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Read this: BONUS Dame Pippa Harris on Call The Midwife and the TV industry

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BONUS Dame Pippa Harris on Call The Midw…



BBC sounds music Radio podcasts from BBC Radio 4 on the podcast I'm here with Dame Pippa Harris it we talked on the live show without call the midwife.

You are the brains behind it in your own words.

What was made it successful, but the person actually I think it's a genius behind it is Heidi Thomas who's been are scriptwriter and maiko exec producer from the beginning and I think actually if you talk about the popularity of the show I think it's down to the way Heidi writes her script and the blender which he somehow does effortlessly between stories which are on the one hand very hard hitting sometimes incredibly upsetting very emotional and also comedy and a Lightness of touch so I think the audience seemed to love that mix.

I love being made to cry.

But they also like to be made to laugh sounds obvious reason I asked that obviously absurd easy question to begin with is because there is now an extraordinary amount of Quality Inn International drama.

Is it the case now compared to when you start your career the BBC as in 1989 that bad drama just doesn't get made usually those good bits of badminton it all got an air but now you got a cross a high up.

Are you trying to get drama commissioned? I'm not sure that is to actually I think that there is more Hungerford Rama now which means that actually there is more being made across the board both good and bad it may be that did the bad dramas drop Away and and you forget about them, but they're still being made.

I'm afraid and is there's lots of people and warning is there have you seen a kind of massive hyperinflation in the cost of drama go back into some 10 years ago.

It was often talked about that.

You know you do you need a big star tout Cela show now actually inflation is in the quality and the cost of the writer's isn't it? Just is behavioural.

Music producer how serious that inflation is a problem problem if I look at Call the Midwife I know that the running cost so that said the budget the actually we we spend make the show has increased 80% since we started and almost all well that that increase can be broken up so cars cost of gone up massively crew costs have gone up massively but also location costs every every part of their program has gone up and if you look back at historical reasons for it.

I think one of them ironically if the fact that the tax break came in the high-end tax break which meant there any program which cost more than £1000000 an hour to make a track to the tax breaks of course if you're a producer you're not going to make her a drama that costs 890000 hour because you won't get a tax break.

So you might as well make something that it's

More expensive and thereby get the tax break so it it had the unintended consequence.

I think of driving up the cost across the board but also be the influx of platforms has meant that because there's so much choice and so much demand from different platforms from Netflix and Amazon and increasing you now apple and Facebook and someone that they're all competing with each other so they they are going to see cost and they're going to writers and when they can't get them they simply offer the more money in the hope that they'll be able to get their next project.

I know you so much for your create the BBC in of loyalty to the BBC is in the implications very short logical implication of what you're saying that basis the BBC has lost its Monopoly on Entertainment it's lost its Monopoly on news at the BBC is now smaller player pastila by 2m haps but a smaller player in a much bigger field.

Doesn't have a monopoly on Entertainment but it's still true that if you look at Strictly Come Dancing that is the most popular entertainment show that is on British television so and and the same with drama if you look at something like bodyguard, which went out this year last year on the BBC I think it attracted 917 million when you took into account all the iPlayer views as well as the terrestrial views, so the BBC still has massive shows on all of its channels and still up occupies a very very prime position, but I think where the danger does life for me in terms of the whole ecosystem of TV is that there is no there's no impetus for Netflix to be funding new Talent schemes or to be training people up to be camera operators.

They don't need to do any of that because they can simply come in and and take people who are fully formed and and I've already got great careers that.

Has been done by the BBC so I think where we could find ourselves in a very unbalanced place is if the BBC is still the the organisation which is training people and nurturing Talent and yet.

They're not necessarily going to benefit from that time and because somebody else sweeps in an office more money, but what can be done about that well.

I think there are there are actually any number of things that could be done that could be a levy on the streamers to say that you have to you know that they have to pay a certain amount out of their prophets in order to fund training and new Talent at you know that's done in other countries.

I don't don't see why that can be done here or you know what's happened.

Increasingly is that the warehouse when they first came on the scene that the streaming platform so very happy to co-produce with the BBC or with Channel 4 now.

They're not too happy to do that anymore.

They want to Holy own everything that they invest in.

And that's meant that the programs which in the past might have been a co-production between the BBC and Netflix or BBC an Amazon going to be only on streaming platforms and again.

You know that there is an argument that that the stream of should be should be charged 11 in order to for us to be able to put money aside to go back into Public Service Broadcasting you mentioned on the live show a number of different programs at to have a strong sense of local attachment in there to the British quintessentially happy Valley bodyguard there lots of Grantchester lots and lots of them a bit of a challenge or not a bit busy isn't the true that there is a kind of americanisation and it kind of homogenization that comes with the strength and power of what I sent the American companies who are increasingly dominating TV give me an example of it last week.

We spoke to the producer and sex education Hughes new program on Netflix and the way in which sex education has been cast as

Written is to appeal to international audiences.

It might be an English it might have British element, but it is trying to appeal to international when it says connect partly how you funny switch thinks he isn't there a danger that something quite precious gets lost when you have American companies who for all their brilliance innovation ll20 trying to reach people can't be on Britain which is not something that happens in the UK but I would like to think that if they have got their wits about them.

They will look at the shows which have been the biggest successes in the UK are both in terms of our own audience but also in terms where they've sold overseas and those tend to be a quite Parochial programs like call the midwife which you would think would only appeal in the UK but actually is Pilsworth worldwide unit at the end of the day.

