Screenwriter and producer Yero Timi-Biu on misconceptions, Holby City and world domination

Yero Timi-Biu is the kind of worker we wish we could all be. She’s fuelled by going the extra mile. Case and point, I asked Yero a series of questions and what I got in return was a plethora of emotionally intelligent and inspiring answers with buckets of Yero’s personality injected within. You can experience them for yourself below.

Yero is a member of The Network (more on this later), a screenwriter, playwright and AV producer. Having waded through every form of media to get where she is, List For Life caught up with the superstar for a chat.

1. Can you tell us a bit about yourself, what you do and how you got there?

My name is Yero, I’m a screenwriter, playwright and radio/audio producer based in London. I also write and make content for an online zine called gal-dem (gal-dem.com, started off by my good friend Liv Little) made by women of colour for all to explore. I sound like one of those ‘slashers’ who annoyingly tries to do everything, but there’s just so much I’m interested in doing and sharing with people, especially from underrepresented communities. Overall, I’m a storyteller. That’s definitely a more cohesive word to describe myself. Last summer, I took part in Edinburgh TV Festival’s entry-level talent scheme, ‘The Network’ where I was one of the drama delegates. I think August 2015 was the first time I stopped calling myself an ‘aspiring-anything’ and I’m entirely grateful to everyone on the Network for that. I’m currently writing my first full-length play with Soho Theatre about how the London housing crisis affects the mental and physical health of young people, and I’m being mentored by some of the kind folk at BBC Drama (shout out to Jerome Bucchan-Nelson) while I write a light-hearted drama about young carers.

I’ve always been interested in writing, pop-culture criticism, radio, film and television. My grandma was a published novelist and biographer, and my mum went to J school so I think it’s just something in my blood. Whilst studying A Levels (Media Studies, History, English Literature and Photography) I was part of a BBC documentary where ten teenagers from all over the UK had just six months to come up with their own fashion label a debut a collection to 300 people at London Fashion Week. We had a Managing Director, a Creative Director, a money person (who is one of my best friends) and designers. I was the PR Director. At 16, writing an English Literature essay on colonialism at the same time as drafting questions for Rosie Huntington-Whiteley and Britain’s busiest magazine editors was a bizarre, stressful and exciting experience. Despite every single course I studied being a massive indicator that visual storytelling was my forte, I decided to apply for a Fashion Communication with Journalism and Cultural Studies course at London College of Fashion and after interviews and an intense written exam, I got in. Little did I know, that I enjoyed the storytelling aspect of the documentary, rather than the actual work I was doing. I wish I realised that before getting into debt at uni and having a somewhat unfortunate experience (two grey hairs by second year), but like many of the other teenagers on my course, I worked part-time in retail and did so many unpaid internships more tailored to broadcast in both radio and TV, I’ve lost count. I just knew I had to get my foot in the door, somehow.

Fast forward to graduation, 20 years old and exhausted. My friend and I decided it was time to do something for us, after working so hard for other people. We applied for funding from IdeasTap (RIP!) and we were awarded £500 to make our own documentary about cycling subculture in London. After screening the documentary, I wanted to explore fiction-storytelling more, and I was accepted on to a screenwriting workshop in New York. I’ve always loved visiting NYC and wanted to spend longer there, the city is a huge inspiration for my writing. I’ve not looked back since,

2. Is working in TV production what you thought it’d be like?

Are there any popular misconceptions people have about working in TV? One major preconception I had in TV, was that you had to be a straight white male to be in this industry, especially for drama. Over the last few years, a lot of the content that’s been commissioned, especially in the UK has been from the same small group of privileged people, and none of the underrepresented people, (from BAME. Women, LGBTQ+ communities) got a look in. There are people making content and wanting to share stories for a wider audience, and a lot of it’s online. Kayode Ewumi and Cecile Emeke are huge inspirations of mine. After Destiny Ekaragha, Lenny Henry and Red Production’s ‘Danny and the Human Zoo’, I knew the BBC were stepping up their game. Some of the other BAME women and I from The Network who are all now working at top production companies have made a small subgroup and we hope to make a web series together.

3. What is the most exciting project you’ve worked on and why?

At The Network, I got to write an episode of a Holby City spin-off along with the other screenwriting and directing delegates. We were at the Edinburgh TV Festival opening party with the Executive Producer and drama team, as well as the actors and all the writers left at 10pm to start writing until the early hours of the morning because we had a 7am script editing and shooting schedule at a real life hospital. The next morning during a table read, I got to see the words I had written just the night before read out and critiqued by actors I had seen on the television just a few days before. I wrote a really dramatic scene where one of the overworked nurses (shout out Niamh Walsh!) accidentally kills a patient by giving him a lethal dosage, and how it affected her psychologically. The director and the crew had to do the scene so many times and it was really emotional, I was very proud of all of us.

4. Inversely, what has been the most challenging part of your career so far?

The most challenging part of my career has been juggling all of my commitments. From working full-time at a busy production company where everything is urgent and frantic, to running off to Soho Theatre in the evenings to write for up to four hours and having dinner at 11pm, ready to do it all again the next day. I know it’ll be worth it in the end. I have really supportive friends and family and I make sure I have time for self-care too, as it’s vital.

5. Where do you see your career path moving to in the future?

Do you have any interest in exploring other parts of the media sphere? I would like to explore directing fiction, and not just writing it. I think that’s my next more! I’m also pitching a radio show with a friend, I’ll be producing it with her as well as presenting it. Also, possible world domination?

6. Finally, can you give your top three tips for any young people looking to get into the production/TV/media industry?

1) NETWORK. That word seems to leave a bad taste in people’s mouths but you have to meet people! Just see it as making new like-minded work buddies. I had to get back on Facebook to join writing groups, groups posting job roles and other creative people that want to skillshare. If you have a good portfolio of work, share it. The creative industry has been somewhat democratised because of online sharing, set up a hiive.co.uk

2) Apply to The Network. No pun intended. Applying to The Network was hands down the most important decision in my career. I didn’t get in the first time I applied, and if you don’t the first time, just be resilient and try again. Resilience is a key factor in surviving in this industry, be perseverant and know your self-worth. I’ve made life-long friendships and contacts from such an amazing scheme.

3) MAKE CONTENT. If you want to be a scriptwriter, write scripts. If you want to be a documentary filmmaker, pick a subject matter you care about and start filming, use a smartphone, if you want to be a producer on factual entertainment, look at the credit list at the end of your favourite TV show and do some friendly-stalking. It’s really daunting to want to work in an industry that is seemingly hard to break in to, don’t be afraid to offer your services for a work experience (anything longer than 4 weeks unpaid is ILLEGAL!). Have a group of trusted people you can share ideas with, good luck!

Are you interested in getting into the TV world? Apply to The Network (it’s free!) and you have until April 4. You can also follow The Network on Twitter – @TheNetwork_TV.