The Art of Reinvention
How I Did It And How You Can Too!
By Kim Carillo
During the course of my career I have switched jobs many times. And by that I don’t mean I have changed jobs… rather I have created my job from nothing!
After leaving Michael Parkinson the talk show host, I was burned out.
Besides the shows we produced at the BBC and in Australia, my boss and David Frost, had launched the first ever breakfast TV show in the UK.
Suddenly, I found myself working seven days a week. Normal office hours on a weekday but from 4am at the weekend.
I had all the warning signs, but stress and anxiety weren’t really talked about back then so I ignored them and just kept going!
I’d been under a lot of pressure and responsibility from a very young age and it had finally caught up with me.
What I needed was a break to reassess and then ease back into my career. Ideally I’d find something I could do from home for a little while.
Life in the fast lane had been exhilarating and insightful but, I felt like I had crammed ten years of career into just five! I yearned for something a little less hectic.
At that time there wasn’t the internet…. people gathered their news from newspapers. I knew what made a good celebrity story and I had contacts in Australia. Now what could I do with that?
I contacted the Editor of the Australian magazine New Idea, and offered to contribute to their showbiz and entertainment column. I would read all of the British newspapers and magazines daily, gather and pitch the best stories and send copy on over to them. They jumped at the idea.
I had created a job I loved that was stress free and worked for me at that point in my career.
As a direct result of this… the prestigious TV show 60 Minutes (Australian version) saw my byline and asked me to become their London/European producer.
Again, I could work from home, read all the newspapers and magazines (which I was doing anyway) and set up four or five strong 60 Minutes-worthy stories ready for their correspondent to shoot when he/she came to town. Now I was acquiring new skills as a field producer rather than a studio producer.
They put me on a great retainer and I did that job for a couple of years. It gave me the time and space to get my health back on track, get married and figure out my next move.
When Murdoch launched Sky television here in London they created a nightly entertainment show and, because of my background in the celebrity talk show industry, asked me to be a part of it.
I had recently become a mum and didn’t want to work full time. I managed to pull together a “consultant producer” type role, whereby I could work two days a week in their London office! It was the perfect balance. Keeping my hand in while being there for my baby.
I should say, that being assertive and confident in what I have to offer, really didn’t come easily to me. I was cringing as I laid out my terms but hey, it paid off!
I knew that in two days I could easily accomplish everything required of me. I was used to tight deadlines.
I would advise anyone to really consider their worth and what they have to offer and don’t be afraid to lay out your dream situation. The powers that be can always say “no” but they just might say ‘yes!’
By the time I’d had my second child, a producer from the nightly TV show Inside Edition in New York contacted me. They had a team coming to London to shoot intros and wraps. Could I possibly scout out possible locations and get required clearances?
Now, this wasn’t really something I knew anything about but I am a quick learner and I could see the potential to develop an ongoing relationship which could possibly tap into my producer skills down the line, so I did it!
There was a lot of paperwork involved getting clearance to film outside of Buckingham Palace and the like but. I managed to make it happen and got along really well with the team. Little did I know, that this one off job would ultimately lead to the most lucrative job of my career to date.
Back then American TV magazine shows weren’t really interested in any stories outside of the States. But I could see that it was all about to change because of Princess Diana.
I began pitching story ideas to them and amazingly they started to bite. It was a slow start….maybe one story every six weeks if I was lucky. I’d pitch the story, set it up, hire a film crew, interview the talent then feed it all back to NY on the satellite. It was fun and fitted around my kids. After having two babies in quick succession, I felt like I was back in a business I loved and it felt exciting.
This then turned into a little more… whenever one of their anchors or reporters came to town to film they asked me to produce the segment. I loved it.
By now my kids had just started school so I had more time on my hands.
I was then approached by a TV channel in London to work on a Woman’s talk show for two weeks. It was just cover for a producer on vacation.
Within a few days the boss strolled over to my desk and asked…”this story you’ve set up … why aren’t you reporting it on camera?”
“Because I’m not an on camera reporter!” was my logical reply.
“Well you are now,” he informed me before marching off.
So that is how I suddenly found myself an on camera correspondent. I had always preferred, and still do, working behind the scenes and felt physically ill the first time I had to do a stand up! Even worse having returned from the bathroom only to realise I’d still been mic’d up for all the crew to hear!
But thankfully, despite the nerves, it came naturally. Apparently I had learned a lot via osmosis from my old boss, Michael Parkinson, the talk show giant! My two weeks cover spot lasted for around six months and then my life changed again.
My work with Inside Edition had been ticking along in the background but I could see there was a real opportunity to build something special.
I started sending the executive producer, Esther Pessin, a “Top Ten Stories Out Of London” list every morning. Again this is back in the days before the Daily Mail Online took over the world! At first I didn’t charge for this service because I was reeling them in!
Suddenly, they weren’t waiting for one of their reporters to come to town before contacting me… they started hiring me almost on a daily basis to produce day of air stories from London. They were trusting me to do a great job for them and it felt great.
One afternoon one of our three phones started ringing. I was in my office and my eight year old daughter picked up the phone downstairs. I listened for the first few seconds to make sure it wasn’t for me.
When I heard her having a long conversation I assumed it was one of her friends and went back to work.
