This week we talk to freelancer Shooting Producer/Director, Toral Dixit.
Where did your career in the industry begin, did you always want to work in TV?
I started my working life as a photographer, then later trained as a journalist. I studied photography at Salisbury College of Art. I then began working as a photographer for the British Airports Authority, before becoming a freelance photographer and subsequently, a journalist. TV was so far from my mind – not remotely something I would have considered. Even being a professional photographer was, culturally, very different for an Asian woman.
My TV career began in hospital TV, which works a bit like hospital radio. Harefield Hospital, (then, the leading heart transplant hospital) had a traditional ‘hospital radio’ setup, plus a very innovative volunteer hospital TV arrangement. This ‘broadcast’ short docs and hospital news to the hospital wards via cable. It was staffed by some very dedicated TV professionals. They taught me loads and allowed me to write and direct. From there I managed to get a work experience placement at the BBC as a researcher on Open Space (a community program) and so started my long and illustrious (joking!) career in this industry.
What was the biggest hurdle you had to overcome whilst trying to make it in the TV industry?
I suppose the biggest hurdle for me was trying to get employers to see me beyond what my ‘Asian’ background brought. My BBC work experience wasn’t ‘Asian’ related, however the subsequent programmes I worked on needed someone with in-depth Asian knowledge – getting away from that into mainstream was hard. Plus, I was clear on the type of programming I didn’t want to do. This industry is so all consuming, that unless you love the work you are doing, it can be soul destroying. So, holding out for the right job brings its own challenges, especially in the early years when income as a researcher doesn’t stretch that far. I was able to perfect my waitressing and office temp skills during that period!