Q & A | Sorcha Shepherd - MD & EP at CAVIAR CONTENT LONDON
How did you break into the entertainment industry?
I got a break through a friend who got me a job as a runner/assistant and I said I would only do the job if I could work part time because this industry was supposed to be a stop gap till I became a pop star. I’m not even kidding, embarrassing as it is, it’s the truth. I even did the cliché thing of taking a year off to “make the band work”. It didn't, LOLZ.
From being an assistant I worked my way up through the ranks. I was a Directors Rep, Head of Sales, then a New Business Producer, then I quit the industry for a whole two weeks to become a dog walker. I came to my senses about dog walking when Caviar offered me a job and from there I became an EP and now I also run the London office, which I absolutely love.
Tell us a bit about your background and how you think this has influenced your career.
I studied classical music and desperately wanted to become an opera singer when I was younger. But I got horribly teased for being a music geek and soon changed my focus to being a pop star. My parents are musicians so I've always been drawn to creative people and industries, so whilst trying to make the band worked I tried my hand out in different creative mediums; music, animation, live action, photography. I feel that the confidence I got from performing and having a love for different creative mediums gave me the drive to try my hand at different things. I'm not afraid of failure as I believe it's the trying that counts (although I am incredibly competitive when it comes to card games) and without my past experiences, I wouldn't have had the gumption to set up Caviar in London. I had NO management experience when we set it up, so a lot of it was just like going on stage, seeing how people reacted to me and hoping it would be a killer gig. So far no one has thrown a beer bottle at my head so...
What does a week in the life of Sorcha Shepard look like?
Work wise, one of the best things about my job is the diversity. We have an incredible roster of directors who work across so many different genre's that every pitch is different, which in turn means every day is different too. Most week's though, it is a combination of over-seeing pitches, dropping in on shoots, catching up with clients and directors (a lot of which are actually my friends too, I love my job!) and general management of my amazing team. This usually involves a lot of coffee and A LOT of laughing. Home wise is a just as busy as I have twin boys and a French Bulldog named Gus, so a lot of my days start with being shouted at in twin toddler language, cuddled and kissed or covered in food (and sometimes wee, potty training is a bitch!)
Tell us about your path to becoming a successful Company Director and EP. What skills have brought you this far in your career?
I have a very strong work ethic and I am a big believer that you get out what you put in, so my path has been a lot of hard work and long hours. Also, I am not afraid to ask for a promotion if I feel I have earned it. This is something I feel woman in our industry don't do enough of, if you are great at your job and you feel you deserve more recognition, sitting around waiting for it might not work, so go ask for it! I've resigned from jobs in the past, not because I didn't love working there, but because I knew I wouldn't be going up the ranks any further. AINT NOBODY GOT TIME FOR THAT! (Russell Howard fans will get this, but please ignore if you have no idea who Russel Howards is).
I believe that we are the owners of our own destiny, HOWEVER, my destiny was also shaped by the fact that I have incredible support from Caviar’s Managing Partners Jasper, Bert and Michael. They believed in me and gave me an amazing opportunity where others might not have. I am eternally thankful for that, so I try as much as possible to give others in our offices opportunities for growth like I was given.
To be honest there are some days where I look at my title and I look at the company I have helped build and think "Is today the day that they realise I am a kid playing grown up?" But then I am faced with a challenge and I realise that actually I deserve to be where I am.
I am the eternal student and never afraid to ask questions. I think I am also a good listener and very diplomatic. I always play devils advocate and try and work out a fair resolve to situations, that's super important when you are dealing with creatives and clients because a lot of film making is so personal that you don't want anyone to feel like you aren't hearing them.
What career goals are you currently working towards?
We are starting to develop long form content in the London office to mirror the success of our Belgium and LA offices. I am so inspired by the amazing things they have achieved and I want to mirror that over here.
What inspires you to stay motivated? How do you measure your own success?
I am inspired to stay motivated by people I work with, from my directors, to my team both here and in our international offices. Becoming a mother has inspired me massively because I want to make my children proud and show them that woman can be caring Mothers and also be kick arse at business. Success for me isn't monetary. It's when I have moments of being so proud my heart wants to burst. I had this when Caviar first opened and we were part of Campaign Magazine's Campaign of the year for O2 Be More Dog directed by Keith Schofield, then another time when Karim Huu Do won Best Video for a passion project we all worked together on for an unsigned band called Last Night In Paris. And most recently I had it when my director Thomas Ralph won Home Spun. I'm lucky to say there have been plenty more over the years that make me well up with pride and I'm sure there will be more in the future.
How would the person sitting next to you to describe you in just three words?
His name is Thomas Ralph and the three words would be:
Can you give us tips on how to juggle busy work days ?
I know it’s obvious but don’t faff! If you have a question get straight to the point. There are ways of doing this without seeming rude and uninterested I promise, but it is a skill that I have only learnt with age and with the time constraints of being an MD and Mummy!
We also have regular team catch ups and production meetings to make sure we all know who is doing what which means we can update our pitch and job database, this is obviously essential in a busy production company.
I also insist that full time staff sit together, communication is so important and I don't want to communicate with someone by phone if they are sitting downstairs!
What are your thoughts on the 'women in the film industry' debate? What initiatives have you personally or Caviar taken to support the balance of women in film?
I feel it depends on the job role. I agree that for directors we need to support more woman, however, in my particular job role as an EP/MD, there are lots of incredible woman killing it, many of whom have inspired and mentored me. Marisa Clifford and Nicola Doring are perfect examples of this, I might not be where I am without having had their influence in my life.
It’s not only gender inequality that I feel strongly about, it’s diversity across the board, so we have signed up for Free the Bid and we also are part of the APA’s Diversity Scheme for young people. We also have a few amazing woman directors on our roster, such as the insanely talented Lucy Luscombe. Next year is her year!
How long do you think it will be before men and women play an equal role in the industry and do you feel that reaching this point in your career has been more challenging because you are female?
It’s happening as I type! Honestly, no. I have never felt that it has worked against me. I have worked my arse off and it has paid off. Sometimes I do worry that the fact I am a mother hen might play against me, but then I remember that my boss' nickname for me is the velvet hammer and I realise I can be bad ass at my job, but still show my soft feminine side and cry at my directors winning awards!
What’s the best piece of professional advice you have been given?
Do it because you love it, because the hours suck balls and you will only see your family on weekends.
What other passions do you have? If you were to work in another industry, what would it be?
I would be a singing dog walker. Naturally. Oh, and I would totes love to win the Eurovision for Britain one day if we don't get kicked out of it due to Brexit. NO ONE’S MENTIONED THE EUROVISION YET!
Writer: Sascha Kirk, Amber Williams