Published on: 20 October 2023 in Industry

Alexander Jacob: Doctors cancellation puts a generation of talent at risk

Reading time: 4 minutes and 6 seconds

Director and Nations and Regions representative for the Directors UK Board Alexander Jacob warns loss of a key training ground could have huge impact, and urges greater investment in continuing drama.

Doctors has not only been a place for directors, writers, and actors to begin their careers, it has also been a home for many of the UK’s most talented creatives to come back to time and time again. It has been these seasoned professionals who, sharing their insights and experience with the newbies, have made Doctors the place to go for so many starting out in their careers.

Yesterday’s announcement of the show’s cancellation is undoubtedly the end of an era, but it is a poignant reminder of the importance of shows like this.

As someone who had the privilege of working on the first season in 2000 as a second assistant director, I can attest to its profound importance as a training ground for directors. My journey from those early days to becoming a first assistant director and eventually a director is a testament to the impact that Doctors had on my career and the careers of countless others.

It was not just a TV series; it was a creative space where aspiring directors like me found their footing, honed their skills, and grew as storytellers. It provided a unique platform where we could experiment, make mistakes, and take creative risks.

The show’s commitment to quality was unwavering, setting a high standard that challenged us to constantly push the boundaries of our craft. It was on the set of Doctors that I learned the art of collaboration, working closely with talented producers, actors, and crew members, all of whom shared the same dedication to excellence.

The diverse stories old on the show mirrored the varied perspectives of our society, fostering an environment where different voices could thrive. This inclusivity and representation are crucial not only for the industry but for the broader audience, ensuring that the stories told on television resonate with a wide range of people. 

Alexander Jacob; Nations and Regions representative for Directors UK Board

From a personal perspective, as a director of colour working in the industry for over 30 years, I am too often aware when my initial hiring on a show is part of a box ticking exercise. It never felt that way on Doctors

Perhaps that’s echoed in the stats from Directors UK’s 2018 report on directors of colour in the UK TV industry, where Doctors had the highest percentage of directors of colour of all of the major continuing dramas and soaps. 

From my first job on season one to the last time I directed an episode, it was my talent that got me rehired, and the stories that I got to tell were varied and colour blind. We can’t lose these important spaces for diverse directors, and diverse storytelling.

The BBC and other broadcasting networks must recognise the importance of continuing dramas as a vital step on the ladder for directors. They must commit to invest in similar programmes and develop a dedicated plan to ensure there are clear career pathways for drama directors.  

We risk losing a generation of talent if we lose the training ground that directors need to flourish, innovate, and contribute to the continued success of the industry.  

My experience on Doctors wasn’t just about honing my craft; it was about forging lasting connections and building a network within the industry. The relationships formed during those early days continue to be an invaluable part of my journey as a director. 

As we bid farewell to this remarkable series, I’m grateful for the opportunities it provided, the knowledge it imparted, and the lasting impact it has had on my career. 

Alexander Jacob is a director and the Directors UK Board Nations and Regions representative. He has directed shows including Coronation Street (ITV1), Casualty (BBC1), The World According to Grandpa (Channel 5) and Spellbound (Hulu).

This article was originally published on Broadcast on Thursday 19 October 2023. The original article can be read here.

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