Naomi Webb, Production Manager, talks to us this week about working on 'Guy Martin: the World's First Electric Car', Channel 4 (North One) after returning from work from maternity leave and straight into a 'work from home set up'. She also talks to us about how choosing to work in Production Management has supported her disability and how she navigates her condition in work with the help of her employer, North One and, previously, the Think Bigger disability training scheme.
Give us an insight into the making of the show?
As Production Manager, 'Guy Martin: The World’s Fastest Electric Car' (North One) is the first production I have worked on from the pre-production stage through to delivery since coming back from Maternity leave. I left North One to have my son in Oct 2019 – pre pandemic, office based, ‘normal’ working environment and returned during the pandemic with a ‘work from home’ set up and covid protocols galore! It definitely made it easier for me to come back to a team that I had worked with before COVID. It blew my mind how well everyone has adapted and were/are still making high quality programming and I was excited to get back into it. All the added pressures of the covid protocols caused quite a few headaches and it was definitely harder to make any last minute adjustments but we battled through and achieved everything we set out to achieve. Having meetings via zoom and corresponding mainly via email took some adjusting. In the office you have a flow of conversation or you overhear important bits of information so not having that was difficult – it was like a whole new world to come into and having to learn new ways of doing things that had just become an automatic process during my pre-pandemic days. Communication has been the key throughout. Checking in on the team and not making people feel like they are left to do it on their own. It has been such a mentally draining and rewarding process, more so than any other productions I have worked on in the past. Knowing I have support even when physically I am in a room on my own working at a computer and only having these connections via the phone and computer is the thing that has made it achievable.
What did you learn?
That everyone can adapt to the situation they are thrown into as long as there is a strong support system in place – North One has that in spades!
What was it like to work for the channel/production company that hired you?
North One have been a hugely supportive company to work for. As a disabled person and a mother I feel my voice is heard when I need help. The output of productions they have from their Birmingham office (where I am based) and their London office is phenomenal and that hasn’t wavered at all throughout this pandemic. The retention of staff and the freelancers that return to North One is also a testament to the company and the support they have in place for their staff.
How did you get the job?
I have worked for North One for 5 years but initially it was through the ThinkBigger / C4 scheme supporting people in the industry to move up to the next level as at that time I was a Production Coordinator. I had previously done the ThinkBigger Disability training scheme in 2007 so they have always been a massive support.
How has Production Management supported your disability?
I did the ThinkBigger training scheme so my employers would be aware of my disability ahead of time. Previous jobs I always struggled with when the best time was to mention it and into how much detail. I have hEDS (Hypermobile type Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome) which would be what is termed as a ‘hidden disability’. Outwardly I look fine but deal with an immense amount of pain on a daily basis. I have flare ups for no reason out of the blue.
When I was at university my dream was to become a camera operator but when my condition became symptomatic this quickly went out of the window. I have tried my hand at many things in this industry – Researcher, AP, Edit assistant, Post production supervisor and then settled into production coordinator to where I am now as PM. Being a PM has allowed me to help with the creative vision, be my extremely organised self and manage my condition. Being able to manage this condition needed to go hand in hand with the support from the employer. Those at North One have always been ready to listen and give me the help when needed. I have a tendency to push myself when I should really stop and thankfully I have a Unit Manager, Dani McGirr, who can see those moments and take the pressure off. Even during these times working from home I have had to become more vocal as Dani can’t ‘see’ the issue but her response has always been; what can she do to help so I can get the job done. Having people around like that who know I will get the work done but need the support are so important. I have had some bad experiences where I was so ready to quit the industry but I learnt to ask for help and to listen to my body and understand my capabilities and my limitations.
Why do you love your job?
It is challenging, exciting, creative and I love seeing the end product of everyone’s hard work once it airs. I always have a huge sense of achievement for myself and all the team involved when that happens.
What is your top TV tip?
If you are ever unsure just ask – better to ask and get the job done than sit in silence and worry about it. – works in all areas of life really.
'Guy Martin: the World's First Electric Car', airs on Channel 4, Mon 9th Aug 9pm, available on All4 catch up