Name: Denise Large
Job: Multi Camera Director, Sport and Live Events
About your job?
I used to be the senior director for Channel 4 Horse Racing from 1996 to 2016. I also worked as a freelance for Sky Sports, ITV and the BBC along the way.
Prior to being freelance, I trained at Anglia Television in Norwich, famous for the Sale of the Century!!
I was an executive director at IMG from 2013 until the end of the racing contract on C4.
I work mainly on equestrian sport, which I thoroughly enjoy. Who wouldn’t want to film these beautiful creatures.
I strived over the years within racing to push the boundaries and constantly innovate the coverage. I consider myself lucky to have worked with so many great people along the way. Channel 4 were excellent; they loved innovations and pushing boundaries.
When Channel 4 took over all of the racing rights in 2013, it was such a thrill for me to be able to direct The Grand National and Royal Ascot.
I am pleased that ITV Racing has continued to keep and use the same team and the camera coverage, so the sport is in good shape.
What do you enjoy about your job?
I love to be creative, and equestrian sport allows this. In 2018, as executive director with Sunset & Vine on the World Equestrian Games in USA, we used a live rider camera on show jumping
It had an absolutely phenomenal response to when I cut to it LIVE during the round. It gave you a close-up view of what it’s actually like to ride a horse in an arena against the clock. That was one of many great moments of television. I think that’s what makes me enjoy my job so much – taking a risk and when it comes off, it’s special.
What made you interested in going into this type of work (when you first started out in your career)?
I always wanted to work in television. There was never a doubt in my mind; it was just when the time was right. I had a lot of travelling to do before I would want to settle into a full-time career. Little did I think I’d be able to travel the world within my profession; I can’t wait for 2021. To be able to be part of the Olympic coverage in Tokyo will be a career highlight.
What do you find are the downsides to the job (travel/long hours / missing family events/etc)?
I never felt any downsides to my job. I always knew that it would mean unsocial hours. I’ve worked in the catering industry and of course that is a very unsocial lifestyle, so I guess it rather prepared me for working in television. In sport it is nearly always weekend work, so being away from home and your partner can be difficult.
What advice would you give women wanting to do what you do?
Certainly, when I first became a director, there were very few women who covered sport. I was lucky to be able to be involved in horse racing, which was a passion of mine.
When I had the opportunity to go freelance, I leapt at the chance to direct Channel 4 racing. My advice is to keep working hard; sometimes there may be chance meetings that lead to opportunities.
A few years ago, I set up Ye Ha Productions with Sophie Veats, who is a very creative producer. So, as two women within the industry with our skillset, we felt we could take it on. However, it is indeed very tough, and I would say don’t give up.
Latest Challenging roles: my role in Saudi Arabia
I worked for IMG for some years. In 2020, they asked me to direct the Saudi Cup, which I felt would be challenging, considering the role of women in their country.
There was a recce to Riyadh in November 2019 and I guess that was the point at which I needed to decide whether this was something that would work for me and, indeed, the team I would take out. I was very surprised and it really opened my eyes to the progress women are making within Saudi. Now I have always liked a challenge, and this would certainly be one, but it was a way of saying that women can play a part in major roles, and are doing so. Taking away any political views about the country, I can only see that my being there is actively representing Saudi women. A lot of Saudi women are interested in having a conversation with me.
After the Saudi cup I am now back consulting with the Saudi TV team with IMG and HBA Media. The difference in a year is again brilliant to see.
In October we had the first on-screen LIVE report by a woman on the racing programme, and there was a winning horse also trained by a woman.
You can see that there is a growing democracy happening within Saudi.
What advice would you like to give the 25 year old you?
I remember sitting down one day with a racing commentator at Newmarket and he asked me would I like to one day direct the racing? I didn’t believe I’d ever have the opportunity in the position in which I started at Anglia TV. However, I would say to the 25-year-old me, “Anything and everything is possible. One day you will be a senior director and work all over the world in a job you will love and are so passionate about.”
Highlight anyone who has acted as a role model or inspiration.
There have been a few people on the way whom I have admired within the industry, but I have mainly tried to be my own person, which is something my mum instilled in me.
Be kind, was one thing I grew up learning. One senior sports presenter said to me, “You always try to be liked!” Why wouldn’t you want to be kind and be liked in the world?
There were a lot of directors and producers who made a lot of noise. I never wanted to be one of those.
I wouldn’t say I was a push-over either; I believe in being fair. Sometimes you have to be firm and you do have to project over talkback. But that’s just the nature of Live television. I always maintained being fair and keeping calm in my role.
I likened it to flying transatlantic; if the passengers could hear someone ranting and raving over the speakers, it wouldn’t fill you with much confidence, would it?