Kashif Boothe on juggling multiple roles in TV and film, and how he created an award-winning web series
At any one time, Kashif Boothe will be balancing his role as media services operator at the Discovery Channel, with the running of his own independent production company. Knowing that one of the best ways to gain experience is often to get out there and do it yourself, Kashif has been able to apply his learnings from working with the likes of Channel 4 and ITV, to his own independent films and web series. Often switching between producer, showrunner and executive producer, he’s attracted multiple awards in the process. Here he tells us how he fits all of that into his busy schedule, as well as offering up his tips on starting and funding your own production.
Discovery Channel, Channel 4, ITV Studios, Jamie Oliver Ltd, RAW TV, SpunGold TV
BA Film, University of Roehampton (2010–2013)
What I do
How would you describe what you do?
I primarily work as showrunner, executive producer, and producer. I create and oversee productions from inception to completion. As the showrunner of my upcoming web series Newlyweds, I’m responsible for budgeting each episode, hiring crew, running the writers’ room, assigning episodes to writers, and making sure the series has a consistent aesthetic. I also hire the director, cinematographer, and editor.
This is done outside of my job at the Discovery Channel. I work in TV broadcast and my duties are completely different from a producer. At Discovery Channel, I oversee shows and documentaries which are adapted to their European and South African subsidiary channels.
Then as an executive producer, I have several writers and directors approach me to produce their projects under my production company, Kashif Boothe Entertainment. I supervise other producers, source funding, and make sure everything is completed on time. I’m currently exec producing several productions: Mnemosyn and Dinner With Peter by Jeda Cacioli; A Father’s Daughter by Levi Eddie Alluede; and Talia Versus by Saraphina Mattis.
Lastly, my producer role is similar to the others mentioned, but it is a lot more hands-on. I oversee projects from beginning to end, and I liaise with execs or other producers for final decisions depending on how big the project is.
Can you tell us a bit about Kashif Boothe Entertainment; how it came about, who’s involved, and the kinds of projects you work on?
My production company works primarily on short and feature films, documentaries, and web series across different genres such as comedy, drama, sci-fi and thriller.
“After working on mainstream productions I began to feel stagnant. I took a break [and] that led to me launching my production company.”
I started launching small projects under Kashif Boothe Entertainment in 2012 whilst I was still at university. However, it didn’t officially become a production company until 2016. After working on mainstream productions for two years I began to feel stagnant; it was great working towards my career goals but I felt like I was forgetting why I started working in television in the first place. I took a break from the industry and decided to make short documentaries that led to me launching my production company.
I began writing and producing my award-winning web series Nate & Jamie, Imperfect, and my short film Black Man Stand. I don’t have a team – I recruit the crew I need to get it done for each project. I have previously worked with Yazz Anderson–Moore, who has been the exec producer on my web series’ since 2017.
What’s been your favourite project to work on, from the past year, and why?
This past year has been difficult for obvious reasons, and the majority of my projects were put on hiatus. In October 2020 I was approached to exec-produce a short film entitled Talia Versus, written by Sarphina Mattis and directed by Israel Peters and Saraphina. I worked with a team that had an amazing work ethic, so we were able to shoot in three weeks, just before the second lockdown.
How I got here
Would you say you need any specific training for what you do?
There isn’t specific training needed to become a producer. I studied film at university and I regret it, as my degree hasn’t helped me in my career. If you do want to do training, I’d recommend enrolling at a film school like National Film and Television School (NFTS) or NYU Film.
The great thing about the TV and film industry is that you can learn while you earn. To be a good producer you have to have the following traits or skills: organisation, be forward-thinking, a problem solver, confident, a risk-taker, and not afraid to be perceived as the ‘bad guy’ when tough decisions need to be made.
What was your journey like when you were first starting out?
My journey in TV and film started by getting unpaid work experiences on TV shows, and production companies before and during university. This helped me get a job at a production company six months after graduating.
I did not find my feet quickly; I was nervous, shy and a bit overwhelmed. I wasn’t used to the fast pace, and in certain instances, my colleagues weren’t interested in guiding me through the protocols or processes. It was a huge culture shock – I was either the only person of colour, or one of four working on a show or at a company. I’m a fast learner and was able to adapt quickly to the environment.
“There isn’t specific training to become a producer. I studied film and I regret it; my degree hasn’t helped me in my career.”
If you could pick three things that you’ve found useful or inspiring to your work or career, what would they be and why?
The Awkward Black Girl web series by Issa Rae. That series was useful to my career as it showed me that you didn’t need a big budget production to make something great. As long as the content is good, audiences will watch it and it can be successful. It is something I had to keep telling myself when I received criticism on the production quality of Nate & Jamie. It’s funny because the first season won a Screen Nation Award in 2018.
Another would be Simone Facey, head of facilities at RAW TV. I worked with Simone in 2014 when she was my line manager, and I worked with her on and off for two years. Her work structure is the best I’ve seen and has shaped the way I manage my productions.
Lastly, Olivia Crooks is a friend and works as a client service manager at Spotify UK. Olivia showed me the benefits of not only networking but using websites such as Facebook and LinkedIn as a key networking source.
What would you say has been your biggest challenge along the way?
My biggest challenge has been self-funding my projects and being almost every key crew member, whilst working two jobs and being sleep deprived. It affected my mental health, I had anxiety and was constantly apprehensive of things I couldn’t control, such as cast and crew not attending shoots and the cast not being happy with the outcome.
How important would you say social media and self-promotion are to your work?
Social media and self-promotion are important if you are developing a brand or have a production company. It has lots of benefits as you are able to network with other filmmakers and share casting opportunities with others. Self-promotion helped me get a job at a big production company.
My advice to filmmakers is to know what you want your brand to represent. For example, if you are a director, tweet or post videos and pictures about your favourite films or shows and why you like or don’t like them. Be constructive, not rude – or suggest what you would do differently. Don’t overshare; if you’ve got an idea for a project, wait until you’ve secured funding or it’s ready to be released.
What have been your greatest learnings with funding projects and supporting yourself as a creative?
Know your worth. If someone is offering you a job with a low rate that doesn’t match the amount of time and effort you’ll be putting into the job, walk away. That is, unless it’s something you can benefit from.
As a producer, I’m still figuring out how I can fund my projects, and it’s a rigorous process. I’ve recently had success with crowdfunding – the sci-fi I’m producing, Mnemosyn, successfully raised £5,000 in March 2020. Always have a backup plan, preferably something you enjoy doing – there’s nothing worse than doing a job you hate.
What’s the best career-related advice you’ve ever received?
The best advice I received was to get an entry-level job at a network or production company, as it’s the fastest way to move up within a company.
What advice would you give someone looking to get into a similar role to you?
If you want to be a producer, I would suggest trying to get a role within a production or development team, as you will learn the process of developing a project quickly.
If you want to go down the independent route, I’d suggest getting a basic understanding of how to be a cinematographer, gaffer and editor. Network and collaborate with other filmmakers, and create projects that are easy to shoot and don’t require big budgets.
Kashif is a member of The Kusp, a platform for diverse creatives across fashion, media and film. We have partnered with them to highlight some of their talented network. See more from Kashif and The Kusp here.
Interview by Indi Davies
Introduction by Siham Ali