Often when I’m asked, “Who are you?” or “What do you do?” I’ll answer with, “How long have you got?” This is not because I intend to launch into some long-winded explanation of my identity or my job but because I do rather a lot of things for a living: – Health Retreat Owner and Facilitator; Consultant and Training Provider (Change Management, Investment Logic Mapping, Career Management, Life Coaching, The 4 Elements of Business, The 4 Elements of Communication, The 4 Elements of Relationship and my new and overarching initiative The Wheel of Segais – The Wheel of Change); Producer/Director (TV documentaries and drama); Consultant/Tutor (TV Production and Media Skills); Project Manager; Event Manager; Marriage and Civil Union Celebrant; Druid and Mentor!!
So how do I describe myself in the short form? I am a Self-Employed Portfolio Woman and Storyteller. As a Portfolio Person I package my various transferable skills and life experiences into different packages or portfolios and when I get asked to do a particular job I pick up the appropriate portfolio off their desk and am away! And I may not be a storyteller in the traditional sense of the Brothers Grimm or J K Rowling, although I have been an avid reader since childhood, but I find for me the most effective way of getting across what I want to say no matter what the job, is to find the metaphor, the analogy, the story.
So when I was young did I have a career goal, a 5-year and 10-year plan? No! I married young and disastrously and escaped by running away to London at the age of 21 – known in New Zealand as ‘having your OE’ (overseas experience). I think my goal in life was to follow my passion for travel and to be happy. So armed with the very useful skills for travelling – typing, shorthand and office practice – I was away. Some thirty years later I came across these wise words that so perfectly define all of the decisions I have made in my life to date:
This life was not created to be a prison, it was designed to be a platform for creativity and expression that is colourful and challenging and upon which you may have many interludes and adventures . . . But always because they bring you joy. (Ramtha)
I am an adventurer, a traveller, whether that be in the outer or inner realms. Opportunities beckon, they always ‘feel right’ and seem to come along at just the right time even though I often realize that only in hindsight! One of my favourite mantras is ‘Nothing Wasted’ and I have found this to be so true for me. There has not been a single interlude or adventure, good and some not so good, that the skill or experience gained has not been able to be usefully tucked into my Portfolio.
My first real job in London was as a PA with Associated British Pictures who also owned Elstree Studios and ABC Television and that is probably where my love of working with story began. How exciting to be visiting the studios, typing up script assessments and distribution deals!
After four years in London, with many side trips to Europe and Scandinavia, the travel bug starting biting again and I decided to immigrate to Canada – good secretaries being much in demand. ABPC had production contacts in Toronto with Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) and were happy to give me a glowing letter of introduction and it was there that my ‘career’ began!
Employed first of all as a secretary with the TV Sports Dept, I was fascinated by the lives and travel of the department’s Associate Producers and Associate Directors (production trainees on their way to being producers and directors). I wanted in! CBC was not particularly keen on my becoming a trainee as I was considered an antipodean risk who would probably go home eventually. However, persuasion and hard work got me in and I loved it! Working across all disciplines – scripting, researching, editing, floor managing, directing (studio and field), production management and producing – I covered ‘live’ sports broadcasts, recorded series, single-camera dramas and documentaries and multi-camera studio productions travelling to locations all over Canada and the United States. I was alive!! However, after 4 years it was time to move on again. I had recently married a New Zealander, I was pregnant and we wanted to go home.
I was keen to find work with New Zealand television and was shocked to find that the early emancipation of women (New Zealand women achieved the right to vote in 1893 – the first country in the world to do so) had not been embraced by the television industry! There were no women producers or directors and the highest status a woman could achieve was that of researcher or the fronting of afternoon television programmes. Returning to New Zealand after 8 years away, I was seeing my country through new eyes and I had stories to tell. What to do?
