- Job title:
- Assistant Production Accountant
- Film | TV
Winner of the 2015 Production Guild Rising Star Award, Jessamyn Keogh explains how she went from Down Under to Downton Abbey, rapidly building a career in TV, and with her eye now firmly set on a move into film.
My journey into production accountancy began in 2012 when I was accepted onto the Production Guild’s 8th Assistant Production Accountant Training Scheme (APATS) funded by Creative Skillset. I’d always known I wanted to work in film and TV one way or another, I just wasn’t sure what role exactly.
After graduating with a degree in Creative industries/Business in my home country of Australia, I got work as a production runner. Over the next two years I tried unsuccessfully to get work in Vancouver and Berlin. It was in Berlin that I noticed a number of jobs advertised for Production Accountants in London. Realising this could be my way forward, I set about making the dream come true and packed my bags to try my luck again in another city.
I quickly landed a basic accounts job at the headquarters of a pub company in London, enrolled in an online course in accounting with the AAT and CIMA, then got a job as Finance Executive in a creative media agency. when I finally felt I had enough experience, I started applying for accounts roles in film and TV, and was accepted onto APATS VIII in 2012.
The best thing about APATS is the networking opportunities on offer. It feels less like a traditional training course and more like a series of mini internships. You set out to do three placements, and the Guild helps you find a job at the end; but you plan your own training – making sure you meet the APATS criteria – and you're responsible for making a great impression on the teams you work with.
The first few weeks are spent in the classroom – which is fantastic as it gives you a chance to get to know your course mates and gain an overview of how the industry works as a whole. There were six on our course, all from different backgrounds – although I was the only non-Brit!
My first placement on series two of Starlings (Sky1) was a relatively small one, but came with a lot of responsibility from the start, so was a great introduction to the job. My second was on series two of Top Boy (Channel 4). I really threw myself into this one and found myself doing cast payroll within a few weeks! The accountant then offered me a job on Misfits (E4) which helped me graduate a few months earlier than the others on my course. This was perfect as a first real job in the industry, as I was responsible for everything other than actual production accounting. It was a bit of a baptism of fire, but meant I got to learn a lot about the basic running of an accounts office in a short space of time.
Moving into film
My third APATS placement was on Muppets Most Wanted (Disney), a different experience altogether – an excellent insight into a big studio film and the many strict procedures that need to be followed.
Following that came perhaps my biggest achievement so far, landing the role of 1st Assistant Accountant on Downton Abbey (ITV) season five, only six months after graduating. It was an absolute beast of a job that really tested me on a number of levels, but there’s such a lovely team of people at the core of Downton who’ve been doing it for years, it really does feel like a little family. At the end of season five I thought I might die of exhaustion, but I was then asked back for season six and I’m so happy that I did!
While it’s great to be able to change jobs so quickly in this industry, there’s something really special about being able to work on a TV show from one season to the next; watching it change and grow, and knowing you’ve been a part of that – especially a show as internationally celebrated as Downton Abbey.
A little bit of luck and a lot of determination
APATS definitely put me firmly on the right path to where I wanted to go, and although this is a tough industry to break into, once you find a way in, you can move fast with a little bit of luck and a lot of determination.
APATS VIII started at a time when the industry was gaining momentum again, and since the high-end TV tax credit was introduced it’s been even busier. Accountants are desperate for good assistants at the moment, and over the years APATS has played a crucial role in training a lot of them. It’s brilliant to see how much it has evolved since I left and that it’s able to take on more and more trainees every year.