From film extra to running a major studio, This International Women's Day, Emily Stillman - SVP, Warner Bros. Studios Leavesden, explains why mental health and wellbeing are top of her priorities.
How did you start out in film and TV?
My secret is that I started out as a film extra – but please don’t tell anyone!
What was your career path and how did it lead your current position?
I spent 20 years working my way up the production ladder on some wonderful productions; my favourite being Shackleton: Breaking The Ice. My time on production included a three year stint on Ridley Scott’s Kingdom of Heaven, oh and working with Jude Law, Kenneth Branagh and Michael Caine on a small indie remake of Sleuth which was too much fun!
I then had the privilege of heading up The Production Guild which was a fantastic opportunity where I got to know many members, helped develop training programmes, social events and support legislative update and union negotiations. My last ten years have been with Warner Bros. Studios Leavesden looking after studio operations and doing my very best to make it a comfortable and supportive place for productions to grow.
What has / does your role entail at the studios?
Essentially my role comprises of two things: firstly, supporting filmmakers to have the very best possible home for their production and secondly, enabling the studio teams to grow and learn in order to deliver the very best experience for our production clients across all corners of the filmmaking process.
What are some of the challenges you’ve faced an how have you overcome them?
The biggest challenge is not having enough hours in the day which is why I am trying to devise a pause button for life; and in the meantime I am unsuccessfully trying to learn how to prioritise!
What have you been most proud of during your time at the studios?
I am so, so fortunate to be in a position where I am able to help things happen where there is a need for change. I am deeply passionate about two areas in our industry: diversity and inclusion and mental health and wellbeing. I am really proud to play a small part in The Wonderworks, an onsite childcare facility at Leavesden which opened in 2020, responding to the need to support parents of pre-school children returning to work. We have a fantastic diversity, equity and inclusion council at Leavesden created to help break down barriers in to the industry and attract emerging diverse talent, which will include a new Warner Bros. Studios Leavesden apprenticeship programme due for launch in Summer 2022. On the mental health and wellbeing front it is my dream that everyone that walks through the gates at Leavesden has access to good mental health support and that this becomes the norm across the industry. We have rolled out an extensive programme for our staff and I know that the production divisions are looking at rolling out similar programmes to the cast and crew. The are many areas of the Film and TV industry now putting mental health and wellbeing top of the agenda which is really good to see, there is still a lot more work to be done but it’s a really positive start.
What piece of advice would you give someone wanting follow in your footsteps?
Write down on a piece of paper who the person is that you want to be and where you want your career to take you. Then remind yourself that anything is possible if you want it enough, it is all achievable and within your gift. You really are the master of your destiny.
Discover more about the work of PGGB business partner Warner Bros. Studios Leavesden here.