King of Sunshine’s Sohail Shah & Rockerdale’s Stu Richards

7 Sep, 2022
King of Sunshine’s Sohail Shah & Rockerdale’s Stu Richards

Sign up to the free TellyCast newsletter

This week’s show features King of Sunshine Productions boss Sohail Shah and Rockerdale Studios’ CEO Stu Richards in conversation with Boom! PR’s Justin Crosby.

Stu’s Story of the Week
Deepfake Greta Thunberg
This Morning Wheel of Fortune

Sohail’s Story of the Week

TellyCast insta
TellyCast Twitter
TellyCast YouTube

TellyCast is edited by Ian Chambers. Recorded in London.

Music by David Turner, lunatrax. Recorded in lockdown March 2020 by David Turner, Will Clark and Justin Crosby. Voiceover by Megan Clark.

Transcript of this week’s show;

Justin Crosby

Hi, I’m Justin Crosby, and welcome to another TellyCast. On this week’s show Im speaking with two leading UK indie bosses.

First up is Stu Richards, CEO of indie production company, Rockerdale studios.

And following Stu, I catch up with former BBC entertainment commissioning editor and now boss of Manchester indie, king of sunshine productions. Sohail Shah.

So my first guest on this week’s show is Stu Richards, CEO of disabled lead production company, Rockerdale studios. Welcome to the show, Stu, how you doing?

Stu Richards
I’m super Thank you, Justin. Superb.

Justin Crosby
It was lovely to see you in Edinburgh recently. Obviously, you were busy. You’re on panels there and you know, lots of networking. How did you find it? How’d you enjoy it?

Stu Richards
Oh, I loved it. Justin. I loved it. Yeah, I mean, we, we sort of got there every year, we work in the sort of comedy industry. And we would usually go out there and see a load of fringe shows, essentially. And I think probably in the past had been a little bit I don’t know, almost almost culturally snobby about the TV festival itself.

Justin Crosby
So you’re at Edinburgh veteran? Really? You know, on the fringe side?

Stu Richards
Exactly. Yeah. There was this quite pure our sense on my part of thinking it was almost artistically beneath… Anyway, I got rid of that from my brain. I embraced it this year, I made a load of new relationships strengthened. I’ve had a really bad year, Justin, and I’ve got because of my health. And I got back to myself when I remembered that I actually quite like people.

And so and so yeah, I’ve met a lot of brilliant people. They’re from the new gang.

Justin Crosby
Yeah. Good. All right. Well, I’m sorry to hear that you’ve had  have health issues. Maybe we’ll come in to talk about that a little bit later. But first of all, can you tell us a little bit about how you got into TV Stu? What’s your journey to this point where you are now CEO of Rockdale Studios, I’ve seen you’ve been getting lots of commissions, lots of stuff going on exciting stuff. And, again, we’ll talk about that in a little while. But tell us about your sort of trajectory of your career up to where you are now.

Stu Richards
Sure. Well, it’s been essentially pretty much all development when I came out of uni, and I sort of wanted to do something, you know, which is quite an academic Union. But I came out and I knew I wanted to do something creative. I got a placement, the BBC, in Manchester in development. And I didn’t know development was a thing. I didn’t know even when I applied for I didn’t really know what it was I didn’t know that you could be paid to sit on your ass and come up with ideas for TV shows. And so when I saw I did that placement and from from there on in that was my thing. Really, I you know, I then worked my way up in development I I worked a few runners jobs, things like Richard and Judy and stuff like that, but I would, I tended to get sacked a lot to be honest with you. I wasn’t really there wasn’t really I would just get sent back to the office to God think of ideas. And so the rest of my career from there was was moving around some of the bigger indies during development stint six months here, 12 months there, in, you know, factual and an entertainment and that sort of thing. And then, and then when I was about 33, let’s say I’m only 38 No, actually, maybe 32. I wrote sitcom on the side. And I we used to work for a company called gogglebox entertainment now primal media. And I just sort of said to the boss, one day, boss, I’ve written a sitcom Do you mind if I pitch it? Because I’ve been doing stand up on the side. And so comedy was was my first love, although I’d never figured out quite how to get into it. Because it’s scripted world is a hard thing to penetrate. And so I pitched this script I’d written and it was committed and about a week later, and I was a comedy writer as well. So we made that pilot that went on to become jerk, which is just entering its third series on the BBC. And so I wrote comedy for a while and then and then came Rockdale, which was a bit of all of the previous stuff combined,

Justin Crosby
Okay, now you’re based in Manchester or in on the Greater Manchester. Is that right? Tell us about where you are and what the opportunities are.

Stu Richards
Now we’re based in North London. Well, I’m based in nothing our offices Central and I’m, of course from I’m from Rochdale, hence the name of our company rocket l studios. So yeah, I started a company in London at probably the worst time in history to start a production company in London.

Justin Crosby
And that’s because of the amount of nations and regions investment that’s going on and the focus of moving you know, leveling up to use a Boris Johnson term, who was our former Prime Minister now, but anyway, we’ll cover that in a little bit later. But what was the reason for setting up in north London then as opposed to Rochdale where you might have more help you know from from a nations and regions commissioning perspective?

Stu Richards
Quite simply, it’s where I live away from here. That was it really that was where I was based. And I also, you know, met my co founder of the business, Michel Singer, I had a brilliant Head of Production was very much a London girl. So yeah, here we are, here we I was, I mean, it used to be the best place. And it used to be the obvious place when I was everything happened in London. So when I graduated, I actually studied in London, but it was you’ve got to be in London, you’ve got to be in London. And the annoying thing is now all the Commission’s are outside of them. But I can even be annoyed by that, because it’s exactly what I believe should happen. Yeah, okay, we spend a lot of our money up north, I should say, and we, you know, we made a sitcom up in Bradford and got loads of kids from the local area to work there. So it’s very much we’re sort of Northern at heart, let’s say, Yeah, we’re northern of Soul. But unfortunately, not northern of commissioning quota!

Justin Crosby
It appears you’re having, you know, a whole load of success with a number of shows, and we’ll come on to chat about that in a second. But first of all, in my introduction, I introduced Rockerdale as disabled-led production company. And this is obviously something that surfaced more and more of the last year or so, as a key issue within television. And many will say, you know, it’s about time, tell us a little bit about your disability, if you’re happy to do so, you know, what is your disability? And how has it affected your work in the industry?

Stu Richards
Sure, well, I live with chronic pain. And so obviously, that is an invisible disability. Which means that I don’t face the same prejudice that most visibly disabled people do. It just means I’m in pain and work in his heart and live in his heart and sleep in his arm and that sort of thing, really. So it’s, it’s probably part of the reason I think when I look back, why I didn’t go out and work on productions, because I would make errors often later in the day when, when the sort of pain was getting to me. That’s how it sort of played a part in my journey. Right? Okay. I had never considered myself disabled until it was last year when I sort of slightly facetiously referred to my ‘coming out’, I’d been working with Rosie Jones, a friend of mine, I sort of said to her one day, “Rosie, I think I might be disabled –  I’ve just looked at the definition of disability, the sort of, I don’t know what you’d call it, the sort of governmental definition of disability. And that’s me, isn’t it? “And she, and I sort of asked her a sort of sheepishly asked her opinion on it. And she came back and probably quite rightfully, so almost attacked me in a way and said, “Well, you know, what, what is your version of disability? Is it someone who can’t live independently?” I mean, she said, “What about me, I live independently, am I not disabled?” And so she made me feel quite reasonably, like a bit of an idiot and exposed my inner ableism. And that was the point in which I just said, “Yeah, alright, I’m just gonna say it, now I am disabled”.  And so that, you know, that was, I think, early last year. And since then, I’ve been, I don’t know, coming to terms with that, what it is to use that word about yourself, and what it means in terms of the industry, you know, and both good and bad, you know, because because there is a sense in which the industry is looking to work with more disabled people. And particularly people have, I think, some level of seniority, which includes people running this because there aren’t many people running this, frankly, who are disabled. And so, so I’ve been invited into that conversation, I guess, which I’ve loudly but tentatively done, really. And it’s meant that I’ve, I’ve met a load of the brilliant disabled people that are making waves that are made kicking up a fuss about this sort of thing. And so I don’t know, I guess I see now almost as a maybe duty’s too strong a word, but sort of duty, to push on to make a noise and to encourage people to, to use us this brilliant disabled talent pool.

