Read this: Who Wants to Be a Peaky Blinder?
Summary: PodcastDownload MP3 www.bbc.co.ukWho Wants to Be a Peaky Blinder?…
BBC sounds music Radio podcasts hello, I'm Jim Morrison and my day job is media editor of The Guardian but today for the media shine Moonlighting receipt and I'm with a man described by the Daily Telegraph as one of the most astonishingly bonkers brains of his generation Stephen Knight is the creator not just of the BBC drama Peaky Blinders which finished it serious this week, but also the brain behind numerous TV shows the trade Who Wants To Be A Millionaire he's been involved in Oscar nominated films has written novels and he's also trying to bring a new film studios for the West Midlands Stephen Knight welcome to the media show lovely to be here is quite difficult should we start with what you doing for apples new streaming service the Dickens adaptation you working on for the BBC or picking over the bones of what's been going on in Peaky Blinders but I want to go right back to the star and talk about you.
Halfords in the West Midlands tell us about your family yeah, it's not a typical if there is such a thing as a typical source of someone becomes a right it's not that the M27 children mother was a blacksmith farrier and when I was a kid buys to my brother's used to go out with him and we go to scrap metal yards and and all kinds of strange places in Gypsy camps and so I saw a Birmingham to most people don't see I think and I think it was the end of an old Birmingham that was fast disappearing and for me was always sought to become like a mythological place and the characters that I met when I was a kid lived on in my mind and I also thought there'd be a rich source of drama one day and that was ultimately at some level what fed into Peaky Blinders which is now become this beast of a program which has a life of its own.
I know it's basically comes from stories of my mum and dad told me.
People their relatives and people they knew my mum was a bookies Runner when she was 9 years old.
She walked down the street with a basket of washing and people would drop bits into the basket.
Can I use children so they wouldn't get arrested and my dad's uncle's were illegal bookmaker.
It's called the Sheldon's and I heard lots of stories about them and when they met these people they were kids so that they know what they want.
They saw and then when they told me it and then decided I should keep that sort of heightened reality as part of of distraught now come back to Blinders in a little bit but I just want to get into how you ended up working in TV because it's not necessarily the standard route from being the son of a blacksmith in the West Midlands to being the go-to guy for all manner of scripts and directing.
How did that happen? I'll sort of decided to become a writer when I was about 11.
You said I could do it so I decided to go to university which was quite a departure from the career path that would have been normally expected on me and I studied English literature and then still didn't know what I wanted to do when I graduated in the shoe shop and washing the clothes shopping went America and worked on a ranch and did all kinds of very hard things before going back to work in the shoe shop and then saw an ad for a vacancy as a copywriter in advertising agency in Birmingham that did radio commercial writing radio which is actually a fantastic way of getting into writing because you get given 30 seconds and a lot of information and you have to try and find a way to get into exactly.
Do you remember from the adverts that you were working on what were the jingles all things that you're coming up with it because it was a small outfit.
I use to actually sing the jingles the most difficult part of the job was.
You get a client to be like a store in Gloucester they be selling all kinds of things and clothes and shoes and things you would write the ad and you'd have to read the ad over the phone to the client to get their approval before you went and recorded it.
So it was very difficult not to laugh when you were doing this because that you were talking to the client and some of the things were so outrageous and childish underpants 24 pence and pear and is very weird.
I suppose you call it all inclusive because they sing sometimes the voice over and once was a be on a TV commercial where they needed to be for some reason was buzzing around a tin of paint.
I don't know why and my nan apparently was watching almost completely deaf, but when she heard that she said that ask Steve to recognise.
Love you so
That was the first bit of media that I did and then I got a job at capital radio and were there for a while.
I'm just started to Muse about game show ideas and television Concepts and came up with two ideas weekend daytime game shows and then began to ride scripted stuff as well when I will sell it but how did you then progress from doing odd jobs to coming up released co-creating Who Wants To Be A Millionaire myself and another vital to work together basically we set up saying we are right as we will write anything and so Mike and I rented an office at cellar door because we began to write comedy.
I think we started with will be alright on the night and then we started to do that sort of show and worked with some of the absolute great.
Just doing television specials and things I mean we work with.
You was Frankie howerd, it was considered that we could do it and so we started writing Jasper Carrott The Detectives which these days often from getting into a taxi and then if anybody knows who I am then they say me and my dad used to watch The Detectives we used to love detective funniest this sort of residual popularity you did and it was so silly you know the whole concert was almost innocent in its humour, but we had a good time and at this point is the late 90s yeah and game shows are out of fashion and you're trying to convince someone to give a game show a million pound price.
