Marion Milne (French and Drama 1979)

Volunteer in the Spotlight - Marion Milne

Volunteer in the Spotlight is a regular feature that highlights the alumni that help current students achieve more. Marion Milne (French and Drama 1979) works as a Producer and Director of Primetime History and Arts Documentaries.

Tell us about yourself and your career journey.

When I left Exeter, aged 21, I came to London, signed up for an employment agency and found a very junior job as an editorial assistant/secretary, assisting on a weekly cookery magazine. This was ironic as I failed my Domestic Science GCSE. But it was a start. From there I moved into PR, first in the hotel/travel world, then book publishing/TV and eventually jumped ship to make programmes, rather than promote them. For that, aged 29, I had to go back down to the bottom again and start as a TV researcher, the lowest editorial rung. 100%  worth it, though, as I worked my way up to Director, and have been making history and arts documentaries ever since.

What aspects of your working life have you enjoyed the most so far?

I like the fact I have always been involved in the creative/ideas end of things. I've especially enjoyed the access to people and places working in book publishing and then television has given me. My job has taken me all round the globe, which is ironic as I was not the world's most intrepid traveller before I worked in TV! I didn't, for example, have a gap year and went straight into a job from University. My husband, on the other hand, had worked all over the world as a young development economist when I met him, and I felt very untraveled by contrast. Now, though, I have just about caught up.

If you weren’t in this sector, what do you think you would be doing instead?

Funnily enough, despite failing my aforementioned Domestic Science GCSE, I love being a homemaker. Cooking, having people over, filling the house with people, and having a house that has been a gathering point for my children and their friends, gives me as much joy as my job.

What advice would you give to current students, and how can Exeter graduates get into your area of work?

Come to London (there are more TV jobs there, although Glasgow, Manchester and Bristol are possible other choices). Do anything that gets you into work and keeps you busy, ideally communications driven. Network as much as you can, meet as many people in the industry as you can. Watch television and work out which area you like. Think of ideas in that area, and just keep plugging away. The industry thrives on great ideas and depends on each new generation to generate them. Eventually someone will meet you and the ball will start rolling from there. Any specialist skills are really useful: speaking French was the reason I got my first researcher job for example. Be prepared to work at the very bottom, as a runner or junior researcher, even if you already have more senior experience elsewhere. Be prepared to be free-lance forever (quite a daunting prospect). Look at media production courses (especially if you think Current Affairs might suit you) but only the best ones, such as City University or the London College of Communications. Always be charming and efficient - it gets you a long way.

And finally, what inspires you to volunteer so much of your time to help Exeter students?

I'd rather give time than money, as I'd like to think in many ways being hands on - and donating time and know how - is more valuable and inspiring. At least I hope so!

Date: 15 November 2016

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