Justin Crosby
And it’s fantastic that you’re doing so and, and your productions recently, your Rockdale productions. They have featured a number of disabled people, both in front and behind the camera and that obviously, Rosie Jones is for people outside the UK are maybe not as familiar with Rosie. She’s an actress, and a comedian who works with cerebral palsy. She has an amazingly successful career on the back of all the work that she’s doing. And I mean, from your perspective, is it something that you’re really looking to shine a light on these issues and and make it easier for people to work but in front and behind the screen? You know, tell us about your approach to the disability issues around TV.

Stu Richards
The thing is you when you enter this space, there’s already so many incredible people doing amazing work, I see my role as someone who can shout about it with a sense of humour, I suppose. And that’s both in terms of when I get a platform myself, but also, the work that we do creatively I look at a lot of the work that is about disability, the titles are about disability is often quite passionate and earnest and, you know, occasionally even with its plinky plinky music a little bit more mawkish. And you know, there’s this disabled people talk a lot about this, this sort of our archaic dichotomy in terms of the way we’re represented on screen, and it’s, it’s either often as, as a victim, or a superhero. And of course, most of us are not those things, we there’s a whole spectrum of disabled people that I want to show in front of camera that you know, as disabled people who are physically strong, who are mentally strong, who are profoundly immoral. Let’s say that’s what I’ve tried to do. In ‘Jerk’ the sitcom you know, people who are filth bags, man they’re a horny bunch disabled people! We’re working on a format on that very subject at the moment. But the point is where there’s all this sort of disabled people, and I don’t just want to see us build a superheroes in the Paralympics or victims in certain documentary. So I think creatively, we, as a company are trying to bring our sense of humour, our sense of mischief and provocativeness to that sort of area, whether the show portrays disability in a sort of core way, or an incidental way, either way, I basically wanted to show that disabled people are funny, man. So that’s, that’s in front of the camera,

Justin Crosby
or do you think the industry has shied away from that in general in the past? Because perhaps they don’t really understand how to represent disabled people? What do you think have been the barriers to doing that short sort of show in the past that perhaps aren’t there? Now?

Stu Richards
There’s a lot of fear. I think around disabled people, I think there’s, there’s a sense of, you know, it’s let’s face it, it’s a slightly lefty, liberal industry, isn’t it? And we, as a bunch of people can be a bit sort of, I don’t know, protective, almost Oh, you can’t show a you can’t show a disabled guy who has all these awful flaws. You can’t show a someone with cerebral palsy who, who actually has the wrong opinion or whatever, it happens to be good, because it’s such a fear of portrayal, because there’s such a lack of portrayal. So I think I think there’s a fear there, but also, the authorship and the ownership of these jokes. You know, when we’re writing, when we’re right, when disabled people when we’re writing jokes about a disabled character, I want those jokes to be written by disabled people, they’re going to be better jokes, quite frankly, as well, as you know, that sense of well, it should be written by disabled people. So I think that sense of authorship that we’re hopefully working towards, I’m seeing a few more disabled writers. There’s still a lack of disabled directors, but I’m trying to push that and various other people are. Yeah, certainly when it comes to that sort of more mischievous, editorial stuff, which is what we’re trying to bring. So I think people are listening more now, quite frankly, I think when you know, the likes of Jack thong goes up and makes his speech, I think people are a little bit more able to listen. Now, that’s something I’ve noticed with commissioners a lot. Especially some of the sort of younger newer commissioners is a little bit more adventurousness going. Okay. Well, tell us tell us about disabled people tell us, what do you want to do? You know, do you want to put on a show, where I was gonna mention that new format, I probably shouldn’t, hasn’t been released. But we do some crazy stuff with disabled people, basically. And I think the fact that I am disabled enables commissioners to go okay, all right. Well, if you say this is cool, let’s do it!

Justin Crosby
That’s one of the perhaps cultural challenges has been in the past is that this fear of doing the wrong thing or saying the wrong thing, or approaching things in the wrong way, and as you say, portraying disabled people in the wrong way. I guess there’s comfort there, in knowing that you can guide a network of Commissioner you know, towards, you know, what is funny? What are the disabled community want to talk about as well? And how do they want to be portrayed? And what, what are the barriers there?

Stu Richards
You know, there’s also I mean, the other thing is just, if you if you’re writing disabled characters, I usually tell people this this whole experience that hasn’t been showed and therefore it’s, it’s new stuff. It’s shiny new stuff for commissioners, just on a basic “Wow, I’ve never seen that before” level aside from all the, I don’t know, the sort of sentimental stuff speaking to a deaf friend of mine recently, and she told me “Have you ever heard the phrase for a description of when to deaf people have sex? I said, No, she said ‘wookie sex’!”

Now. That joke coming from someone else is dark and distasteful. A deaf friend tells me I’ve got that’s funny. We’ve haven’t seen that joke content. I’ve never seen that joke on television. But give me a comedy script by a deaf person, we can do that joke. And we can all laugh with the deaf person rather than rather than at the deaf person. Certainly, from a comedic point of view, there’s this whole pool of jokes that no one’s done yet, right? So from a from a point of view of someone who’s, who’s a producer, forgetting the fact that I’m disabled, who wants to look for new jokes and new voices, then that they’re waiting to be heard waiting to be commissioned, it was an absolute delight. Even from the most cynical business point of view, it’s the same with the talent pool, quite frankly, I realized recently that the more I talk about how everyone should, you know, hire the brilliant disabled people, I realise, “Oh, God, that means there’s fewer for me to take! It’s always talent that nobody knew about before. And the more I talk about in the realise I’m really doing myself and it’s not good business, to be honest.

Justin Crosby
And if you’re working, for example, on a practical level -and this is going to sound a horribly business oriented question. But does having disabled people on the production behind the screen as well as in front, but specifically behind the screen? Does that make your show more expensive?

Stu Richards
That is a really good question, and one we’re dealing with at the moment. And I think, by the way, that we do need to have these business conversations, because I think they’d sometimes get lost in more activist style conversations. The answer is sometimes it can do. What needs to come along with that sentiment, however, is well what do we do about that? Because the answer being well, you just don’t have the money. Therefore don’t spend it – therefore don’t have the disabled people is frankly not an option – that’s been happening too long. So the question is, well, what do you do about it? And there are certain things like you just have people can get access to work scheme. But if I’m honest, that’s slow and not good enough, quite frankly. So the conversation we’re having at the moment with broadcasters, is well, the money is going to have to come from you guys. Ultimately, if I need to pay for it – there’s all manner of things that you might need to pay for. But this isn’t all disabled people, but some, you might need to pay for certain reasonable adjustments. But commissioners need to be aware of that. They need to have quite frankly – the balls to go to their seniors and go ‘Look, this might cost a bit more”, or “we need to add something to the budget here, we need to add an access coordinator to the budget on big productions”.  Well, in an ideal world, all productions would have an access coordinator. That means that some people can go to that person. So the more we start introducing things like that, more we start normalizing the idea that sometimes you’re just going to have to pay for stuff otherwise, you’re otherwise you’re leaving disabled people out of the conversation. And that, frankly, is it’s just straight up discrimination, isn’t it?  So yeah, I think it’s a really good question. And by the way –  and people might get crossing me for saying this – but there isn’t always a super obvious answer here. But what I think there must always be is an open conversation. And if people who run indies are a bit worried, they don’t know what to do, ‘God is just going to cost me a little bit more money.’ They need to start saying that to commissioners, and commissioners need to start saying it to the people who, frankly, give them the money. And I can’t stress enough, you don’t need to have all the answers. It can be complicated. I mean, when I say I run a disabled lead production company, I don’t understand every disabled person’s needs, how could I? There’s millions of them! But what I can do is listen, ask people what they need, and try my bloody hardest to facilitate that for them. But it needs to be it needs to be a conversation that goes right to the top to the people who run channels, who run broadcasters. “How can we do this? What do we need to do?” “You tell us”. That’s what they need to be saying to the disabled community. And hopefully, that is happening more and more. And we’ve got some brilliant disabled people who do have positions now at broadcasters that are pushing for stuff. So yeah, it’s complicated, but if, but if you don’t try, then it’s never gonna happen.