Yes, we did scripted comedy and game shows you could walk up the stairs and come up with your game show idea and we did a couple that they did ok and we had worked a capital sum call David Briggs who was the producer and also the
Someone who came up with Concepts and it came up with the concept that was the basics of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire you the original idea was you could win unlimited amount of money you could just go on forever but the questions will become increasingly impossible, so that you know you would reach appointment, but no one would ensure that just understand why so we have to think of a limited to worry about the Beginning thinking that no one ever get there but in the end, of course we want to be together and then working with my wife and myself and David and Paul Smith at celador we began to work through concert the difficulty was whenever you played with any amount of real money with anyone they would reach point and keep it and so all of the things that phone a friend just designed to keep people in giving them a reason to stay in the game and still they didn't really work.
You know they didn't quite work effectively to keep people in them.
We discovered really simple solution was show the person the question before they make the decision whether to carry on as soon as people say the question the great thing that happened was a happy accident is that they would go well.
I think I might know someone who knows that and so that would bring that it will they might think well, I don't know but the audience so that is what really made it suddenly work.
How did you workshop? This then? We all in a room just endlessly playing variations on this quiz game trying out a new people.
Did you put your and cash on the table? I didn't know but the cash was involved.
That's how we got to understand.
How people's Minds work and then when we were trying to sell in Portsmouth in particular was taking it around and no one wanted quiz shows old have another gone that long ago.
They are Joe and Paul was the one who played with I think it was David liddiment at ITV and I'm going to
This but you have to use your money, so what we want this only works if there is tension about achievement something getting something making the money otherwise it's just entertainment and he got it immediately and not only did they put out this was also a very bold move on the part of it was the district through the week instead of putting on weekly said it would building building building it.
Just went mad for the next 10 nights.
You'll be watching British quiz show history for the first time on UKTV we have a top prize available of £1000000 and it could be 1 here tonight.
I remember we were watching think is a second episode in the green room and there was someone that can cause a young woman and another question so she phoned the Dad you said dad.
What's the capital of Peru with him and her dad didn't know and it that it was hurt.
That made us all think he didn't know this and it was just a real MOMO drama series of sorts of happy Accidents and Good Fortune it was a formula that really captured people's imaginations and the indigenous all over the world.
What is the capital of Iraq Baghdad to phone my brother Tom High junior kids to TGI Fridays in Covent Garden and they used to have in the men's toilet on the wall would be mounted days American newspaper headlines and deadlines says the show that saved the mouse and it was all about the fact that Disney who unbelievably we have in our time back then this show because it's gone to ABC buenavista, and increase their stock and increase the share price of the company of this is beyond anything that I could ever expect tell me it's kind of importance of yourself.
I have no complaints.
Very good and it did liberate liberated me to be able to write stuff that I wanted to write.
I mean it wasn't particularly early and in my career, but he was a good point biggest back then as well.
You know you could it was it was probably easier to get a film of the first things to get a film that made was easier then then it is now so when one ventured off and did something something I really wanted to write.
It was something that I was quite passionate about and to be able to get that made at that time was fantastic Oscar nomination for a completely different part of my career and we have heard terrible things.
Now one of the strangest things that my friends and Birmingham say no when they go abroad go to the US is that despite being from a massive city in the UK for the first time ever when they go to Someone Like New York and they say they're from Birmingham people actually where it is.
Thanks to Peaky Blinders how does it feel to a finally somehow put this giant city on the map in terms of most of the rest of the world it is astonishing and I have to say was sort of the ambitions of the Beginning Birmingham city in his own right of course but in terms of Media it was always a bit of a there was an absence there and absence of Mission comes a tall handsome dusty black coat with a red Right Hand was the BBC only destination.
Search for making that yes, I've got a very strong loyalty to the BBC in terms of I'm working with lots of different international Studios and that's great.
I just feel that the BBC is such a it's almost like a brand that doesn't swag and it should and it really really should you know which other television a good second world war no one you know just the BBC's got such a history got such a back catalogue.
He's got an Ethos it's got a spirit to it that seriously though the other don't have the other thing is if you're writing and you work for the BBC the BBC have attendances.
Oh that sounds good go on then off you.
Go so yes it was a long answer to the simple question yes, it was the only place that a lot of the fans of the show will have come to it a few years later with a few series out on Netflix yeah, that's that's what's great about it.
Is that if you if you can have the car?
