Clare Johns: Interview

The producer/director of Panorama episode The Truth About Adoption reveals how she made her first steps into the world of television.

Published 09 May 2012

What first inspired you to get into your craft?

I wanted David Attenborough’s job. I thought that by the time he retired I’d be old enough to take his place. However he hasn’t retired and the more experience I got of the filmmaking process, the more I wanted to work behind the camera as you have more creative input into the content.

How did you first break into the industry?

I got involved with community projects in my local area and made short films for them which they could use to raise their profile and at the same time enable me to learn to use a camera, script and edit. My first contact with an independent production company came when a producer called one of the projects I was working with, looking for a young person with a science background to be a presenter. I attended a screen test but whilst there asked the exec producer, Kathy O’Neil for work experience, which she kindly gave me. After 2 days I was given a full-time job.

Which professional figure in your field do you find the most inspiring?

David Attenborough; he‘s one of the greatest teachers of all time.

If you hadn't managed to break into your field, what was your plan B?

There was and is no plan B. 

Which film/TV programme do you wish you could have worked on?

The Lake of Fire, Capturing the Friedmans, Ladybird Ladybird, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, Project Nim, Senna, The Breakfast Club, Four Lions and The Blue Planet series.

What single piece of advice would you give to a young person trying to break into your
 discipline and get noticed? How do you stand out from the crowd?

Work hard and stick to your guns. Surround yourself with people you trust, listen to others but make your own decisions. 

Were there any people who supported/mentored/championed you in the early stages of your
career? How important are these kinds of relationships?

There have been many people who have helped me along the way; these relationships are critical and long lasting. I’ve been given incredible opportunities from Kathy O’Neil, Sara Feilden, Roger Graef and Tom Giles.

How do you think the TV industry will change in the next few years?

I think there’ll be more user-generated, content led films. Commissioners will have a more direct relationship with directors, scheduling will be less important and series will be completely accessible immediately.