This week, we're shining the spotlight on Business Affairs Executive, Chrissie Hills. Read on to learn more about what Chrissie's role entails, and how Aardman supported her journey to becoming a qualified solicitor.
Tell us about your role at Aardman – describe a typical day:
Splitting my time between my home, the Bristol HQ and the Aztec West studio, my day starts around 8.30am and ends at 6pm. I have a to-do list, and I try to prioritise my tasks but inevitably urgent requests come in throughout the day.
I work across the majority of departments in Aardman; Production, Sales & Marketing (which includes Sales, Licensing, Attractions & Live Experiences, Marketing, and Publicity), Commercials, Interactive and Operations. Currently the bulk of my work comes from Production, focusing on the new Wallace & Gromit film.
Working only four days a week, and condensing my hours, often my days are filled with meetings. I have to be careful not to get distracted by meetings and make sure I finish tasks that I’ve started before beginning something else.
My tasks range from contract reviewing/drafting, negotiating, advising on contractual, copyright, intellectual property, talent and music matters, production, licensing and marketing approvals, liaising with partners, licensees, financiers and agents, and coordinating legal delivery during post-production.
How did you get into the industry?
I graduated from university in the middle of a recession and there were no jobs going for a new graduate. I took an internship at Reed the recruitment agency, which led me to a role in the finance department at Aardman in 2010. Sums were not my strong point, but I worked for the Business Affairs department one day a week and loved it. I thought it was so interesting and varied and not at all what I thought legal work might be.
After a creative idea is initially produced by someone very talented (whether story, character or design), projects and films start and end in the Business Affairs department – they are the team to negotiate and contract financing and options, to contract the crew and cast, license IP and music, to work with internal departments and colleagues to approve and negotiate licensing, sales, marketing, publicity, and to finish off with the legal delivery. We are there at every stage, and it is fascinating.
When I left Aardman in 2013 to travel, I asked the head of the department to let me know if a permanent role ever became available. When I returned 18 months later she got in touch and that was the start of my legal career!
How has Aardman suppported your career journey?
In so many ways! Aardman part-funded my studies, right the way through, starting with the GDL (an intensive two year part time undergraduate law course), through to the LPC (another two year part time course and the final academic stage of training to become a solicitor) and finally with my training contract (a two year period of qualifying work experience).
Aardman and specifically the Business Affairs team helped me stay motivated and were patient and understanding during my absences over exam weeks. It was a very long six year studing and training process, but I would not have done it without Aardman’s enthusiasm and patience.
What’s your all-time favourite project that you’ve been involved with and why?
I have a soft spot for A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon. It was the first real feature project that I worked on from start to finish where I felt I had more confidence and a little bit of experience behind me. It was fantastic to go to the London premiere and see my name in the credits on a big screen.
To date, what has been your biggest professional achievement?
Qualifiying as a solicitor, whilst working full time and (during one year) on maternity leave.
What are your tips for maintaining a healthy work-life balance?
I know that I am incredibly lucky to work for a company, and in a team, that is generally supportive of maintaining a healthy work-life balance. For me personally though, it’s all about time management. It’s taken several years to get this right, but if you can priortise tasks in a way that suits your working methods, and which means you can leave your work at your desk at 6pm, without dwelling on it and dipping back into it late at night, then you should maintain that balance.
Name three people who inspire you and why:
I’m going to cheat and not name individuals. If I did that, the list would be endless
- Working parents – to reference the above question, I am in complete awe of working parents or guardians who seemingly maintain a healthy work-life balance AND care for their little ones – tough stuff!
- Anyone who works in the media industry, in any capacity – it can be ruthless but rewarding.
- My family and friends – without whom I would not have pursued or persevered and completed my training.
Who is your favourite Aardman character and why?
Wallace & Gromit, for sure. Some of the earliest films I remember watching, and fondest memories, especially with my family at Christmas.