Belfast Telegraph

Mandi Millar's Q & A with UTV producer Sara Bell

TV producer Sara Bell began her media life in the religious affairs department. Now the Comber mum of two is doing a job which she reckons is just heavenly

By Mandi Millar

You are the producer of a new UTV property show, Home Sweet Home, but how did you get into the media?

I almost went to teacher training college but, in the nick of time, accepted a place at the University of Ulster to do a BA Hons in Communication Studies and I loved it.

In fact, I actually wish I could go back now and have the time to do all the reading that I could have done there. But again I was distracted by the extra curricular activities - no, not those - I mean the film society, entertainments committee, student magazine.

I then did a year's post-grad and asked for my work placement to be in the media and spent a short time in the BBC's Religious Affairs Department.

I was dreading being in for prayers at nine but it turned out to be the most wonderful experience. The staff were lovely - including a secretary named Lynda Bryans who went on to great things.

My first temporary contract was in the BBC NI Press Office, then onto Radio Ulster where I was production assistant to one Pamela Ballantine.

I was 'headhunted' by UTV and worked for many years as a production assistant.

Then I moved up through research to director and then producer/director.

Phew! Now what was the question again?

Wouldn't you prefer to be in front of the camera?

I'd hate it. I don't understand why people are so obsessed with wanting to be famous these days. It's my worst nightmare, I couldn't bear to be recognised all the time.

I was asked to do some interviews for a 'youth programme' - when I was young, you understand - and I still cringe at the total hames I made of it.

What's been the best part of producing this property show for UTV?

Just getting out and about around the province and meeting amazing people in fantastic homes (and getting paid for it).

I'm normally confined to the newsroom asking reporters 'what the weather's like out there?'.

My least favourite aspect was the insidious osmosis of the property market bug which resulted in viewing houses, bidding, surveying and putting our house on the market.

How do you unwind?

It's got to be my bath. I worship the tub. Hot bubble bath, magazine, red wine and chocolate - it's how I'd want to go.

I'm also a bit of a hobby whore. You name it, I've done it. Yoga, pilates, belly dancing, jewellery making, Italian O-level, sign language, horse riding, kick boxing, sculpture. Right now, I just wish I had the time to do any of them.

What's in your handbag?

Who told you to ask me that? My 'handbag' is legendary. It's a bashed-up black leather Kenneth Cole from New York and has zips and compartments galore.

It weighs a stone - exactly - I just weighed it. And in it are... my big work diary, my overflowing filofax, scripts, bills, magazine cuttings, catalogues; tights, Tampax, tissues, dental floss, toothbrush, toothpaste and mouth wash; pain killers (three kinds), antihistamine and throat sprays; hairbrushes and assorted hair restraints; a full French manicure set; purse, makeup bag, hairy coins, two different perfumes; a baby maglite torch, nail files, driving licence, assorted coins; cheque book, phone and an empty sunglasses case.

What's the best advice anyone has ever given you?

I think it was the Dalai Lama who said, 'don't eat yellow snow'.


From Belfast Telegraph