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How the BBC is supporting the next wave of Northern talent on Waterloo Road

Waterloo Road

As a new term kicked off with the return of BBC drama Waterloo Road last week, behind the scenes a new wave of Northern TV talent is emerging through a production trainee scheme on the show.

Forming part of the BBC’s commitment to develop and nurture new talent in the North of England, Rope Ladder Fiction and Wall to Wall Media established a major production base in Greater Manchester to produce the series.

To pave the way for the next wave of TV production talent in the North, The BBC’s Waterloo Road trainee scheme is a hands-on programme, supporting eager trainees from Greater Manchester into the industry with opportunities to work across various departments such as directing, cameras, sound, accounts, Covid coordinating and script editing.

Zane Igbe and Sabbina Aslam, two former trainees on the scheme, are now full-time employees working on the show after completing a six-month placement. The scheme, which has had 20 trainees since launching, is led by the teams at both Rope Ladder Fiction and Wall to Wall Media, and supported by Screen Manchester and HOME Manchester. 

Sabbina Aslam initially went to university to study film and media production but struggled to find a way into the TV world when Covid hit.

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Sabbina Aslam
Sabbina Aslam


“During the Covid lockdown, I didn’t really know how to get into the industry because everything with the TV industry was shut down,” Sabbina Aslam told Prolific North.

She initially landed a role as a Covid martial on a BBC show called Everything I Know About Love, before securing a place as a Covid Coordinator on the Waterloo Road trainee scheme through industry-led skills body ScreenSkills.

Starting out as a Covid Coordinator, the scheme has helped her to gain experience across various departments on the busy set, which has around 80 staff on the production team as well as around 50 on the cast. As part of the scheme, trainees are also given the opportunity to visit the likes of dock10 in MediaCity, to see the post-production side of TV.

“I’ve probably tried every department just to see what I’d prefer to do on set in a real environment. At university, you don’t get that chance, but here you can get proper hands-on experience.” After filming wraps up in March, she has her eyes firmly set on working in sound.

“After this role, because I’ve made my connections now, I definitely want to work with sound! So I can speak to them and then go into that role next.”

One of her favourite highlights so far, was being able to see the crew and cast reunite for the premiere of the series. 

“When we’re working constantly, you almost forget that you’re actually making a TV show. Then when you see it all come together with everyone at the premiere, it was nice.” 

Zane Igbe, a floor runner trainee on the show, faced a similar experience trying to break into the industry. Before spotting the scheme on Facebook, he had a little experience as a runner and had been working on his own web series episodes. 


Zane Igbe
Zane Igbe


“I didn’t know a decent way into the industry and how to find a path to where I wanted to go, which is directing,” he said.

After applying to the scheme, he’s now found a way to hone in on his passion area and learn tips from the directors working on the show.

“Being able to go on set, speak to directors and watch all the different directing styles, it’s really taught me a lot. Being able to read the script has really helped my writing as well.” 

“I think my biggest highlight working here so far is just being able to step up to 3rd Assistant Director, because I’ve had many opportunities being able to do things like dress the backgrounds. It has given me the opportunity to develop.”

Now, he has ambitions to step up to 3rd Assistant Director on the next production he works on and plans to work on directing his own short film with people he’s met on set.

The new series of Waterloo Road is available to watch on BBC One and BBC iPlayer.

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