Justin Crosby
Yeah, we’ve seen a number of initiatives in the UK industry that are starting to be developed and launched. There’s one in particular called tip TV Access Project, which is being created by the BBC and lots of other international international channels on board with that, and a lot of that was actually developed in the wake of Jack Thorne. You mentioned Jack Thorne earlier on his McTaggart lecture at Edinburgh in 2021, which set a lot of that in trade. Yeah, and we’d love to have chat on the show. And actually, you know, to talk about this issue with we can’t just boil this down to a half an hour chat between you and I obviously this is something that requires a deeper conversation. So I’d love to go into this in a little bit more detail on a future show, I’d love for you to be part of that as well as do so we’ll return to the to the issue as a whole. Just coming back to Rockdale. Then tell us about your recent productions, then I know you mentioned you can’t talk about what you’re working on right now. And I fully understand that. But tell us about your recent productions. And and also, congratulations on your investment from the Channel 4 Growth Fund.

Stu Richards
Ah, thank you. Yeah, it’s exciting, isn’t it? Yes, a little boost to the old reputation,

Justin Crosby
Hows it going to change your business, that investment?

Stu Richards
Well, on a basic level, it just gives us more resources to invest in things like development, when you’re a small indie, especially one that is sort of development led, like, you know, I’m a development guy. So we have, we’re very much an idea led company. And in that sense, it means that if you if you can grow, if you can widen your development team, then you can, you can serve more commissioner briefs, quite frankly, what happens when you pitch a load of ideas to commissioners and you’re super small is that you get a sort of development bottleneck. You’ve pitched all these ideas and commissioners loved them. But you’ve then got to go away and do that, do that, you know, create the deck or create the tape or whatever it happens to be so. So yeah, this money has enabled us to do that, which enables us to grow and grow and grow. And also that reputational boost, I think, ultimately, people probably think, wow, Channel 4 backed them – they must be alright!

Justin Crosby
Yeah, they’ve done their due diligence!

Stu Richards
So yeah it’s a sort of, it’s a tonal match for us, you know what I mean, Channel 4 is perhaps the most mischievous broadcaster, so it’s a perfect home for us. In that sense, we also get access to some of the wisdom in the in the channel from the Growth Fund, higher up, and I quite frankly, me and my business partner get to pay ourselves a proper salary for the first time, you don’t often hear this level of conversation, I suppose about people who start their own indies but the number of shoots I’ve been on more on being paid less than the junior researcher. And now you’ve got both. And that sort of takes away some of that worry that you have as a small business owner with a with a life to pay for

Justin Crosby
And helps you focus right, it helps you focus on the business.

Stu Richards
It just gives you that extra energy that extra kick. So from that point of view, we’re already seeing, seeing the rewards from it from all those points of view.

Justin Crosby
Glad to hear it. And just about your recent projects, then stew so we talked a bit about Rosie Jones and the projects you’ve been working on with her. There was also deep fake project you worked on for Channel Four. Tell us a bit about that.

Stu Richards
Oh, yeah, that was crazy. Man. We um, we pitched channel Four digital – the brilliant people at Four Studios. Some of our best relationships are there and they’re sort of slightly more adventurous bunch than certain other places in the industry. So really exciting for us. So we pitched them an idea that was that use deep fake technology to create YouTube tutorials presented by some of the biggest face names on Earth. So we thought you know, would it be funny if Barack Obama for example, showed you how to clean mould off your bathroom tiles like a regular YouTube tutorial, so we pitched the idea. They went for it we’d been working with the best deep fake guy in the business and we were telling people this and we were pitching ideas with deep fake and people are gonna add and how about this man? Because some of the some of the deep fake you see is let’s face it – a bit shit. We’ve had the best guy in the business. And he was was because about three months after we made it he got recruited by George Lucas. To work on his stuff. We made two in the end of these tutorials. We made Greta Thunberg’s climate change dance tutorial. So we had it was it was essentially a sort of a TikTok dance tutorial that Greta had come up with herself and we made our own Hip Hop track for it using a brilliant rapper from Bradford. And she would show you this climate change dance and the moves related to various aspects of climate change. And we created this character of Greta as being quite witty, quite sarcastic. Because we like Greta – it wasn’t the it wasn’t the idea to lampoon Greta, the idea was to sort of create a slightly more extreme version of Greta, or witty or funny or a more cutting Greta Thunberg. So we got a brilliant impressionist to play to play Greta, and then we did the deep fake magic. And so it looks for all the word like like Greta Thunberg has given you a dance tutorial. That was a sort of adventurous nonsense that we that we like to do. I guess our thing is sort of doing purposeful stuff with sort of purposeful stuff smuggled into inside the Trojan horse of comedy is how I like to describe our work. And that was a classic example of a message about climate change, but with some nonsense around it.

Justin Crosby
Okay. Well, we’ll we’ll include a link in the episode description to Greta and also the Rosie Jones series that you’ve been working on and one or two other things as well. So you can go and have a look at rocket housework. And now it’s time for story of the week where my guests get to choose their TV industry story that’s caught their eye in the past seven days to what’s your story of the week?

Stu Richards
Justin – she’s gone. Nadine, Nadine Dorries, she’s gone.

Justin Crosby
yeah, she has this is true. In the in the depths of the night, I think she she, she left, which is the UK culture secretary has decided to sling her hook and, and which, which opens up lots of discussion about where Channel Four is going. What’s going to happen with the BBC, which is, you know, this has been one of the biggest issues has been dominated the UK industry over the last year or so as now under this government, which is threatened all sorts of disruption and change within their current funding models.

Stu Richards
We shouldn’t fool ourselves into thinking that we can get some Channel Four loving minister to replace her, but maybe just maybe the next person who comes into that job…you know how it works in politics, it’s like commissioning, isn’t it? You know, when you’re think you about to get a commission with someone, and then there’s a commissioner change and the new guy comes in and like “no – that’s shit, man. I want to do something new!” I’m hoping that maybe the new person comes in and goes, well, maybe there’s some more interesting, important things for us to do here. And maybe they will pursue that with a little less vigour. I might be being very naive. I don’t know. But my God, it’s a joy to see her go. She didn’t even understand our Channel Four was funded.

Justin Crosby
I mean, there were some famous clips on of her seemingly misunderstanding the funding model of Channel Four, which was quite terrifying, I guess for a lot of the Indies and a lot of the industry that not only relies on Channel Four, but you know, sees Channel Four as being you know, a really important player, which is on a global scale, actually, within the industry. And it has it’s an important public service broadcaster remit.

Stu Richards
Yeah, I think she’s gonna become like a Lord now, isn’t she? Or lady or whatever?

Justin Crosby
Well, maybe. So we’ll wait and see. aybe by the time the show comes out, we’ll we’ll have the replacement been announced. And there’ll be a whole different conversation on next week’s show. So let’s see how that develops. And now it’s time for Hero of the Week and Get in the Bin. Stu – who’s your hero of the week?

