanted to be a part of the industry.
‘Traditionally’ one would be encouraged to take a course to help lead you on that path. How did you go about it?
I felt really obliged to go to university, it was the ‘norm’ and therefore felt pressure to attend. It’s insane that at 18 you’re having to define your future, when you’ve barely even lived. Despite my gut feeling, I enrolled on a degree course in Media Studies. From just a few weeks in I knew it wasn’t for me. I gave it a good go but after two terms plucked up the courage to leave.
How did that make you feel?
Honestly, I felt embarrassed for being a ‘drop out’ and that I was letting people down, but also like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders and that I couldn’t wait to get to work! That’s when I knew I had made the right decision. University is a lot of money, even more so now, and I’m really pleased to have stayed clear from any unnecessary debt…
Good point, it’s a big financial commitment! …So what happened next?
Well I’d love to say I had a magic wand that landed me my dream job, but the reality was I spent the following two years in a finance role in Milton Keynes, mastering the art of numbers and spreadsheets!
It was a random Wednesday that I decided to head to London for the day, blindly making my way around the underground and registering with a variety of media recruitment agencies. Now was the time to be brave. I’m so thankful I did as an opportunity arose at Carlton Screen Advertising in the finance department and I took it. A month later I was on my way to start a new chapter in the big smoke!
So everything fell in to place?
Yes and no. I was learning so much about the media and film industry, gaining valuable experience and making brilliant friends – oh the fun we had in Soho! My new London life was such an adventure! It wasn’t all rainbows and unicorns though – I really missed my friends & family back home, and I really struggled financially, horribly so… hard not to with London rent prices! At times I felt a bit lost too...
I’m sure everyone can relate to that at some point in their life!
Yeah I think it’s because nothing can really prepare you for life’s challenges and knockbacks. My ultimate goal at the time was to work for Channel 4 - A position came up, so I excitedly applied, and I got an interview! Sadly though, I didn’t get the job. I was so so disappointed and felt I wasn’t progressing like I was supposed to. A few months passed by (as did several cocktails), until another position at Channel 4 became available - an assistant role in the Acquisitions team. I remember feeling so excited as I read about the department and couldn’t wait to submit my application.
I will never forget the moment they offered me the job! All the effort and sacrifice and courage had been worth it!!
That’s amazing! Help us out though, what’s acquisitions?
The acquisitions team are responsible for acquiring films and US series for the channel.
It was, I had an amazing team and there were such awesome perks too. I loved going to film screenings and I will always remember attending my first premiere. I got such a buzz when walking the red carpet in Leicester Square to watch the premiere of Sex & The City – all the cast were there too, it felt fabulous, like I was in an episode myself!
I bet!! …So working at C4 alongside the others, did you think you had more to prove without a degree?
I personally felt I had more to prove yes, I worked really hard and never took anything for granted. I really made the most of it and soaked up the opportunity. I honestly had the most incredible five years learning about the process. I remember sobbing my head off when I left to pursue a new chapter in acquisitions at Comedy Central; another incredible five years of growing, gaining confidence and nailing my first negotiation – that was genuinely terrifying! It was when I completed my first film deal though that the film studios caught my attention.
Tell us more!
I knew I needed more experience to impress the big guns, so despite the current climate I threw caution to the wind and took an Acquisitions Manager position covering maternity at AMC Networks. A risky move yes, but a step up the ladder. It was the best move I made – a year of hardcore negotiating and experience put me in good stead to take on my new sales role at Lionsgate – I’ve just started and still can’t believe I work there!
AMAZING!! So in a nutshell it sounds like you really worked your beautiful bootie off and never gave up?
In a nutshell yes! I’m really proud of myself, and to everyone out there doing their thing to make it happen, it’s not easy! I gave myself a big pat on the back when I got the job, and with the SATC girls in mind, I’m going to reward myself with a new fabulous dress!
And why not!
Finally…any advice for humanity?
Keep the faith and trust the universe! Even when you’ve been rejected more than once, you want to give up and you’ve had beans on toast for the fifth time in a row. Keep your focus, have courage and be persistent. You got this!
(Since writing up this interview, Phaedra did buy a fabulous new dress... for her WEDDING!!!)
Peace & Love!