Relationship with the BBC and then have the distribution of something like Netflix you've got the Best of Both Worlds I'm working with Netflix that great people to work with as well, but always I feel first loyalty to the BBC Peaky Blinders released on a weekly basis as is traditional we now think that's a bit hard, but anything now.
That's actually how TV is always been made Sony the last couple of years is that what you are finding things does that had a bit more of a buzz to it? Do you prefer the idea that people going into the office on a Monday morning and talking about what they saw last night.
Well interestingly the biggest thing obviously happen, but now people are much more like to talk about doing but they called watercooler TV show that everybody watches the show at the same time which means everybody talks about it at the same time and that is the impact so it's all day going around Full Circle but I think it's great that people are watching it at the same time and then what you can see on social media response afterwards is talking to each other and
Do you like about that is that restores the idea of a community watching something rather than everybody everyone being isolated now wondering to Manchester the week.
I saw a peaky blinders themed bar.
Why you can't quite put on your flat cap and wind up your pocket watch before having a cocktail to does the Peaky Blinders immersive events this bespoke clothing what pitfalls of becoming a sort of JK Rowling and vintage primary source of endless sprawling Empire of offshoot to merchandise.
You know I think someone who came through commercial television.
I have no to the centre snugburys at this concert.
I've got this item Concepts and how they do this and had ever do that.
I love it.
I think that the enthusiasm of the the people who watch the show is fantastic a lot of it is done without a sanction and that's annoying but you have to look at the way people have.
Tattoos of the characters on then there's a couple of articles saying it's affected how people are naming their baby.
So that Arthur is now in the top 10 for the first time in 120 wow, so do you and the rights to all of the Peaky Blinders brandy ultimately control of it, so I mean? It's a complicated legal thing be in terms of the broadcaster and distributor all have shares, but it's my original idea for the shores of the characters and and and and the way it's portrayed event.
I mean it comes back to me and he's the most said name.
He's found you up as a result of Peaky Blinders and got in touch and said that they want to talk about the show Snoop Dogg Snoop Dogg in a hotel room in London after his agent and contacted to say you wanted to talk about speaking.
What's he said he recognised how he became involved in gang culture from the show which is?
1920s Birmingham it's the breadth of people who love it is what gratifies me my so you get you know you get kids on council estate and you get novelist and you get movie stars and you get wrappers, so it's lovely you are going to have to tell us a little bit more about you 3 hours to Snoop Dogg I can't remember the last hour it was it was amazing.
He told me his life story which is quite remarkable and the whole thing is amazing and then well.
I love is to hear true biggest fiction doesn't even come close.
You know it's impossible to get as good as that and so when you hear the stories.
You can't repeat but stories of people that their lives and what they've done.
No one of the Stranger things about Peaky Blinders is despite being incredibly effective representation of Birmingham in the early 20th century wandering around with the
Sunday background with the Sense of an industrial city on the make at the end of the series that has with support from screen Yorkshire Show was the first series first series on the first series was it on the east of had to go outside of the local area and the problem was in Birmingham was that the combination of the Luftwaffe and the local council in the 60s and 70s of pretty much got rid of stock that we could use to shoot it and I think in the first series there was some sort of grant from Yorkshire present if You filmed in Yorkshire so a lot of people going up to Yorkshire to film stuff and get there the grand did Birmingham lose out in a more general sense to places like Manchester and Salford and also with Yorkshire doing it's best to sort of establishing industry there.
Why did Birmingham get left behind? I don't know it's a mystery to me.
How it happened.
I'm trying to do something about it, but how it happened what happened.
Maybe it's not far enough away to be far away.
It's not it's not northern and so you'd
taking any Box by coming to Birmingham in a too close to London maybe I think there is a sort of self-deprecation about every city has its stick at nothing Liverpool and Manchester bang their own drum loudly over the years quite rightly crises, but I think Birmingham purely in terms of Media not in terms of other things but in terms of needed a needs to tell it's story and you're planning a new studio complex you try and establish Birmingham as the centre of TV and movie production negotiations with a landowner in central Birmingham for 34 to 40 acres of land that we are planning to develop a studio, so there are buildings on the already which are listed which we can convert into Studios pretty quickly southern middle of next year maybe October next year I want to put my Productions in there, so we've got the
The council of the mayor Andy Street is fantastic and has been with the project from the beginning and at the moment and I think it's going to carry on for the foreseeable future there is such demand for space people the UK's turning people away because there's no space so I have no doubt that we will fill the spaces.
I wanted to be a more than just converting somewhere houses.
I want to really make it a neighborhood, so they will be Studios they'll be related Industries a week.