Stu Richards
The Criperti. Right. Weird thing to say. I’m gonna tell you it’s my new gang. When I went up to Edinburgh last week, I met up with a bunch of the some of the the real big dog disabled people who are shaking shit up in the industry. Now the particular story that I’m going to hang this on, is the alternative McTaggart lecture, the glorious Caroline O’Neill, who’s one of my disability gurus in the field. Her session with Rose Ailing Ellis at Edinburgh was magnificent.  She said it was time for the most senior leaders in the industry. It’s time for you to put in the work. She talked about tokenism about how she has to plaster on a smile. So people won’t think that oh, and you’ll hire a deaf person. They’re sad or annoyed or whatever. It’s frustrating all these other things in the industry, but it’s not frustrating for me to be to be deaf. She said I’m disabled because I live in a world that disables me. So Caroline O’Neill one of my favourite people in the Criperati, but there’s also the rest of the gang, Ali Castle the instigator of Channel Four’s Disability Code of Portrayal, Nichola Gard who runs elevate the BBC Sam Tatlow ITV, Genevieve Barr one of the cowriters with Jack Thorne of when Barbara Met Alan, Kate Monaghan, who runs Hey Sonny, her recent documentary on disability and abortion on Channel Four – wonderful, Briony Arnold producer of that show Cherylee Houston and Monique Jarrett of Triple C won a BAFTA recently, Shari de Silva, Charlie Swinburne Kate Ansell one of the few disabled commissioners, something is building here, Justin, something is happening. I like to call them inspirational, because that’s one of the most offensive things you can say to disabled people. But the point is, these people are funny. They’re smart. There’s a few fucking lunatics in there, which is wonderful. My God, some of them are filthy, too. But these are the people really making a noise about this issue. And I hang off every word they say, frankly. So my heroes of the week are my new gang, the Criperati.

Justin Crosby
All right. Okay. And who are what you tend to get in the bed?

Stu Richards
Oh, my God. Did you see that thing on this morning yesterday, where they did basically a poverty Wheel of Fortune?

Justin Crosby
Yes, I did see that. Yeah, it’s a viral hit for everybody outside the UK.

Stu Richards
Phil and Holly had had effectively a little item on their show where they had..like the Wheel of Fortune, and on that you could win certain amounts of money and one of the options was to win your bills. This in a cost of living crisis, where people are going to be shafted on their bills this year, which as you know, is kind of five or ten fold, it’s going to sink so many people into poverty or further into poverty. Businesses are going to shut down and they were playing this as effectively a wacky little game show. I mean, what next? Burns victims compete for a skin graft? A sort of ‘Touch The Truck’-style game show where flood victims must keep their fingers on a raft? Who as an industry who do we think we are that we’re like that we can play God in this way? It’s obscene. It’s dystopian is what it is. It’s like an episode of Black Mirror. Get in the Bin for me, the people whose idea that was and the people who carried it off.

Justin Crosby
Yeah – many people they felt it was you know, culturally and morally tone deaf, actually, you know, the way that it was delivered. So we’ll put a little clip of that as well on the episode description so people can have a look and judge for themselves. But yeah, it was, it was one of those jaw dropping moments. Stu, thank you so much for joining me, we could talk for a long time about a lot of the issues that you raised and wider issues in the industry. And indeed we will do we’ll return to disability in TV. And we’ll bring some other experts in and maybe have a bit of a roundtable about their bit of a wider discussion.

Stu Richards
Just in kind of a one quick thing. Yeah. Before we leave. If you’re listening to this, and you work for a production company, and there’s no disabled people in your office, do me a favour and just ask your boss why that is. I’m not saying make a big noise. Just ask them. Let’s see what happens. I figure if everyone does who knows where we can get to. That’s me. Done!

Justin Crosby
Alright, Stu, thanks so much. There we go. We’ll speak to you very soon. Thanks for coming on the show.

My next guest on this week’s show is former BBC entertainment commissioning editor and now boss of Manchester indie king of sunshine productions. Sohail Shah, welcome to the show. So well, how you doing? Hey, Justin. Yeah, okay. I’m very well, yeah, it was it was I’ve just had Stu Richards on, who I saw up in Edinburgh also saw you as well, it was lovely to see you. How are you?

Sohail Shah
Um, all right. Thank you very much. I’m still recovering from Edinburgh. Actually, I’ve not talked so much in probably about three years. So I’m still a little bit tired from it, even though it was over a week ago. But it was nice to see everyone.

Justin Crosby

Yeah, it was it was the bank holiday Monday that followed was much needed? I would say, Yeah. Basically, I don’t think I got off the sofa. Before we find out a little bit more about King of Sunshine. Tell us about how you first got into TVs something that I was just chatting with Stu about you know, get give us an idea of how you got into the business and, and the path that led you to where you are now.

Sohail Shah

I suppose I did it the the old fashioned normal way if there if there is a normal way, I went to school, and then just did you know, did my exams and everything thought what do I want to do when I go to university, and I’d always plan to do journalism, written journalism. So that was in in my head. And then I had a Saturday job at WH Smith while I was doing my GCSEs and a levels and stuff and presenter of a new kid show used to come in every weekend, and just buy like loads and loads of magazines. And that was the department I worked in. And I just remember thinking, wow, she’s like, she must have like loads of money. Because look at all these magazines that she’s buying. She must be like what did and I actually used to watch the program that she presented. It was a Kids program. I just said hello, one week and she said, Oh, hi, how are you? And I said, Yeah, fine, fine. And then I saw her again a couple of times. And then I went into the store when I wasn’t where it was just a regular weekend went in with my dad, because we were getting something and she happened to be in there again. I said to my dad, oh, you know, she she presents, she presented a program and he said I will go and say hello. And I said oh no, no, because I was very shy. I said, Oh no, it’s no, it’s fine. So then he went over and said hello to her. And then somehow managed to manage to bring her over to where I was stood in said, Oh, can I introduce my son? I was like, I you know, I was only 16. Very, very quiet, very shy. She said, Oh, ya know, how are we doing? I was like, Yeah, I’m good. Thanks. And just said, oh, yeah, something stupid. Like I really like your show. And then she went Oh, yeah, no, great. Thanks. Is there anything you don’t like about it? I wasn’t about to say no, because that’s just rude. So I said, No, I think it’s all great. But everyone sounds like they’re off Emmerdale. And then she kind of laughed and said that always funny should say that, because we filmed it in Leeds. And I went alright, yeah. So that was that. I didn’t think anything of it. And she said, and she said, You should write to the producers and tell them that. And I went, Okay, yeah, well thinking, I’m not going to do that. And then we just went home, and that was it. And then we’re having dinner. And my dad said, what do you what did she say? What did you talk about? And I said, Well, I said, I’d like to show and she said that I should write to them and tell them that they all sound like they’re off Emmerdale. He said, right, well, when you finish your dinner, you can write that letter then can’t Yeah, and I thought I’m not writing that letter. But he told me to and I had to because you know, you do what your parents say that age. So I wrote this letter and sent it off and didn’t think anything about it, and then got a letter back back in the days of letters, because it’s the very, very early 90s And I got a letter back within a couple of days from Yorkshire Television saying we read your letter. It was very interesting to hear what we were like hearing from people. Would you like to come into the studio to have a look around the studio? That’s right. Yeah. Because it was coming to an end. So I just said, you know, yeah, I’ve never been to a TV studio. I’d love to. But it’ll have to wait until half term. Because because I’m at school. And they went, Yeah, you’re fine. So they arranged it. And I went down, had a look around. And I’ve never been to a television studio before. And thought it was just amazing. It was so exciting, because they did count down there. And that was in the that was in the foyer a that did play a card. Try it was a picture of that. And then I went into this separate room where all these games consoles were because it was it was a game show. And at 15. You know, what more do you want when you’re a boy other than playing video games and getting games and playing games that have not been released yet as well. So I kind of was like playing all these games on these different machines and talking to the producer, and just telling her what I thought of them. And that was it. So I thought that my day was over. I went outside and they’d ordered a car to take me back to the station, which is very sweet. And then she just said, Oh, do you think you could say all that again on camera? And I said, yeah, probably thinking, I don’t know what you mean. But yeah, because you always say yeah. And then the car arrived. And she goes, right, well, we’ll see you in September. So hail and I went, alright, see in September, as if to say, you know, banks, and then that was it. And then I got home. And then a couple of days later, I went back to school. And this letter arrived. And it was a contract in the post signing me up to do the next series to be one of the reviewers on it. So I kind of ended up being on it by accident, I thought they were asking me to go back and have another look around the studio in September, which is what I was expecting. And I was more than happy to do that, because I really enjoyed it the first time. But they actually asked me to be on it. So So I did that. I ended up doing it for I think it was three series over four years, something like that. And that is what made me then decide that journalism is still something I wanted to do. But I maybe wanted to do broadcast journalism, because I was very interested in how the show was put together and how the cameras worked and everything like that more. So how the show was put together rather than technical side. But it was just amazing being in the studio with all this stuff. And then you know them allowing us to go into the gallery and see all the vision mixing desks, and you know, all the monitors and talking to the director. Well, at the time now everyone goes, Oh, I don’t know how old you are. But when I was 15, I pretty much looked how I look now. So I looked a hell of a lot older than I actually was. So I think they treated me as if I was older. Because apart from the people who knew that I actually was 1516. When I started, I think anyone else walking paths will probably just go oh, he probably works in this studios, or he works at huge TV because I did look older. So no one ever really spoke to me like they did the other people, which was very sweet. And it helped me a lot because I kind of felt confident, you know, because I was I was paying I was very, very shy, I was a very, very shy young person. Get especially when you’re the youngest in the family as well, you don’t really say very much, I never really said very much. So I just kind of thought this is great. And maybe maybe this is what I want to do. So whilst I was still on the show, I was doing my A levels at that point, when I applied to university, I applied to do media studies in some way, which is what I ended up doing in Liverpool and I went to Liverpool to do that. But there’s a big difference between a 15 year old and an 18 year old as we know whether it’s a boy or a girl, and that applies to everyone. So whereas I was very kind of excited, and I mean always kept it in sort of quiet that was on if someone saw the show, then fine. And at that point, everybody kind of well, certainly everyone at school was watching it because I didn’t tell anybody that I was on it. I didn’t tell anyone that I’d got the job. I didn’t tell anyone that I was filming or wherever. And then I was on Episode One of the new series, which went out on a Thursday. And I went into school on Friday, and everybody had seen it. I didn’t think anybody would watch. I don’t know why I thought that because I watched it. So I thought that they wouldn’t but then everyone knew about it. And that’s when kind of I got a bit self conscious about it again, because you just do when you’re young anyway don’t Yeah,

