Documentary producer and director Janice Finch paid a visit to JMU this week to talk to students about her career and give advice about journalism and story-telling.
Janice has worked for over 30 years in journalism, with a very impressive CV – producing for Panorama and Dispatches, along with ‘True Stories: The Trials of Amanda Knox’.
Her favourite assignment to date has been a three-year project filming a criminal defence law firm in Manchester, ‘The Briefs’. It’s all been part of her long and successful career working on the staff for ITV and then as a freelance.
She gave JMU’s trainee journalists advice on starting their career: “I think if you can shoot your own material, it allows you to operate at such an independent level.
“You’ve just got to have something that the next person coming for the job doesn’t have.”
Janice explained that one of the biggest challenges making a current affairs documentary is turning an ‘issue’ into a ‘story’.
She said: “Whatever the subject, unless it’s affecting somebody, why are you doing it?
“It’s the human story that people can remember after the film’s gone out. It’s the way in which you are able to illustrate that issue.”
Janice has had an impressive and varied career, working for 16 years at Granada, before going freelance. She has since been involved with the BBC and Channel 4, producing some of their most popular current affairs documentaries.
She has never lost her love for the job: “It’s the most interesting way of making a living. It is the most fantastic industry!”
For broadcast journalists, being able to film and edit is a vital skill.
Janice told students that there are no rules when it comes to making a programme; it’s what works best for them.
However preparation is key, before you start filming, you need to find that ‘story-teller’ to help you shape your issue.
Her final piece of advice was that it doesn’t matter whether you’re just starting out – if you’ve got an interesting story to share, people will want to listen.