Media Parents went on a networking jaunt to the Nations and Regions Conference at Salford last week with mixed results : stalked Alex Connock, bungled it with Steve Hewlett, hit it off with Skillset Scotland and convinced a cracking lady MD to write for the blog. The conference itself was very interesting, and great to meet people, but I am glad that Media Parents is hosting this : http://blog.mediaparents.co.uk/2011/01/new-year-new-you-jan-5th-event-how-to-network/ Albeit a little late for me.
Steve Hewlett chaired (more on him later) introducing a great opening Q&A session with Kirsty Wark interviewing Left Bank Pictures supremo Andy Harries. Andy Harries is the guy Paul Greengrass called “a bright colour in a sea of grey execs”. I’m not going to transcribe the conversation, just pick some of the useful or interesting bits. (Hopefully).
On leaving Granada to set up his Left Bank Pictures Harries said “Once The Queen rattled through to The Oscars, I just thought ‘Well, I’ve got to do it’”. On running his own company: “I’ve never worked so hard in my life”. Quite.
When Andy Harries rallied and told Kirsty Wark he’d always been a big multi-tasker she quipped “Are you a woman?” then went on to observe that Left Bank’s showreel, which was of considerable length, solely featured male actors. Having warmed up, Wark then went on to take Harries to task for working largely with male writers and directors. He admitted that he could do better, but shortly afterwards we watched a clip of The Royle Family, directed and jointly written by Caroline Aherne. (Sue Johnston and Liz Smith reduced me to tears in about 2 minutes, which I fear is not proper behaviour at a conference. I managed silent sobbing but the person next to me probably got wet.)
On his intense relationships with writers Harries remarked “If you haven’t got the writer, you haven’t got anything” and on The Royle Family scripts “I thought ‘Jesus Christ this is Alan Bennett in Manchester form’”. The Royle Family was commissioned apparently as a blind pilot – that’s amazing isn’t it? Who takes those risks now?
They went on to talk about The Deal, and how David Morrissey had, for the two weeks between his first casting audition and his callback for Stephen Frears, gone and lived in Gordon Brown’s constituency in Scotland so he could nail the accent. I like that. We also heard that ITV dropped The Deal just before it went into production because they were in negotiation with the government over their own deal. Lucky Channel4. But then fortune often favours the brave.
Final word from Andy Harries on having his pitches rejected by the BBC (3 in a day, apparently) “If you get stuck on looking for a director, or looking for the money, start with the actor”. The Queen, apparently was inspired by the feeling that Helen Mirren was somewhat regal – it was only after she expressed interest that the writing began. If you haven’t got the writer and the talent, perhaps, you haven’t got anything. ”It doesn’t get any easier” Harries said, “you have to have a level playing field for everybody”.
Next : David Abraham, C4 Chief Exec’s keynote speech. To hear podcasts from the Nations and Regions Conference go here http://www.nationsandregionsmedia.org/