Justin Crosby
Yeah, you must have been the coolest kid in the school. Right? Surely,

Sohail Shah
Justin I’ve never been the coolest person in the room ever. When, when I was 15 ,25 ,35 or indeed now at 45 I think to be a presenter, which is absolutely not what I wanted to be it was a complete quirk that that ended up happening but something that I’m grateful for because it kind of then directed me into what I didn’t want to do, which possibly at that point I didn’t realize that I’d wanted to do and I think you have to be a certain type of person to want to be a presenter and thank God that there are people that do want to do that because then it saves it for the for the rest of us not having to do it. I mean, I’ve never done it since and I wouldn’t do it again. It’s just it’s not my back.

Justin Crosby
The moral of this story is thanks to your dad right who are and opened that door for you so good on him.

Sohail Shah
Oh, don’t worry. He reminds me of it every day.

Justin Crosby
So you went to uni and then what happened next,

Sohail Shah
I went to uni in Liverpool and even though I’m from Manchester, so but I lived in Liverpool, but obviously still within the Northwest, and at that time, they don’t really have it anymore because it’s all ITV sort of homogenous across the country. But back then had the region system where everyone had, you know, we still got local news, but you had you know, you had Granada you had your watch TV, you had Grampian, HTV, Wales all those kinds of things. So we were had their own sections, Grenada, or Granada land, as I still call it. Grenada land, obviously had quarry, which is the best show in the whole world. But it also made stars in their eyes and love me do and it didn’t big dramas, like jewel in the crown, and all these amazing things. And they all came out of Granada Television, which is a stone’s throw from my house. It’s like 10 minutes on the bus, if that. And I’d always sort of taken that for granted. So when I was at uni, and sort of crystallized, that I wanted to get into television, I was very lucky that I was at uni, but then going over to lead to do record Well, for the first year anyway, and then the show ended recording in Leeds. And then I thought, Well, what do I do? You know, what can I utilize at home, when I’ve got this sort of big, massive building on my doorstep that’s making all these different types of shows is there any way that I can get in there, you know, for work experience, or you know, over the summer holidays, or whatever it was. And then with a view to get in a job at the at the end of it. I just read a lot and went to the library got some that back in the days because this is pre internet. So you have to make phone calls and read stuff. And just found names of people and wrote them letters and just said, you know, this is me, I’m at uni, could I come in for a week or two to see what you’re doing and all this. So I had Granada but then also just a stone’s throw away from there. On Oxford road. There was BBC Manchester as well. So I wrote to I wrote to them and did exactly the same thing. I got response from Grenada, they were just like, Well, we haven’t got anything in the main building. But we’ve got the satellite stations which are about to open, which at the time were Granada plus, and Granada men and motors. And men and Motors was the one that I wanted to work on because it was described as TFR Friday on satellite. And that was like the show that everyone was watching. Probably not made on the same budget. And he was hilarious. And it was made with lots of like young people and newbies to the industry. And I wrote to them, and they got me in for a meeting. And then they gave me a placement and ended up working there for weeks and weeks over the summer. And then they actually offered me a job, which I didn’t take because I wanted to finish uni. But I went back there every holiday and just made made a lot of friends. And actually that whole kind of Grenada bubble of satellite stations, so many people came out of there. So Andrew Banaras worked there when I was there, one of the original Pop Idol producers and he now lives in LA and did Dancing with the Stars Up until very recently. I think he did idol over there as well. Becky Pat with worked, who now runs Can Can he make Steffes pack lunch, Mike Spencer was the head of it all. He then went on to sell multimedia arts, there was like this massive kind of group of young people who some had worked in Telly before, and some haven’t. But then just lots and lots of new BC then learned their craft there and then went on to bigger shows and then sort of over the years did loads of other things as well. So I kind of not really wrote that way because I went back to uni, but then I kind of got to know them all and stayed there. And then weirdly after I graduated rather than saying, Well, I’m sure I’ll get a job at Grenada, maybe me because I never do anything twice, really which partly by design, but it’s just worked out that way. I just thought well, I’ve been I’ve done all that out. So if I’m going to start working, why would I? Why would I want to go and work there again, I’ve done it. So where else is there for me to go. So then I applied to all the independents in Manchester. And at that time, there were loads. So it was a bit of a not that you would get a job. But you know, there was enough places for me to sort of find out who worked there and write to and I did like I graduated in July, took three months off because we had a family wedding and then started looking going right what do I need to do and then I got a job at St TV and started working there in the January on Planet pop, which was part of T four, just as T four was getting bigger and bigger. And that’s when my proper working wipe started. And I ended up working there for about a year and a bit office runner and then the program run on Planet Bob then made it to researcher got very ill while I was there. So took a bit of time off that went back at that point query spoke was on. I think it was episode two had just gone out. And I’d heard the rumor that channel forward already wanted them to do like a follow up it was supposed to be I think it was a film at that point to round it all off. So I wrote this thing sort of saying wouldn’t it be great if we did a documentary about the impact of the series whilst being there on set during the recording of this movie that they were going to make? So there’s literally a one page a couple of paragraphs in the game to Tony and he really liked it. And as a complete coincidence, some people from Channel Four were coming into the office to talk about I think it was like eclipse day It was also something sales, I don’t know, it has nothing, nothing to do with me. But they came in and he mentioned to them about this idea. And they went, well actually, that’s really interesting, because we’re just starting a new department for these things called DVDs. And this could be a really good DVD when we put this in the shop, so we can put it on the video cassette. And we can put it on the DVD as well. And to show how different DVDs are, we can do one version for the DVD that’s longer, and a shorter version for the for the VHS because that alone would be like a 90 minute tape or something, all this stuff, I had no clue what they were going on about. And also they said, we started a new channel called e4 and it might look really good on e4, they ended up commissioning it, that was kind of like my first commission, if you like, and I got it when I was a runner, which I’m very, very proud of. But that kind of gave me the bug to do development and production at the same time, which I’ve always done, which some people can’t get their head round, but I kind of think it’s natural. And it really annoys some people as well. And I don’t know, why is that? Well, it’s no skin off your nose, I’m doing both, and you want to do it, do it, it’s get out my face, you know, but..