It's not rocket science good drama is all about great characters and great stories and here in the UK we got a huge history of developing programs.

That with with a talented writers of which we have any number in the UK and being able to sell those around the world on a tour preview about your career at why did you not climb up the greasy pole to the BBC director-general? Why did you leave and setup your own independent production companies in the effortless charm of Sam and it's just the right moment.

I think I'd work to the BBC for a number of years and I've worked as a commissioner in drama.

Which was a great job and you know I was working across everything from sort of Eastenders through Holby and casualty to shows like warrior the wives and daughters, but it was a very very broad portfolio and I I just wanted to be able to concentrate on a few fewer programs and coincided with Sam Mendes and Karen euling who had been working together at the donmar wanting to leave the donmar theatre and set up a company and so the three of us came together and setup.

Neal Street now 15 years ago and we haven't looked back and also the case and you're glad you haven't sold it to when you had various offers to do so yeah, so yeah yeah.

Yeah we sold about 3 years ago, but you're glad you didn't sell back then.

It's when I'm in a mood that you had the chance when you're a very young not even a bit of that accompanies it come with big names of tax you and Carolyn Sam Mendes have even bigger British companies sweeping say would like to buy it and your presumingly glad that you didn't sell have it at the very beginning isn't part of the reason that you set up an independent coach companies well frankly and that's wrong with it.

If you want to make big financial gains in the sector now.

It's all about owning a pizza ownership of right.

That's where the potentially that that's where you can be most lucrative that that's absolutely right.

I'm in if if you want to ultimately build a company up which has value then you need to retain the IP or at least they show.

VIP obviously something like call the midwife which we meet for the BBC the BBC also owns a share of the back end of the successive of call the midwife but we Own the majority of it and that is how you build up value as a company we actually work not not just in television, but also in feature films and Theatre and the models for feature films and Theatre are much closer to the Netflix model where you tend to other producer you tend to work for fees rather than actually owning the underlying rights in your movie.

You know did the studio whether it's universal or Warner Brothers or whoever.

You're working for will actually own the film and you will have been paid a fee to work as a producer on it.

So if ownership is worth that in terms of the the finances and commercial advertising is albeit slowly probably going to decline on the other side of the fence quotes that leave an organisation in broadcast like Channel 4 Time in Channel 4 can't only IP

It doesn't often doesn't only IP there's no place at profound limit on its ability to compete in the new world.

Yes, I'm in and it places a limit on the BBC's ability to compete.

I think that you you know at the end of the day you have to hope that people like myself and many others I know feel the same way we would much rather have our shows being seen by the millions who still tune in to watch terrestrial TV than the hope that possibly you know we're going to get 100000 or 200000 people streaming are shown on Amazon so that the figures are still tip massively in favouring of of terrestrial TV and ultimately if you're whether you're a producer director writer or an actor.

You want people to see your work.

So you want to know that you're going to have a platform which can go out to as many people as possible if your arms and give you a summer's do Amazon do those numbers reviewing would would they give you a stomach?

Netflix search what exactly they don't really know so frustrating it from York to quantify your efforts.

Yes, but you know we can find out how many people have an have a Netflix or Amazon or Sky subscription, so you know that even if everybody who had one of those subscriptions.

I was watching your shower.

It's still a fraction of the number of people who put the TV licence and potential watching BBC One on a Sunday night.

You come along way since 1989 when you join the BBC if you could get an Oscar Wilde write them that would be rude, but if you could give some advice to your lips.

Are your 25 year old self and if 25 in 1819 amor I made about 68.

No it doesn't matter how it's changed.

What do you wish? You'd known when you were 25 whatever happened to my stars in the industry was a slightly odd one in that in when I start out.

There was a magazine.

Is come out called the Soho Runner which listed all the jobs in the industry and used to rush out on a Thursday whenever it came out and you scour the back pages to see what the jobs were and I just used to write off a week off for these jobs and adventure got got a job.

Which was being the receptionist in a tiny production company in Soho and I sort of almost didn't care what they may do you know I just wanted to work for a production company in the one I got a job with ended up making training films primarily and so I very much learnt what I didn't want to do which was I didn't want to do training films after I've been there for about 2 years.

I thought no this really isn't was hard to do so I sort of had to step out and start again at the bottom and I actually started as a reader and I still think that's if you're interested in drama.

That is still a very good place to start because all the broadcasters.

And although large production companies like ourselves Working Title of Left Bank they all employer readers to read material that comes into them and you tend to be freelance doing it, but you get paid per script up a book and it's a very good way to read a lot of material.

Very quickly and work out.

What's out there? What what kind of shows people are writing and get get a sense of the whole the whole marketplace and then I personally follow the development route so I became a script editor I worked on shows like Soldier Soldier for ITV and then ended up going into producing via that development rude, but lots of other people start out as runners and then maybe go into producing via more of a financial roots, so they might become a fraction coordinator and then paps of production manager so there that you don't learning how to put the show together on the inner.

Takeaway and in terms of the budget, so there are two quite distinct roots into producing either one of which is equally valid what makes a good producer.

I think the best producers somebody like Andy Harris who makes the Crown is a is a great mix of being having a very good business head you know he's very good at budgeting and the detail of how much things should cost and making a show that is profitable but he's got very good taste.

So he's got very good taste in terms of writers in terms of actors in terms of the directors who chooses to work with because I think you need the two together in order to to then end up with something at the end of the day which is a terrific drama family.

Thank you.

Thank you.


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