Get in wherever I could and fight from there I thought and so I got a job as a Production Secretary which is a very good job for learning the ropes of a new organisation. After a few months I learned that they were desperate for a multi-camera studio director (male of course) and couldn’t find one, I made a nuisance of myself reminding them of my training at CBC and they eventually, begrudgingly, gave in! Admittedly it was producing an afternoon ‘women’s programme’ but what a gift! Feminism was on the rise, it was the perfect forum for liberated women’s voices, and the bosses didn’t pay too much attention to what was happening on the ‘women’s programmes’,. Wherever I could I employed other women in production roles and we became a force to be reckoned with. Television production would never be the same again!
Having ‘earned my stripes’, my next move was into the Documentary Department and there I stayed for 16 years producing and directing social documentaries, dramatised documentary series (‘Pioneer Women’ and ‘Legacy’), and ultimately becoming Executive Producer of the department for the last 10 years of my time there. Time to move again. The accountants were taking over public television and we were fast losing creative control of what we did and how we did it. Self-employment here I come!
Delicious and dreadful! ‘Delicious’ because I was now a free agent, liberated, mistress of my own destiny! ‘Dreadful’ because, as I had always been employed, I had no business skills and no marketing skills – either of myself or of the films I wanted to make! My second marriage had also ended. This was indeed an ‘interlude’, a challenging time, but one from which I probably learned the most about what has my heart – those things that bring me joy – my daughter of course, but also the ability and opportunity to touch lives, to make a difference.
I had also bought a beautiful piece of land – 53 acres of hill pasture and stunning native bush overlooking the sea with a dream some time in the future of running a Health Retreat for stressed executives given that I had learned a great deal about managing stress while working in television!
The next stage wasn’t long in coming. A wonderful woman I had employed as the host of one of my women’s programmes had left some years before to set up a management consultancy for women and offered me a contract to deliver Career Management and Change Management workshops. As she observed, “A good producer understands management, change and engaging an audience (storytelling). “ The flexibility of contract work gave me more time to spend with my daughter and enough ‘wriggle room’ to produce the occasional independent documentary, setting up an independent production company with two women colleagues. I also became a lecturer in television production at two institutions – Avalon Film & Television School and the NZ Broadcasting School in their degree programme. The Portfolio butterfly was drying her wings and preparing to fly! With all the various skills and passions I now had, I could package them into various portfolios and name them.
Around this time I was also attending a series of workshops called ‘The Seasons of Life’ that offered the ancient teachings of Confucius about the right and natural way to do business by learning from the cycles of Nature and all Her wisdom.
Wonderfully illuminating and from which I added three new workshops (portfolios!) of my own – The Four Seasons of Business, The Four Seasons of Communication and The Four Seasons of Relationship
Nature never breaks her own laws (Leonardo da Vinci)
A little later, quite naturally I suppose, I began studying Druidry which also embraces the wisdom of Nature and living our lives in rhythm with Hers. And after years of study in nature and in ancient books, I came to see that everything I had ever learned could be contained in one beautiful image that I call The Wheel of Segais – a simple but profound template for understanding the innate nature of the universe and our place within it.
So all of my portfolios continue but I now view them and teach them through a different lens – the simple, bold, beautiful Wheel of Segais. It is a simple but profound understanding of Process and Personality and can be used to plot the paths and cycles of a business, a project, a relationship and a life through the four stages of Initiation, Emergence, Maturation and Manifestation (Winter, Spring, Summer and Autumn) and thus give us tools to enhance or improve and support the inevitable cycle of change.
Everything I know and teach I learned from a tree!
Pamela Meekings-Stewart. 26.7.17
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Pamela Meekings-Stewart, a New Zealander, was, for over 25 years, a film and television producer/director (documentaries and drama) at two major media organisations – Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, Toronto, and Television New Zealand, Wellington. She has won a number of awards for her dramatized documentary series, Pioneer Women. A trained facilitator, she designs and delivers seminars on human resources management, change management, staff motivation, development, careers, professional (and life) skills for both the public and private sectors. Since 1990 she has run her own company – The Woolshed Retreats – on her farm just outside Wellington, New Zealand where she offers spiritual retreats and Total Pampering Days.
Website: The Woolshed Retreats
LinkedIn: Pamela Meekings-Stewart