Justin Crosby
So fast forward to the point where your BBC entertainment, it’s obviously you’ve had a really robust career in TV and you know, learning on the job. That’s obviously very valuable in terms of your time as a commissioning editor entertainment. What do you think you learnt from your period there? First of all, how long were you there?

Sohail Shah
I was there from January 15 to February 17? I think so two years I was there.

Justin Crosby
What was it that you think that you’ve learned most from your time within the BBC as a commissioner that you’re putting into practice? Now, as a producer?

Sohail Shah
I think what it’s given me is another insight into program making that I didn’t have until I went to the other side of the desk, if that makes sense that I had 15 years of production experience before I went into the commissioning world,

Justin Crosby
or was the BBC entertainment role? Was that your first commissioning job? Yeah, so

Sohail Shah
it was the Assistant Commissioner scheme that was supposed to be for a year. And then they ended up asking us to stay, I’d always wanted to be a commissioner. And I’d applied for Commissioner jobs before. And everyone got an interview, in fact, and then this one, I applied for having already been offered another job, which was going to mean a complete change of life and me moving to a different country. And in a way, I think that’s why I went for it because I thought, well, I’ve got nothing to lose. Because I’ve already got a job, I know I’m moving. This has come along, it would be really good. But I’m never gonna get an interview. So I just apply. And then I applied and then I got an interview, and I did the interview. And then I could say Oh, well at least I’ve done a BBC panel interview now because I’ve never done one. And they offered me the job. And I was like, Oh, well, that’s a bit weird, because I didn’t I didn’t see that come in, what do we do now? And actually, the minute they offered it, to me, it kind of as amazing as the other job was, it was a no brainer. It was what I wanted to do. And that’s the reason that was moving anyway, because I was always thinking, Well, why am I getting passed over for these jobs when that’s what I want. And then I got offered it, I took it. And I think what I took into the job, you know, possibly sometimes unfair preconceptions I had about commissioners. They weren’t it wasn’t all dissipated by any means. But it gave me an appreciation for what commissioners have to do. It doesn’t matter. If you’re a commissioner at the BBC or ITV or channel four, or channel fiber or anywhere, you know, you have your personal taste that you might want to commission a show. But obviously, you are probably one of several commissioners in a team or in the department, you know, in on a channel. And what you want isn’t necessarily what the channel a needs at that time, or B fits with something else that’s already there. It should it should complement the shedule it’s not equal. And it’s not about what you what you want, you know, and then you know, there are lots of levels of tech before something gets greenlit. So when it does get greenlit it’s really great. And I was always very aware of the fact that having worked in development, pitching ideas, working in production, taking notes from commissioners, I know how it works, you know, a lot of people, this is gonna get me skinned alive. But I’m not just saying commissioning, but you know, lots of people are working TV, some people are not great, you know, some people shouldn’t, I don’t think even be working in television full stop that level, whatever level they’re at. But I’d like to think that I knew what I was doing. But taking those Commissioner behaviors of the people that I liked working for, and taking notes from emulating those good practices for people that would then be coming to me with ideas and requiring notes on stuff, bringing your own personality to it. And then absolutely not replicating the behaviors of the people that you know, we all know who they are, where you send a cut over with a deadline going we need this picture locked by, you know, X o’clock and they’ve not read it or you send them an idea saying we need to know because the talent is dependent on this and then they don’t get back to you and then they might send you some very, very curt email going, Oh, I didn’t realize this was important like I can’t be doing and that’s not just commissioning, that’s just people in you know, that’s a behavior engine. I know that I just I can’t abide, I don’t encourage it. I don’t feel bad about calling it out now as well. But I think that’s an age thing. And if I’m honest, probably a little bit of the fact that I’ve got this slight hangover going, Well, I used to be a commissioner, and I wouldn’t ever treat people like that. So you can’t treat me like that. So maybe I have that other people wouldn’t do that. Or maybe I’m just a bit of a gobby one, I don’t know, when you go into commissioning, anybody wants to be a commissioner, you think it’s going to be one thing, and you get there, and you realize it’s not was it’s not what you think it’s going to be. But for me, personally, I was very kind of like, well, let’s just see how we go. And I absolutely loved it. It’s the best job I’ve ever had. I enjoyed it from start to finish, I was very lucky with the shows that I was given, I was very lucky with the Commission’s that I was able to get off the ground. And I had lovely companies to work with, obviously, you know, the ups and downs, of course, but it was great. And I think you have to learn that it’s not about you. And it’s not your idea, you know, it’s the company’s idea, you’re just the custodian of that IP for however long you are pitching it for. Because you know, you got to realize as well, you’re probably not the only person that they’ve taken the idea to because everybody needs to get commissions. So I wasn’t under any illusions there. But if I liked an idea, you know, and the company had done what was needed. And you know, it was a collaborative thing. I would like to think anyway, they felt confident that they had someone on their side that was trying to get the best deal for that show and trying to get it over the line. Because I always said that I would. And I was always very open going, Look, if I’m not interested in this idea, I’m probably not the best person. And also, it’s probably not a good idea, because you know, XYZ, but if it was something that I was very passionate about, I would absolutely champion it. But you know, as I said, just because I like something, it doesn’t mean that the head of the channel or the head of the department before he even goes to the head of the channel is going to be on the same page. In an ideal world, everyone’s aligned, and it does get that way. And that’s how you get a commission away. I cut them a lot more slack. Having said all that, displayable. But now I’m back pitching stuff. Now I’m like, come on, you got any news for me? I need to know, because we’ve got payroll to make and all that.

Justin Crosby
Do you feel that you’re commissioning strike rate has improved? Since you’ve been a commissioner?

Sohail Shah
Well, do you know what I don’t know? I can’t really answer because I didn’t have the company before I became the commissioner. Whereas if I did, and I didn’t have any commissions, then I went to be a commissioner. And now I did I could say oh yeah, I’ve got many more now. It’s that insight I was talking about, it’s given me the insight. And also, you know, no shock horror, because I’ve been at that level, and you kind of sort of you remain friends with the people that you’re working with. And you meet people that are on the same sort of like commissioning level as you are or the channels as well. You know, you still kind of like, Oh, how’s it all going? And you know, not that anyone’s giving me any heads up? I don’t mean that at all. But it’s nice to know how things are going and then you can kind of go are right. Okay. My strike rate, I suppose, is probably better now. Only because I understand how things work a little bit more than I did before. I thought I knew how things worked before. And I think everybody does, which is why we’ll get really annoyed when we get nose going. Well, that commission is crap. They don’t know what they’re on about. It’s a it’s a surefire hit.

Justin Crosby
Tell us what you’re working on now. And you know what you’re looking to achieve with your Indie

