Member Profile | Natalie LLewellyn | Head of Development

Can you give an overview of your career to date; including what inspired you to go into the field you’re in now?
Well… I got my first TV job straight out of university as PA to the Producer on one of ITV’s most enduring and successful dramas, Midsomer Murders. I was passionate about storytelling and I worked my way up from Production Assistant to Series Script Editor and eventually Associate Producer. Not only did I learn how to bump people off in a multitude of imaginative ways (‘death by drinks cabinet’ is a particular favourite), but I was privileged to work closely with some of Britain’s finest screen writers such as Anthony Horowitz, Alan Plater, Michael Aitkens and Hugh Whitemore.

During my ten-year stint in TV Drama, I was also Producer of ITV’s SAS drama series, Ultimate Force and headed up the TV development division of talent agency ARG Talent. Here I developed and packaged event dramas such as The Crooked Man with Ross Kemp and BAFTA award winning, Ahead of the Class with Julie Walters.

I made the switch to children’s animation after my son Rufus was born. With two kids under two I needed to be closer to home and working less unsociable hours (well that was the plan anyway!). I took a massive pay cut and started over again as PA at a local indie where I progressed to Assistant Producer on preschool series, Everything’s Rosie for CBeebies. I fell in love with children’s television – I could tell magical stories and create wonderful worlds and characters that were near impossible to achieve in live action. Plus, I had my very own focus group at home, providing constant inspiration and feeding me endless content!

After three series of ‘Rosie’ I moved on to Platinum Films where I focused more on the commercial side of the business, specifically international programming distribution and character licensing. I distributed boys’ action-adventure series, Matt Hatter Chronicles (CITV/Nickelodeon) into over 80 territories worldwide and helped manage the international consumer products roll-out.
In 2018, I joined award winning VFX and Animation Studio, Jellyfish Pictures as Head of Development to oversee its newly established original kids’ content division, Jellyfish Originals.

What is it like to work in your role? And what are you working on?
Jellyfish Pictures is a phenomenal studio with amazingly talented people from all over the world and a brilliant ethos and creative culture. No two days are the same in my role - I could be head down in a script or building a brand deck one day or negotiating a major broadcast contract or pitching a show another day. It’s this variety that keeps me stimulated, focused and passionate about what I do, and I can honestly say I’ve never been more contented professionally.

We are developing our own original animated children’s content, curating long-form animated series, serials and family features and working with some great writing talent. I’m blessed to have a first-class art department at my fingertips and together with our brilliant Creative Director, Tom Brass we experiment with different design styles and animation techniques to deliver stand-out visual content that will hopefully win us that all important commission.

We’ve got quite a few projects on our slate in various stages of development, which are all very different in tone, demo and look. Stan & Gran – an upper preschool show co-produced with Jollywise Media - is probably the furthest progressed but we’ve got a number of exciting 2D and 3D properties coming down the pipeline, some of which I will be presenting to market at MIPCOM next month. I can’t say much more, otherwise I’d have to kill you (and I’ve got form remember!).

What gets you out of bed in the morning?
Generally, either my cats or my kids! But in truth, I’ve always been highly motivated and fiercely ambitious, and I work best in the morning, preferably with a strong cup of coffee in the couple of hours before everyone else officially comes online. I’m so lucky to have a job I love and to work with people that genuinely inspire me every day. I make cartoons for kids, what’s not to love?!

What was your biggest challenge personally?
Mmmm… that’s a tough one because over the course of a twenty year career there have been many challenges – at the time they’ve always been significant, but it’s only in retrospect that I can put them into perspective and appreciate that in overcoming them, I’ve carved out the path that has got me to where I am today.
I think change can be one of the biggest and most daunting challenges anyone faces professionally and personally. Fear of the unknown or making the wrong decision can be paralysing. However, in my experience change, no matter how difficult, has always been progressive and rewarding and I’d encourage anyone to embrace it rather than fear it.

You partook in the Animated Women Helen North Achieve Programme earlier this year - can you please tell me a bit more about that and, why you applied?
The Helen North Achieve Programme is a super opportunity to meet and support other women from the VFX and Animation Industry. It was great to hang out with 23 other women in the business and to learn from their experiences whilst also sharing some of my own knowledge and expertise.
I wanted to take part in order to ‘give back’ but actually I walked away having gained a huge amount. The course offers valuable, constructive and engaging career advice for women at every stage of their professional journey and it was a welcome chance to hone old skills, learn new ones, reflect on my own career and consider the future.

How do you feel the Achieve Programme has helped you since you finished it and what would you say is the most important thing that you learned?
I certainly benefited from the experience and I’d recommend it to women in the VFX and Animation industry at any stage in their career. I’ve made some good friends, been inspired to keep pushing hard for what I want to achieve in life (both personally and professionally), learnt to listen more and probably most importantly, accepted that it’s okay to say no sometimes. We are wonderful women, but we don’t always have to be Wonder Woman.

What advice would you give to women who are just starting their careers in the industry?
Be passionate. Ask lots of questions. Seek out a mentor (or two!). Be brave. Make mistakes. Smile. Don’t settle. Take care of yourself. Make notes. Follow your gut. Set goals. Believe in yourself.

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