What's being an Executive Producer all about?
“I joined ITV as a Development Producer in 2011, when Francis Hopkinson, Creative Director, London Drama started his department. We had no projects on the slate so had to build it from scratch.
“As a Development Producer, your role is to find and work with creators and writers to come up with the ideas or programmes, to pitch to writers you want to work with. One of the most important parts of my job is building relationships - with writers, with agents, with broadcasters. You need this in order to develop the scripts, pitch them to broadcasters or your studio, and then hopefully, move it into production. I think ITV Studios works with some of the best writers in the country - would we like to work with more, of course.
“You have to be passionate about what you do because it can be hard work getting a programme made, and it’s a very competitive industry. It can take around two to three years for a programme to go from idea to our TV screens, and some take even longer. You’re never just working on one thing, it’s not a job for someone who doesn’t like reading. When I was starting out I was a script reader for Warner Brothers; I must have read about two and a half thousand scripts for them!
“When the first series of Home Fires got the green light, I became one of the Executive Producers (EPs) for it as I had developed the project from the very beginning. An EP of a drama oversees the whole production; from casting, production talent, scripts and music choices. It’s a broad scope.
“Francis and I had been looking for a big idea, a project that would be recognised immediately just from the name. That’s how Tutankhamun came about. The word itself is so magical, it has so much power and weight. I’d read a biography about Howard Carter, the English archaeologist who discovered Tutankhamun’s tomb. The story captivated me.
“From idea to pre-production, the project took six months, which is unheard of in terms of speed. We shot the whole thing in South Africa. The Valley of the Kings was rebuilt in the Northern Cape near the Namibian border for the filming. I remember that one day, I was standing in the valley in 40 degree heat, looking down at this amazing set. I took a photo and sent it to Guy Burt, the writer. We’d come from our first meeting about the idea in Oxford - to this - in little over a year.
“I love my job because I love writers, and I love the creative process of finding an idea and working with a writer to make it as good as can be. It’s a really collaborative effort, there’s a whole team of people behind the process.
“I started out as a temp for the BBC, and I’m now an Executive Producer here. My advice for anyone who wants to be an EP in Drama is to watch as much TV as you can and find out who writes and produces the shows that you really like. Go to the theatre, listen to radio plays, read and learn more, and be passionate about storytelling. Keep knocking on people’s doors - it’s so competitive, but there are always opportunities. Find the people who have the same taste as you - who make the programmes you admire. It’s as much a creative personality fit as anything else.”