Sohail Shah
we set up in October, November 2019, after I had moved back to Manchester a couple of months earlier. So I was in London, and I moved back to Manchester to be near a family. My dad wasn’t very well, my my brother was a pretty well. So I moved back full time, and then thought, What do I do, and I decided to set up the company. And I always said, if I was going to do it, it was always going to be in Manchester anyway. So it just kind of expedited that somewhat. So we set up in November 19. I just thought I’d spend a couple of months sort of introducing myself to people at channels, you know, people that I might have worked with people that either I had commissioned, or people had come to me with their ideas, just sort of say, This is what I was doing. This is what I’m doing now, what you’re looking for, and I was gonna give myself a few months of doing that and then go hell for leather, sort of like in the January after the Christmas. But then obviously, the virus, sort of everyone started talking about the virus in January 2020. And then in March, everything shut down. And I was like, That’s not great start. But then luckily, and I’m very, very thankful for it. We were one of the first companies in the country to get an original commission in lockdown for a whole new show not just a reversion or repeat what was that? That was a two hour countdown show called Britain’s favourite detected. We didn’t know how long this was going to last and also how widespread it was going to be and what that meant. So it was that point where when they said locked down, it was locked down and no one was leaving the house everything was closed. You know the supermarket’s had out all that stuff a bit old telly and basically disappeared. And the soaps had announced that they were going to stop filming which is like that, to me. was the big thing going oh my god if the soaps aren’t on Like this literally not going to be anything. But people did want new things to watch. And there just wasn’t anything. So I just thought, well, if we physically can’t go out and film anything, because filming was completely out at that point, because no one could see each other. I thought, well, how do you make a program that’s got no filming in it? Well, you use archive. If it’s just archive, and you can’t have any interviews about the archive, where do you get the interviews from? Well, you use interviews that have already been shot, and you use VoiceOver. And it’s all done remotely. Is that possible? And I just looked at the I looked at the schedules across the five linear channels and thought, right, okay, what can we do, and it was only when looking at a week at a glance that you notice that there’s lots and lots of, you know, lots of police procedurals, and Detective shows, and loads of them are on ITV actually. I spoke to Joe mace, who I love ITV and just said, How about if we did a countdown show, where we get the audience involved, and give them a list of detectors, and they choose their top 25. And we reveal who their favorite detective is. So Britain’s favorite tactic, as simple as that. And it can be done exactly our said sort of all edited remotely, the stuffs already been shot, hopefully on other shows. And we pieced it all together with wonderful clips of all these brilliant shows. And we have the voiceover on it. So Joe liked that took it to the channel, and then Kevin and rosemary, I think there’s more rosemary, salts just thought that’s really good. Why don’t we make a virtue of the fact that we’re going to do this big reveal, and we can make an event of it. So the actual reveal show itself went out on bank holiday Monday, but for six nights leading up to it every night at eight o’clock on ITV, there was a different detective show for you to watch. So they had like an hour or two hours. So you had a more so you have it there all the way through, just say. And then at the end of each of those shows, there was and all the way through in the commercials, but particularly at the end, there was the odd screen direction to and if you want to know who Britain’s favorite detective is tune in on backorder, Monday for the big reveal. And that’s what happened. And we got Sheridan Smith to do the voiceover for it, who actually was in Jonathan Creek. So she was in it as well. Sounds kind of nice. That became our first commission. And then it during that we got a commission with Channel Five as well about celebrity breakups, which is much more my showbizzy background. So we did that. And that one actually did have a bit of filming on it. But it was all done on high quality iPhone, unedited, remotely. And we did that as well. That’s how we kind of like found out found our way through that. And then things opened up a little bit more. And then off the back of some stuff we did on Britain’s favorite detector, we developed a relationship with Agatha Christie limited. And it was 100 years of the first Pyro book, mysterious affair at styles. And I pitched them an idea about would you be interested in us doing a feature documentary about Agatha his life sort of about her. And alongside the evolution of urquiola Pyro because basically everything that happened in August of this life went into those books, they were out there all influenced. So we kind of told those two stories in tandem, and had like lots of people. And ironically, going from a show that was edited completely remotely with no filming at all. We went to a show that was filmed completely on location with a host and numerous interviewees, and loads of places as well like the Orient Express and Burr Island and Greenway, home and, and all these things. And then we got Richard D grant to present it as well, we ended up with an RTS nomination for it. So that’s kind of cool. So that was year one and, and then that kind of helped us grow. And I brought Paul in as a co director, Paul Sandler who’s like the best in the world. And I’ve worked with Paul previously at a few places, that was me actively wanting to grow the company, because you know, when you open a company, you want to get as much work as you can, and you want to have a catalogue and you want you want to build, I want to have a company where people I worked before feel like they want to stay, and they might want to come back and do other shows. I want to base here. So Paul, came on board. He was the CFO of cuts on the roof media that had various labels underneath it, that sort of like ended in 2021. But one of those labels was second at productions, run by Lee Hopfield. And they made the brilliant meet the Richardson’s made. The Richardson’s had been on for a couple of years, a couple of series, and was continuing to do well, but obviously then the company sort of wound down. Dave was still very interested in carrying on that show. Lee sort of like came on board, as did the team and King of sunshine now produces meet the Richardson’s so we’ve just finished filming. series four is in edit at the moment. And we will be filming series five next year as well. So that’s great, really happy about

Justin Crosby
that. So I’m Dave, isn’t it?

Sohail Shah
Yes, yeah, commissioned by lovely Ian Coyle, who I used to work with many moons ago as well. So it’s very nice to get everyone back together and carry on with that and then off the bat Think of that with the least relationship with John. And Lucy, obviously, we shot a pilot for Channel Four also, which features John and his mother in law jail. And that is for Channel Four. It’s called John riches and take my mother in law that’s going to go out later this year, where John takes Jill to Spain to sort of have a look around and see whether she might want to live there, rather than UK and avoid the prospect of her moving in with him, Lucy, and hilarity ensues. It’s a very, very lovely show. So hopefully, that will do well, that’s going out later this year. And then, in a couple of months, we film a brand new show, again, for Channel Four entertainment. We’re filming a new show, hosted by John and Lucy about celebrity couples, is a studio comedy panel show. So it’s John and Lucy hosting with two celeb couples taking polls so and they’ll be doing stuff on location. And then there’ll be doing rounds and games in studio as well. And then that hopefully transmits next year, not with John and Lucy, we’ve got something else which I’m hoping to sort of get greenlit quite soon. And God willing, if that happens, then that would be filming next year. I won’t say where it gets doesn’t happen. But hopefully we’ve got something going there as well.

Justin Crosby
Well, congratulations on that success. It sounds you know, it’s a great story in that I would offer the idea that your ability to get shows commissioned during lockdown was the launch pad for your business. And actually, it sounds like a commissioners i when you knew that, you know, how can you make a TV show with not being able to film and using archive and using all these different clips and creating something like almost an event without actually filming anything new. Perhaps only Commissioner could have come up with that idea, knowing what channels must have been looking for in the deep lockdown. So congratulations on that.

Sohail Shah
Thank you. Well, you make it sound a lot better than it actually was. So I’ll take it. That’s the explanation I’m gonna give to everybody now. Thank you, Justin.

Justin Crosby
Well, that’s all right. What’s my background in PR? There you go. Well, exactly. So as I’m speaking to you now you’re in Salford. I’m in Elstree Studios. And you’re also involved on the board at Elstree, aren’t you

Sohail Shah
I am Yama non exec director. Yeah,

Justin Crosby
your role is essentially what I mean, because there’s been lots of development, I can see, you know, two huge new stages looming over the lot, which is great to see. And obviously, as we know, a massive studio boom, right across the UK. That’s about the role that you have Elstree as a non exec director and where you’re taking the studios from here.

