Helen Houston

Holly Allen


What’s your role at MultiStory?

I’m Deputy Head of Production based in Manchester. I help oversee all of the unscripted output from Manchester and Cardiff (and sometimes London). In my role I work hand in hand with my editorial colleagues to ensure we deliver the very best productions which are underpinned by robust procedures and processes. I schedule, budget and negotiate the tariffs with the broadcasters.

Aside from the operational side of things, I manage a team of brilliant Production Managers, Co-ordinators and Secretaries. An important part of my job is making sure that MSM is a happy, fun and safe place for our teams to work. A lot of my work revolves around people and communication.


What made you want to get into TV and how did you make that a reality?  

After a family day out to Granada Studios Tour back in the late 80’s I knew I wanted to work in television. I’ve always enjoyed the sense of being a part of a team and I think you really feel that in TV – for me it’s creative and it’s fun.

I completed a Media & Cultural Studies degree at Manchester University and then stayed on for an additional year to complete a Masters Degree, primarily because 3 months of that placement was spent at either BBC or ITV (or channel 3 as my parents called it at the time!). I landed in the Factual Department at Granada TV working on a whole slate of documentaries for UK and US broadcasters. I worked my arse off, embraced opportunities and was offered a 3 month contract as a Production Secretary (Thanks Tracy Walker!).


What’s the biggest hurdle you’ve had to overcome to get to where you are?  

I think when I joined the industry it made me question what I had to offer. I was working with so many talented, creative, extraordinary people it made me feel a little unsettled. However, I’ve since found confidence in simply being myself and through that, have tried to offer ideas or thoughts from my own perspective. I now take confidence from knowing what my job looks like inside out. Having been a production coordinator and a production manager I understand the pressures on the ground, what curveballs can land and how to deal with constant change.


What has been the highlight of your career so far?  

Next year will be my 21st year at ITV (half of my life!) So you can imagine there have been so many incredible highlights – I’ve traveled around the world with celebrities, had a private tour of Elvis’ penthouse in Vegas and have worked on three series of the famous ‘7 Up’. Some people may wonder how I could have stayed at the same company for so long but the departments I have worked in have taken on so many rebrands and transformations, it does feel like I’ve worked for different indies under the umbrella of ITV.

Even though I’m very much on the production management side of things, developing programme ideas and spotting access opportunities has always been a passion of mine. I’ve had a few series commissioned on ITV which I’m hugely proud of. I love that I can dip in and out of development and that I’m taken seriously in that way – I’ve found a way not to be boxed in by my job title.


What was your biggest “pinch me’ moment?  

I think the seven way live Leaders Debates was probably the most surreal experience of my life. We had David Cameron who was Prime Minister at the time and all the party leaders all in one corridor together. I had been liaising with GMP for weeks about the security of the event and to finally see it all come together was another level. There was a two minute advert break mid show for anyone who needed to pee. I remember Cameron, Milliband and Clegg all running towards me to get to the toilet in time. Milliband waited outside but because time was ticking he ended up going in too. The thought of the three of them in the toilet together has often made me smile.


Are there any big learning curves or disaster moments you can look back and laugh about now? 

I could relay many many stories about teams losing tapes, deleting rushes and forgetting to press record with a certain Mr Elton John. Firefighting and problem solving is a really big part of the job and I try to do that with empathy.

I did find juggling family life simultaneously with work really tricky during covid. My husband was a key worker so I had my two sons (2 & 8) at home with me most days. Mid-board meeting one Monday, the police knocked on the door because my youngest had called them whilst playing with the landline. I got a bit of a telling off for leaving them downstairs whilst I was trying to do calls. I think I can just about laugh at this 3 years on.


What are your favourite TV shows?  

It’s probably no surprise that I’ve been enjoying SJP being back on screen in And Just Like That (the pigeon handbag was a particular highlight!) but possibly more unexpected is that I love the series Gone Fishing. I think the charm of the series lies in the heartwarming friendship between it’s hosts Whitehouse & Mortimer with their witty exchanges and humorous anecdotes.