Guiding Lights 8 mentee – Paven Virk. Photo by Roberta Matis
Guiding Lights 8 mentee – Paven Virk. Photo by Roberta Matis


21 November 2016

Throughout our eighth Guiding Lights film mentoring programme, we're running a series of articles giving insight into the participants’ journeys and experiences. Named one of Screen International’s ‘Stars of Tomorrow’, Paven Virk has taken part in Working Title’s residency at the Hay Festival, and is currently developing Muslim Girls with Ecosse Films, a music film, Bhangra, with producer Jeffrey Taylor, and the life story of iconic singer, actress and author Pauline Black, best known for her role as the lead singer of ska group The Selector.

Paven Virk and her son, Ari, at Galway Film Fleadh
Paven Virk and her son, Ari, at Galway Film Fleadh

Paven Virk:

As I stand chatting to an important industry professional in the lounge of the Radisson Blu 5 star hotel in Galway, I hear a playful but loud scream coming from the balcony above. I look up to see a cheeky three-year-old boy in Nemo swim pants and top. I’m aware that, any minute, he may turn around to see his mum. Me. Not buying tomorrow’s Innocent smoothies from Tesco, as I had told him, but attempting to make a comeback to the industry I abruptly left in July 2012, when I fell pregnant with my gorgeous son, Ari.

Taking Ari along on a working weekend was a first for me – and not something I had suggested doing. The opportunity was presented to me by Emily Kyriakides, Senior Producer at Lighthouse, during my Guiding Lights interview. Of course, I thought how will this be possible? But with the movement for more support for working parents in the Film, Stage and TV industry reaching a crucial point, I felt I should try. And with the encouragement and support of the Guiding Lights team, I felt that I was being treated as an individual with certain requirements, in the form of a small person. And what a memorable work opportunity it was, one I will be forever grateful for.

My pre-trip plan was like any other for a trip with a child. I called the Radisson Blu and enquired about babysitting services. I scoured the hotel menus looking for food he may eat – a toddler in the picky phase doesn’t want a la carte but fish fingers and mushy peas. I found kiddy activities, or more importantly parks, near to each festival venue. Then I checked the timings of the films and masterclass I was attending and scheduled cuddles in between them. Alex Thiele, the Guiding Lights Project Manager, kindly made sure we had a big enough hotel room and fellow mentee Sarah Brocklehurst even found a taxi share with a child car seat, not an easy task in Galway!

On our arrival at our hotel, I was surprised to see lots of other industry folk had their kids tagging along, too. But it becomes more understandable when you see that Galway is a stunning city with loads for families to do. Plus, the hotel was in the perfect location, with lots of open space.

The festival itself was just what I needed as a mother who’s been out of the industry for three years. The variety of films were challenging and exciting. This year the festival had a ‘Women in Film’ angle, which showcased new and established female talent. This included masterclasses with actress Ruth Negga and screenwriter Kirsten Smith and a series of panels and discussions. One event I attended, ‘A Stronger Voice for Women’, was so busy that a line of us had to listen from outside.

Taking time out for any reason and particularly to become a mother for me has been a real challenge at times. Not only with the work/life balance. I have been asked: Are you okay to return to work, mentally and physically? What about childcare? When are you going to have your next one, or more time off? How do I reply? Well, even though nothing feels as good as having Ari in my life, I am still an artist with artistic urges, with a goal to make powerful films and a commitment to building an international screenwriting career that doesn’t go away as soon as I have a child. If anything, being a mother enriches my life and work. And I find meeting a writing deadline with the small sweaty arms of a three-year-old wrapped around my leg, at times, can be quite endearing.

To join the conversation about the challenges faced by parents and carers working in film and television, see Raising Films, whose co-founders include previous mentees Line Langebek, Nicky Bentham and Jessica Levick.



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