Sohail Shah
Basically, this is my fourth year of being a board member. That is a weird one with Elstree because it is a business, but it’s also owned by the council. And so the board is made up of the Managing Director, company, Secretary, councillors that represent the council, and then non exec directors as well from the industry. And I was hired to be one of those non exec directors, along with five other people from the industry. And we all kind of bring our own sort of experience from different aspects of it. So you know, James Bennett runs televisual Steve Smith, as a BAFTA and the head of Albert. Heather Jones is amazing general manager of a&e. And then there’s me as well, who does stuff, whatever I do, we were brought in, especially to sort of like help with what the future of Elstree was going to be. Because they knew that at that point, big brother had been axed. And anyone who’s watched the show, can see how big a house that wasn’t how much space that took up. And all of that was on the DL street lot. So that was gonna go. So what do we do with that space? Well, I suppose we build new studios and sort of elevate L Street back to what, you know, hopefully, it’s always been amazing, but it had so many more studios in it previously. And with such a large space, let’s sort of like try and reinstate some of those amazing facilities and make them future proof and make them the best in the business. So we were sort of brought in to sort of say, how that could be what the best sort of line of traffic that would be the best footprint for the studio, what needed to go into the new stages. And also alongside that, how that would then have an effect on the rest of the studios. Like what needed what do we think could do with changing is there a different way of like bins, you know, whatever, whatever it is, or something as big as illustrate and indeed any studio but something as big as Elstree requires a lot of people keeping an eye on lots of different things and, and constantly talking about it, you know, we can do this better, this needs changing, this needs updating, is there a better company that could do that or that kind of business? So we are very much involved in those decisions and bringing other sort of like aspects of the industry and with our business Testing relationships and other relationships that we’ve made whilst there for whether it’s new shows, new films, commercials, whatever it is. And we kind of like, bring our expertise together. And hopefully, then all of that is fed back into the studios and improved upon in whichever way. But ultimately, the best example, I think of that now is the opening this year of the platinum stages, which I was very fortunate to go to the actual official opening of. And I was like, honestly, it’d been a while since anybody had set foot on the lot because of COVID. So we were there to make all the decisions or a little bit of construction, then it kind of went away a little bit. And all the meetings were on Zoom, and then we kind of came back together. So my first time seeing it all completely done was the day we did the official opening. And honestly, just now I almost welled up when I walked and I couldn’t I couldn’t believe it when I saw it. Because it’s only when you while you’re you know that you’re there, so you know what it looks like. But when you walk through the lodge, and then walk in, when you look left, before, you could see all the way down to the end. And now you can see all the way down to the end. But there’s this massive, really pretty studio there, these two massive Studios which are connected. And to know that I was a little cog in the decision making of these two things, which hopefully are going to have a legacy because they’re you know, they’re so they’re really well built. They are future proof, they’re sustainable, all of these things. And obviously, they’re going to provide amazing equipment and opportunity for whoever films in there. I mean, I can’t say who’s in there at the minute. I don’t if it’s common knowledge, but you know, there’s something in there, which is pretty cool, in my opinion. You know, I think that can only be beneficial for the studios, but also the surrounding economy as well. Elstree and borehamwood and off the back of building the studios, we also redid the bar area, which I’m sure lots of people have seen, you know, it’s fine. If you’re nipping in, you know, let’s say it was fine. Now, it’s absolutely fantastic. It’s a proper restaurant. It’s sort of has wonderful food provided by Sol de la sound like a commercial now, but I’m just very, very proud of it. And I’m very happy to have been involved.

Justin Crosby
Very good. I mean, obviously, we know that the Crown has been in residency Yeah, for the last number of years. So, you know, there’s some some amazing productions that you see coming in and out. Yeah, so maybe we’ll, I’ll get you on the phone a little bit later. We can talk about my rent. Maybe we can have a quick chat about that.

Sohail Shah
I can’t I can’t quite hear you. I think the lines breaking up. I’m not quite sure.

Justin Crosby
And now it’s time for Sohail story of the week, the TV industry story that’s caught his eye in the past seven days, what’s your story of the week? So

Sohail Shah
my story of the week this week is the new Lord of the Rings series on Amazon Prime video, it looks amazing. I enjoyed it. When I watched it. I’m flabbergasted at the budget because it’s 870 million quid for 10 episodes, apparently, which is kind of close to the entire budget of BBC One and more than double of BBC Two. So it’s kind of It blows my mind that one show, however good or bad? Someone thinks it is. One show could cost more than an entire channels output in a year. I mean, that’s mental, isn’t it?

Justin Crosby
It is remarkable. And actually, you know, saying how good or bad it is? We don’t know, do we because actually, they’ve been banning any sort of reviews Amazon on prime. So you’re actually going now you cannot see any reviews? There’s been a bit of a backlash from real hardcore Tolkien fans. And I think a little bit of this is anti woke as well, because it’s a very diverse cast as well. So at the moment, there are no reviews on Amazon Prime. So we’ll see how that, you know, maybe we’ll go back to Word of mouth is ridiculous budget, let’s face it, it’s amazing. But I think the whole thing, I’ve read somewhere that it’s gonna last for five seasons. So you know, that’s if it’s a 1 billion quid for per season, then that is quite remarkable. But you know, I guess it lasts as long as it’s making money for Amazon, and everyone doing their prime membership and shopping and all the rest.

Sohail Shah
Well, this, this is the thing, isn’t it? It’s kind of like if they can justify spending that because you’re getting your return, then, you know, more power to them. But I just kind of think when the phrase at the moment is cost of living crisis, will you pay 80 pounds a year to retain Amazon Prime when that might cover or be a takeaway, but 80 quid is 80 quid, and if you need 80 pounds, then for something else, it might not seem that tractors and especially like, you know, as you say, five years, a billion dollars a year that’s a lot of prime subscriptions. And I know the same that they’ve got 25 million as of today. Anyway, they’ve got 25 million viewers, for episode one, but there’s no way of counting how much of the show people have actually watched whether that’s 20 seconds or the whole hour? It’s a weird one. I thought it was all right. Although, you know, I will rock the boat and say that I’m much preferred. How’s the dragon?

Justin Crosby
Right? Okay, well, that’s the other dragon based blockbuster. That’s,

Sohail Shah
it’s battling all about the dragons.

Justin Crosby
And now it’s time to find out your hero of the week and who are whatsoever you’re going to tell to get in the bin. So first of all, who’s your hero of the week?

Sohail Shah
My hero of the week generally is political satire. But I’m going to give that moniker to Joe lycett for what he did this week, because I thought it was absolutely perfect on Laura coons Berg show because it just highlighted how utterly ridiculous the political situation is in this country, and indeed, how it’s covered on TV because he didn’t raise his voice. He didn’t say anything controversial. All he did was say that he was right wing. And he agreed with everything that Liz truss said and stood for. And I thought it was the funniest thing I’ve seen in ages. And I felt a little bit sorry for Laura, and that she didn’t know exactly how to sort of take it or how to follow up on it. But at the same time, if you’re going to sort of say we’re booking comedians to be funny, or have an alternative point of view, then you need to be able to get out of there what you think you’re gonna get out of them. And all he did was prove how ridiculous politics are on TV. And in general, these days by agreeing with what our as of today, new prime minister elected by 81,000 people, what she believes in, and he agreed with it, no one’s going mad about it. I think it’s the funniest thing I’ve seen in ages.

Justin Crosby
Yeah, it was dripping in Iraq. So we’ll see if we can put a clip in the episode description for anybody who hasn’t seen that? And what about getting in the bin? Who or What are you going to tell to get in the bin. So

Sohail Shah
this sounds like it’s like I’m being really political. So apology is quite boring. But I am going to tell Nadine Doris to get in the bin and just stay there and have lots of other people pour lots of trash into the bin to make sure she doesn’t get out of there. I’ve never seen such a ridiculous human being in my entire life. The fact that she has been forced upon us in that role of the DCMS, whilst not understanding a thing about not not only her role and what it entails not understanding how the licence fee is split up thinking that, you know, channel four is awarded a license fee, and then saying that Channel Five worked better after it was privatized. I mean, the woman made a gaffe after gaffe, after gaffe, and quite honestly looks drunk to me every time she was on TV, and was just self serving. So I think she can absolutely get in the bin. And hopefully now she’s resigned today, we’ll never hear from her again, unless she’s got one of her ridiculous books out where they’re about as well written as those old mills and Boon ones from the 70s. But we’ll see we’ll see what happens. Hopefully, we won’t hear from her again until she gets a period, I’m sure but we won’t have to put up with it too much longer. I

Justin Crosby
don’t know for the second time in this week’s show. Nadine, Doris has been mentioned and not a great surprise but so hell thank you so much for coming on the show really fascinating to hear about your background, you know, the way that you’ve climbed up the greasy pole of TV so congratulations and all your success and and all the best with those new shows that you’re producing king of sunshine and look forward to seeing you. Next event whenever that may be brilliant.

Sohail Shah
Thanks so much, Justin.

Justin Crosby
Well, that’s about it for episode 113. Thanks again to Stu and so hail. Really enjoyed our discussions. I hope you did too. If you did, please share this week’s show with friends and colleagues. Don’t forget to visit telecast.com where we have exclusive features and information about all of our upcoming events. telecast is edited by Ian chambers and recorded in London. Until next week, stay safe

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

Transcripts for this episode will be available soon.