They called f&b food and beverage learning a lot of other property and residential Saturday it will be a sudden media-based Village if you like and if you were making a picture of a Hollywood star whose thinking of doing their new series that your Studios and what would you say? Why should they go and do it there and being Birmingham what would they enjoy 20 minutes down the road is where English speaking drama was invented in Stratford-on-Avon by Shakespeare backup which is the Cotswolds
Do all kinds of things got a Modern City nearby it's commutable to London it's commutable to Manchester so it's a media environment waiting to happen.
It just needed someone and you said you're a huge fan of the BBC Broadcasting House in central London but you're now directing something for Apple with a bun many times what the BBC could even dream of offering you.
Do you think that you still off massively take ideas straight to the BBC would you go to Apple if you are doing right now the thing with and it's called see the broken so it's it's a huge budget thing and there's no way of doing this concept on a smaller budget.
What's the concert for People Who series set in 600 years time but for 550 years people have lived without vision a virus take away people's ability to see and all babies born with or without.
and the concept of it is the twins are born who can see by now people have even forgotten the whole concept of being able to see and it's not seen this sort of Supernatural power that used to be and it's almost as if when people talk about Greek Gods you know they were able to fly and all of these things that suddenly this power to perceive the world in a different way is Returned and how it affects Society Upton
we feared This Day Would Come
Return the children who can see this is not just got the normal pressure of launching a new series you're also a flagship launch apples products.
So you got to basically carry.
One of the world's biggest companies on the success of your program.
I think there are a couple of other shows out there that the Lord would but yeah, I mean it's very flattering the wee wee chosen to be on the first things that Apple showing and I think they've kept Faith with us.
I've seen the whole series and it's I have to say it it is quite as I'm proud of the scripture but also the way that they shot it Jason Momoa is the start and he's like a force of nature is amazing, so I think people are in for quite surprised and the report said it cost more than liquid an episode about quid 15 million is that one of the report I put it to you as if they don't share that with the writer.
But now it's a big budget thing.
I mean you there's no getting away from it, but you know you'll find it's very strange that when you're writing something with the massive budget you use that budget get spent and so you come back to the same darling as that person have a speaking part or do we need that many horses? How do you think apple and Netflix and people like that view the BBC do you think there's an interesting useful supplier of Talent or something that they can actually work more closely with they are different things Apple and Netflix the different Netflix are very happy to work with people so everybody coming onto the scene has their own model and they stick to their model so in terms of how people see the BBC the individuals who work within companies know what the BBC representing that it's a benchmark for quality in terms of the business model does the BBC take part in or not? That's a decision that people make terms of you know.
How they run their business and pretty soon at the end of this year BBC and ITV launching their britbox can shop which their marketing as we're not actually Netflix is just an add-on.
It's mainly are out at the moment in the UK if I want to watch Peaky Blinders I can get a Netflix subscription and watch from the start.
Are you expecting future series to go onto britbox? Honestly don't know how it's going to work.
I do know that I am very much in favour of it in terms of if we can have something that Showcases British product and the people can have access to especially archive in it's like it's a lot Library at the moment.
It shouldn't be we should unlock the door let people in and see the fantastic stuff.
That's been made over over many years and I not have that available to people directly through a British British platform.
I really hope it works.
I can't see why it wouldn't work beyond the next series.
It's only available to be on britbox rather Netflix you'll be fine with that well the problem with that would be the brick box is British and I think Netflix because of Netflix you're available in 130 different countries, so I wouldn't obviously wouldn't want to not have it available in all the places.
Where is so popular at the moment in the UK maybe who knows not my decision now.
I just want to get an idea of where things are going where's things going to go after your studio is built.
What are you going to be working on we've just finished final cuts on Christmas Carol and which other adapted for BBC for this Christmas and looking really good and hopefully will be the first of several Dickens adaptations, which I can't wait to get it and that will take me through quite a few years, but I think the general point is that these longer a tower even 16-hour 24-hour TV projects means that I think now.
You can again into that library all the some classic novels and be able to do them justice biggest to do my Christmas carols different but if you wanted to do A Tale of Two Cities in a 90-minute movies difficult you know you can't get all of that complexity in there.
So I think what I want to do is start looking at definitely look at Dickens but also sagas family sagas and be able to do them justice now and you've gone from being cladding Birmingham you made it to Hollywood's now.
You've come back to the West Midlands and to build this enormous studio complex.
What do you think your ancestors the the real Peaky Blinders would have made of this they probably wanted to come and steal the wiring from front That Stadium that they would have been impressed Steven thank you so much for being with us today and really appreciate it.
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