However, ten minutes later my daughter called up “Mum, its for you! It’s someone called Charles Spencer!”
I was mortified… Diana’s brother had been chatting on the phone to my daughter for a good ten minutes and, even more extraordinarily, he appeared to have done so without complaint!
This was the point at which I realised I needed to move the office out of the house!
I rented a large space in town, brought in a team of super talented camera crews, and hired some trusted freelance producers to help with the work load.
I had created a hugely successful business from nothing and it felt pretty damned good.
I was working with a great team in NY and LA and having the time of my life. Even my on camera experience was paying off as Inside Edition used me to do “lives” and on camera reporting. Remember this is a massive, high rating show, broadcast across the whole of America.
Looking back I realised I had inadvertently applied what is now referred to as the “Funnel System” with terrific results!
The job didn’t come without a great deal of stress however.
I was working to a time difference of five and eight hours which meant there were occasions when I had no choice but to grab my kids from school and drag them off to a shoot.
On one occasion I was “tracking” a piece about Madonna only to clap eyes on my daughter tapping her watch and mouthing…. “Hurry up! The Simpsons is on!”
Funnily enough neither of my kids pursued a career in TV. I think I put them off for life! But the skills they acquired, without even knowing it, have proven so valuable in their chosen careers.
After five years of this lunacy… and with the world changing again with the loss of Princess Diana… I took a step back and another mini-sabbatical.
Sadly, I was also going through a divorce and wanted to be there for my kids when they came home from school each day. This is when I decided to move into journalism. I had been writing for the British TV show and realised how much I loved it.
In the UK there are many women’s weekly titles and the competition is so fierce that often it’s the cover lines that make the difference.
Just as the American TV show didn’t run many UK stories in the beginning, so the British magazines didn’t run any foreign real life stories. They felt their readers wouldn’t relate.
But with the highly competitive nature of the industry I could see there might be an opportunity to spin what I had been doing… selling British stories to America….on its head by selling American real life stories to the British magazines.
At first I was met with a negative response. It was the same story… our readers won’t relate. But I still had faith so kept going! The world was opening up.
After a few months I got a small break. I sold two features in one month and even though they downplayed the American angle it was a move in the right direction.
Encouraged and hungry to learn how the magazine operated, I called the Editor and asked if she had a position in the office for me two days a week. I wanted to learn the industry from the inside out.
As it turns out, I was a natural editor and one of my biggest roles there was rewriting other journalists’ copy. It came easily to me and I loved it. Always respectful and mindful of the original author’s work.
I was also strong with ideas. It had been a necessary skill when creating my own work.
I heard that there was a new weekly magazine about to launch and they were taking the big step of running one US real life story a week. Eureka!
Before I had a chance to get in touch, a panic stricken journalist from the new publication called me up one morning. The day before launch, their American story had fallen through. Did I have anything? As luck would have it, I did.
For the next three years, they became my regular client. At that time, I was the only journalist sourcing, interviewing and writing US based real life features and the great thing was I could do it all from home.
It’s not an easy thing to call someone who has just experienced a trauma of some kind in their lives and ask them to share their most intimate story with you ..a perfect stranger. In fact it felt uncomfortable to me. I was being asked to lean in to what my instincts would naturally tell me to withdraw from.
But, it turned out to be a blessing. I got to “meet” so many extraordinary women with incredibly inspiring stories to share. I was humbled and honoured to know them.
I shall be forever grateful to that magazine for trusting me with my “hunch” which ultimately allowed me to be with my kids and earn such good money. Now, all of the magazines feature real life stories world wide.
I did have to adopt a certain mindset though. I am a worrier by nature. I had two kids I had to get through private school and a mortgage to pay.
Every time I filed a story I was essentially unemployed so I acquired the ability to stay positive and focused. Any remaining stomach lining would have long since vanished otherwise!
Since then I have written for hundreds of magazines around the world. I have shared my stories with the monthly glossies, The Huffington Post, national newspapers and, for my sins, did a stint as a kind of “how to” girl at The Daily Mail!
It’s been an amazing journey for someone who had never planned a career in the media.
I think in any walk of life, opportunities present themselves. It’s just a question of being aware and open to them and then having the drive and confidence to follow through.
The way business operates on line so much these days I was always being asked by female entrepreneurs and women running small businesses how to look and feel more confident on camera.
So, two years ago, I worked very hard to create a course, teaching “On Camera Confidence.”
I had broadcast studios set up in London and New York ready to go when my dad became seriously ill.
I put it all on hold so that I could be with him but, after dad passed away I realised I didn’t want to be running such a big business at this point in my life.
But there was an element of disappointment because I genuinely wanted to help these women who were bravely starting something new, or building already established businesses. Video is such a powerful tool.
So I came up with a solution.
Rather than having two big studios producing “live” courses and all that entails, I have taken all the amazing content and I am busily packaging it into a terrific online course. I’m putting it all in there ladies! Everything I have learned over forty years working in the industry.
My hope and belief is that this course will help women all over the world fast track their business into a hugely successful brand. A brand that brings them joy. A brand they can be so proud of.
It feels timely. It feels right. It feels good.
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If you missed the sequel to this article: Thanks For The Memory then check it out here
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