Inspirational Woman: Ida Bruusgaard | Managing Director, Peggy Pictures

Danni Davis and Ida Bruusgaard

Ida has spent the last thirteen years directing and developing a wide range of factual programming.

She cut her teeth as a shooting p/d on the BBC audience hit Heir Hunters (Flame TV), and her latest credits include C4’s Sharon Horgan: How To Be Married And How To Have A Midlife Crisis (Producer/Director, North One) and Phil Spencer’s Empty Homes Giveaway (Producer/Director, Raise the Roof). Most recently Ida has worked for Medieoperatørene, a prominent Norwegian feature doc company, securing a commission for a six-part ob doc series about schizophrenia.

Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role

As MD of a small company I wear many hats – editorial, production, finance, legal – but Danni and I are a strong partnership and can lean on each other for most things.  What I enjoy the most about our business is seeing it grow, and setting ourselves goals and achieving them.  It doesn’t always happen, but is wonderful when it does.

I have made factual TV for nearly 20 years now – starting out as a researcher on history shows but gradually covering every genre on the factual spectrum.  I discovered early on that bringing ideas to companies was the best way of applying for a job.  I worked between development and production as a freelancer and loved it.  But I got an appetite for more strategic thinking at company level once I got my first permanent job.  I was an in-house producer for a small factual company in Oslo, responsible for generating half the turnover. Knowing everyone needed paying at the end of the month gave me a whole new perspective.

Back in London, with a three-month-old baby, I knew I wanted more of that buzz – winning business for myself rather than other people. And I was so lucky that Danni had reached a similar point in her career.  Our aims were really well aligned for what sort of production company we wanted to build – the culture, the types of projects, and how to make the business sustainable. We’ve not looked back.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

No. I probably should have!  I was quite immature in my attitude, looking back.  My parents are both successful lawyers, and many of their friends are too, and rather than ask their opinion my guiding was ‘anything but law’.

Factual TV appealed to me because I’m super nosy, and I wanted the chance to immerse myself in lots of different issues and lots of different people’s lives.  I have always been very interested in craft, sewing and needlework, and putting a show together feels like an extension of that, but for a bigger audience.

I did plan to be a working mother, and start a family with a man who was up for hands-on parenting.  My mum and dad are an amazing partnership, and have showed me that it’s possible to have a fulfilling and interesting career, but also be loving, present and committed at home. Support for working mothers in the UK in the 2020’s is no better than Norway in the 1980’s, so their experience is depressingly relevant.

Have you faced any challenges along the way?

I think the hardest thing about the TV industry is that the freelance mill, and not having a ‘home’ can be exhausting, and the projects can take over your life too. I have worked with countless wonderful, talented and inspiring people over the years, but many of them have found other jobs now.  This is a really big motivating factor for me in running my own company.  I want to make sure we are one of the good ones.  Making TV is not easy, but it is not life and death! It’s interesting, creatively fulfilling and really good fun, and that’s the atmosphere and culture we strive towards at Peggy Pictures.

What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success? 

I think Danni and my partnership is the biggest reason for Peggy Pictures’ success, and why we will keep growing.  We enjoy each other’s company, we can rise to a challenge, deal with a crisis and still be friends.  Even though running your own business is tough, we have a lot of fun working together, and it’s never boring.

How do you feel about mentoring? Have you mentored anyone or are you someone’s mentee?

I had a couple of female bosses take me under their wing, and that made a huge difference to me. It wasn’t a formal mentorship, but felt like a very solid connection. I think mentorship culture is much more pronounced now, and it’s a brilliant, brilliant thing. We have asked countless people for help and found the response invariable generous and insightful. If somebody asks me to be their mentor, it will be a very proud moment for me!

I would have absolutely loved to have had a work mentor through out all stages of my career and it’s something I still think about now as it’s obviously never too late.

If you could change one thing to accelerate the pace of change for Gender Equality, what would it be?

Subsidised childcare – without a doubt.  I am incredibly frustrated with the attitude towards childcare in the UK. It very often falls on the woman to make a calculation whether her job is ‘worth it’ to pay for childcare, but society overall is the loser in that equation. Even if she isn’t earning more than the childcare costs for the few years before her kid starts school, surely keeping a woman professionally active, paying taxes, earning money, is worth it in the long run?

If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self what would it be?

Keep going, work hard, and it will all come good in the end.

What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?

We are passionate about younger audiences, and feel excited about their appetite for real life stories. Our next challenge is to better understand the other platforms, beyond traditional TV, where we can engage that audience with our content. We don’t feel depressed about the ‘death of TV’, and feel confident that good storytelling skills will always be in demand.  But I have no doubt the landscape for factual content will change, and I hope Peggy Pictures can be at the leading edge of that.

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