Danni Davis and Ida Bruusgaard run Peggy Pictures, which is an all-female TV production company. Their ambition is to unearth the very best stories and make distinctive and powerful documentary films and online content. With that in mind, their ground-breaking teen show ‘Mimi on a Mission’ was nominated for a BAFTA, which is an incredibly good start.
As well as only employing women, Peggy Pictures is genuinely inclusive (for example two of their staff are partially sighted) – Danni and Ida are striving for change and equality in the industry.
Women Talking discuss their company ethics, the highs and lows of the business and their plans for the future.
When was Peggy Pictures formed?
We incorporated the company in October 2010 as there was a chance, we were going to do a co-production, so we wanted to be properly set up. It didn’t happen at that point and apart from 3 small projects as Peggy while still being employed by others, we didn’t both start working full time in the business until May 2018. It was a long road, but we got there in the end.
What was the lightbulb moment that led to forming the company?
As well as making programmes, we were also idea developers for other companies, winning development funding and commissions. The types of ideas and who they’re pitched to are dictated by who you work for, so not always your cup of tea let’s say. We wanted the freedom and autonomy to work on projects we feel passionate about, ideas that appeal to a younger audience and that we had a real vested interest in. The only way to truly do that is do it for yourself. So that’s what we decided to do.
How did you come up with the name?
We were inspired by the fierce, bold and glass ceiling smashing Peggys. From Mad Men’s Peggy Olson who fought her way from secretary to chief creative in a male dominated ad agency of the 1960’s, art collector Peggy Guggenheim to everyone’s favourite no nonsense landlady Peggy Mitchell.
What makes your company different?
After experiencing many different workplaces and types of managers, from the fantastic to the downright horrendous, from the outset we aimed to have a very supportive and empowering work culture where team members can feel comfortable to speak up and are given space to flourish.
We want to see our staff move up the ladder, which seems obvious, but we have unfortunately encountered the opposite in our own careers. So, you live and learn and make sure your company is a place where people enjoy working, where hard graft is rewarded and where people want to return. We don’t always get it right but are largely proud of our track record with this.
Also, diversity and inclusion has always been in our DNA and we’re always learning from our staff and contributors. From the start we wanted to work with a broad range of people off and on screen to keep ideas and the way we do things fresh and interesting. As women reaching middle age, (ahem) we also value younger perspectives and feedback on ideas and so we work with teenagers through our ‘Generation Peggy’ youth board. We have just supported a 17-year-old diverse first-time filmmaker who has grown up in care, to make a short documentary through a competition we ran.
How difficult is the industry to change? What needs to be changed?
We’ve been in the industry for over 15 years and have been discussing the same issues year on year, which is frustrating to say the least. When looking at people working in the industry there have always been massive diversity issues in terms of people of colour, people from working class backgrounds and people with disabilities.
There have been gender issues especially in the directing domain with certain types of men too often being given the BAFTA winning film opportunities.
The tide does seem to be changing but we feel that for real long-term change we have to think about how we find and attract all types of people at entry level, including those who never thought about having a career in TV / content. We have to pay them properly so they can afford to stay and offer training and support, so they feel welcome and confident to move up the ladder. Then in the next 5-10 years we’ll be looking at a very different landscape.
On screen representation has definitely been improving over the years, which is amazing, but we still have a long way to go off screen.
What do you find most satisfying about your business?
Much of what we said above, that we are in the privileged position to create our own work culture, hire a team of bright and interesting people who all bring something different to the party and be able to empower them to do as well as they want to.
What are the highs and lows of a production company?
The highs are having autonomy and freedom to work on the ideas we believe in, with the people we want to hire. It’s amazing to see the hard work pay off and feel proud of our content.
The lows are usually connected to long term finance and ensuring we are building a consistent pipeline. We have to keep pushing forward, believing it will all pay off in the end.
And sometimes when you eat, sleep, produce, repeat, it’s hard to ever truly switch off, which I think every business owner can relate to.
What has been your greatest achievement to date?
Anyone in TV will tell you how hard it is to get commissions especially as a new kid on the block. Getting our first commission – Mimi On A Mission: Sex Ed for BBC iPlayer meant that we could finally both work full-time in the business, which is a huge achievement.
Finding the host Mimi Missfit is also a massive highlight as we discovered her on YouTube early 2018 and were bowled over that BBC Children’s wonder women Head of Content Cheryl Taylor and Commissioning Editor Kez Margrie gave the nod to a new talent. This doesn’t happen very often at all in the TV world.
What plans do you have for the future?
We want to continue to grow by broadening out the platforms we make content for and also forming brand relationships.
We would love to be able employ full time staff members as we have lots of brilliant freelancers coming through our doors who do return but we would like to keep hold of some of them on a more permanent basis so they can grow with us. We would also love to start Peggy apprenticeships for school leavers.
We also want to move into managing teenage influencers and talent who are diverse in their own way and have a something inspirational to share. We love the idea of helping them navigate their careers in a healthy and holistic so they can have a positive impact on their followers.
For more information about Peggy Pictures visit here