As part of The Yorker’s Alumni & Public Relations work, our current officer, Violet Daniels, interviewed Bethany White, former Film & TV Editor, and Deputy Editor for Content about her experience at The Yorker and future plans.
What was your experience of the University when you were a student? Do you have any memorable moments?
I loved studying at York. The city is beautiful, just the right size and there’s always something going on. I enjoyed the walk from Hes East into town and learning all the shortcuts and detours. The nature around helped keep me positive, whether it was the geese flying past the window, the horses in the field behind my second-year house or the ducks that came and camped in the garden. One of the most memorable moments for me was, genuinely, getting elected for The Yorker – Patrick Crellin, who I now live and work with, encouraged me to go for it even though I was nervous about getting up there in front of everyone, but I got the Film and TV roles and didn’t look back. Every opportunity that came along was enthusiastically seized from that point on.
What did you do aside from your degree and contributing towards The Yorker?
I had a habit of putting way too many things on my plate and, at least in first year, never following through on them. I attended only a handful of meetings of the societies I signed up for at the Freshers Fair. But by the end of my degree I’d figured out how to manage that and get results by doing fewer things that I was truly passionate about. I was one of the first cohort of Laidlaw research scholars at York and presented my research to over 100 people, made a series of films with Patrick for the Anti-Trafficking society and was hired by my department (TFTV) to write a short film, which was then produced and later nominated for an AHRC Research in Film Award. The toughest thing was clearing enough time to finish all my final assessments!
What was your role in The Yorker, what benefits do you think it had to your experience at University and life post university?
I had written some short stories for The Yorker and won a photography competition with them before I ran for Film and TV Section Editor in February 2017. Stepping up to the section editor role gave me a lot of opportunities to connect with those in my department and the wider university and generate exciting content ideas. Patrick was a key contributor and shared the section editor role with me when I took on Deputy Editor for Content that summer. Between us we recruited ten new writers to the section, negotiated press access to Aesthetica Short Film Festival and Leeds International Film Festival and started two new features for the section (Retro-spective and Week by Week TV). Since university, I’ve discussed my work at The Yorker in many job interviews, including one for a Content Writer role which I was headhunted for, noting the challenges of managing a remote team and how I overcame that. The organisational and content generation skills have come in very useful in what I now do (which I’ll come onto later).
What was your experience/attitude towards student media at York in general? Did you have experience at other outlets?
I was interested in student media but more focused on fiction than journalism initially. I tried to get involved with the publishing society at one point but could never make it to the meetings. When I became aware of The Yorker, it appealed because it operated independently of the university with a policy of free-speech journalism and had a section I could put a lot of passion behind. Student media is definitely something which, if you put the effort in, you’ll have lots to talk about in an interview rather than just the title on your CV.
What happened after you left University? Did you start work straightaway?
Patrick and I had, from early in our third year, been considering setting up our own film production company. We wanted to make the most of the opportunity that is graduation and try being our own bosses, so we set up Dark Avenue Film. We’re based on the Isle of Man, where we already had lots of contacts in the film industry, and we incorporated in November. As well as producing commercial work for clients and offering a variety of development and production services, we’re also making our own films; our short documentary MERA, about Mera Royle, a harpist from the Island who won the BBC Radio 2 Young Folk Award 2018, is debuting at Lorient Inter-Celtic Festival in August, and we’ve been kindly sponsored by I-Cap Marine Ltd to take the film further afield to more festivals. We’re also in pre-production on a short drama, The Lost Wife, which is adapted from a Manx folk tale, which we’ll be shooting this autumn with support from the Isle of Man Arts Council and Culture Vannin, and we’re about to launch a crowdfunding campaign for the remainder of the budget. I also developed my dissertation, which was a feature-length screenplay, and it recently reached the quarter-finals of the BlueCat Screenplay Competition, a worldwide contest which is highly considered within the industry.
What advice would you give for people considering getting involved with The Yorker?
If you’ve got the time to really commit, go for it. There are a lot of opportunities at university and it can be overwhelming, but if you pick a handful that you really care about and want to get the most out of and then follow through, you’ll reap the rewards and have a whole bunch of skills for your CV and LinkedIn profile. That’s what recruiters are looking for more and more – that you’ve done something you care about in the time you had outside your studies.
What are your plans for the future?
The business is growing and we have lots of exciting plans. We’re building a client base and looking forward to interacting with a variety of people and businesses as we grow. We’ve got several scripts in development, including the next film we’d like to make, but The Lost Wife is our priority at the moment and we’re dedicated to getting the best out of it and taking it as far as we can on the festival circuit. I’m attending London Screenwriters Festival this time next year and look forward to building our network of contacts in the UK too.