We sat down with Nasreen Ahmed, a Script Editor for the hit BBC show Doctors, for which she won the esteemed Services to Media award at the British Muslim Awards. As one of the hidden asian gems in the entertainment industry, in a role that often goes overlooked despite its integral purpose, we delved into Nasreen’s experience in the media industry, her plans for the future and her advice for other hopeful asians looking to enter the industry.
What made you first want to work in television?
I’ve always been really passionate about watching both Asian and UK dramas particularly when it comes to interesting stories and characters. I grew up in a household where we did this together as a family and we still do this today.
Back in 2002, I read a press article about the BBC planning to launch a new radio ‘soap opera’ to go out on the BBC Asian Network. I applied for a role and then spent the next eight years working on ‘Silver Street’. I was very lucky because I worked hard and ended up producing/directing the show – it was the perfect platform to gain the right experience for my much desired move into television.
How was it you ended up working on Doctors?
After Silver Street, I obviously had a taste for drama production and was confident enough to make the leap from Radio to TV. It wasn’t easy though – in this industry people generally want you to already have TV experience and radio doesn’t always cut it although the skills are definitely transferable.
Eventually BBC Doctors offered me some cover work as a researcher. They got to know me, I got to know them and then I gradually worked my way up to Script Editor – I have now worked on over 250 episodes and counting. I have also worked on some great projects including storylining a special 5 part week on the subject of Homelessness.
I absolutely love working on Doctors – it is produced in my home town of Birmingham and reflects the Midlands in its characters and storylines – the perfect combination for me.
As an asian woman working in the UK entertainment industry, did you face any obstacles?
I don’t think the obstacles were any harder for me due to my background if I’m honest. The obstacles are the same for anyone – how to get people to sit up and notice you, how to get that initial foot through the door and for people to believe in you. This industry is fiercely competitive and you have to put in the hours and be one of the best! Luckily, I am not afraid of hard work and am pretty persevering by nature.
You recently won a British Muslim Award for Services to Media, how does it feel?
It feels amazing! I have worked in this industry for over 25 years and to get this sort of recognition is so rewarding. And to bring it home to BBC Doctors where we work so hard on embracing and reflecting diversity in everything we do – that made it even more special for me.
If anything it has inspired me to be more passionate about what I do here and work even harder than I do already. The award currently takes pride of honour in our display cabinet in reception and the support I have had across the BBC has been phenomenal.
What are your plans for the future?
I am currently working on multiple scripts/stories for BBC Doctors and am in the early stages of a storylining another special 5-parter, this time on the subject of Mental Health. And I am currently co-producing a very special and exciting episode of Doctors that will air on Friday 9th June which is the also BBC World Music Day.
I can’t tell you too much at this stage but I can say that we are working closely with Navin Kundra on this episode and there is a definite Bollywood feel in the air. Other than that, my lips are sealed.
Finally, what tips do you have for other young Asians looking to enter the writing or entertainment industry?
Firstly, you have to really want it. It’s a tough industry and it takes a lot of patience when it comes to getting the right opportunities. Watch and read everything and learn from what other people are already doing. Networking is also important – it might not be your thing but it really is the best way to meet people who might be able to help you.
And even if it seems like an unreachable goal at times – keep going and you will get your break. This industry is working harder than ever on diversity and employing ethnic minorities – if you have the talent and the will, it can happen for you! It happened for me!