Life with ‘Labels’: Documentary Producer Sally Ogden speaks out about the class divide in the TV industry

Sally is a working-class Producer/Director for Candour Productions in Yorkshire. Sally has worked on The Truth about Muslim Marriage, Catching a Killer, and most recently, produced the BAFTA and Grierson nominated The Family Secret for Channel 4. She’s also directed a film for Guardian Documentaries called Fighting Shame. Previously a youth worker in inner city Bradford working with offenders on release from prison, she’s now ten years into her industry career.

Despite her success, Sally’s experiences reflect many of the accusations that are levelled at the TV industry. Upon starting in the industry, Sally experienced something of a culture shock with everyone around her seemingly educated at Oxbridge or similar. Unsure at the time as to how she would fit in as a proud Bradfordian, it’s not difficult to understand why she questions whether the industry can credibly claim to offer equal opportunities.

As well as a class divide, Sally’s experience is that gender continues to be an issue. Although she has good role models, she is disheartened to see how they are treated by the industry and that women are still not winning BAFTAs for directing.

Sally is a single parent who has struggled with both mental health and dyspraxia. Sally has never spoken about this until now because she is only too aware of the prejudices that still exist within the industry. Her lived experience is that it’s difficult to be open about vulnerabilities when they are perceived as weaknesses and when there is no shortage of people ready to step into your shoes.

Sally sees an irony in the way the industry operates. How can actors be asked to be authentic, revealing and vulnerable in their performances when the polar opposite is expected of people behind the camera? So what can be done? Sally looks to David Olusoga’s MacTaggart lecture as a starting point: Does the TV industry have the will to genuinely share power to change things for the better?

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