TBI Weekly: How one exec turned his Covid-19 crisis around

Adam Jacobs

Former Discovery Networks International exec Adam Jacobs stepped down from his role at UK indie Woodcut Media at the start of the year to pursue his passions – then Covid-19 struck and his plans were left in tatters. TBI finds out how he reacted.

As the UK government likes to constantly remind us, everything about our present-day situation is ‘unprecedented’.

We have never faced a situation like this, with industries required to adjust, adapt and forge their own path whilst retaining a degree of sanity. The TV industry is no different and initially I also found the process extremely difficult. How would I cope without a role and with hiring frozen? The answer is through reinvention.

Covid-19’s dramatic impact

In January, I left my role as executive producer at indie Woodcut Media to pursue other interests. I wanted to stay in broadcast but having been a buyer, commissioner and executive producer, I wondered what was next. I wanted to follow my passions – culture, arts and music. Initial conversations with my network were positive and there were great discussions around my next move.

But disaster struck in the form of Covid-19. Our lives and lifestyles would be changing dramatically. Subsequently, the hunt for my next venture paused without a clear sign of when it might reignite. The idea of pursuing my passions, now felt perhaps like a wrong move.

Whilst we may not be able to currently produce, it doesn’t mean that the work must dry up completely. It’s enabled me to take stock, think about what I’m passionate about and create new ideas

Adam Jacobs

What I’ve discovered during lockdown has proven to be one of the most satisfying and productive times of my whole career. I needed to stay motivated, engaged and relevant. How could I use the skills acquired during my decade at Discovery Channel and three years at Woodcut to my benefit? Or did it mean ripping up the rulebook and moving to something more unknown? I went for the latter, devising a strategy that re-positioned myself as a development executive and consultant.

I re-connected with – and worked with – talent, developing new ideas for them whilst also writing and developing several potential new formats. What’s been great during this period is how the industry has pulled together to help each other – an example of this is my own network, who have made introductions to new connections at broadcasters and indies. As a result, I’ve gained new industry contacts who I’m speaking to about my own ideas.

Driving productivity in isolation

LinkedIn has proven to be a valuable resource too. Colleagues were curious to know my plans and I’ve used it to inform them about what I’m passionate about and what I’m working on. The outcome has been positive, with new contacts and companies reaching out to me. I am now working with two companies on their development slates, writing pitches, developing ideas and brainstorming. The time spent in isolation has been the most productive time I’ve had all year.

Whilst we may not be able to currently produce, it doesn’t mean that the work must dry up completely. It’s enabled me to take stock, think about what I’m passionate about and create new ideas around those genres that I can share with others. And I hope to get a commission out of it – either during the crisis or when we come out the other side.

This theme of reinvention also ties in with the evolution of my career. Starting in acquisitions for what was then known as The Hallmark Channel, I became a buyer, commissioner and executive producer for Discovery, before moving to Woodcut Media also as an exec, but in a different environment.

Now I find myself adding another string to my bow as a development executive and consultant. I’ve always been restless, keen to learn, embrace everything the industry has to offer and not be afraid of putting myself out there. In trying times, this can be even more nerve-wracking. But by adapting to my environment and using the lockdown wisely, I feel my network, career and sense of purpose are all the richer for it.

Adam Jacobs was most recently an exec producer with Woodcut Media and before that spent a decade with Discovery. His credits range from Aussie Gold Hunters and Outback Truckers for the UK’s Quest, to Combat Machines for History and How Hacks Work for Viasat World.

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