Last week we published Part One of three, of our exclusive interview with production executive Roopesh Parekh. We touched on how he came to be an executive in the movie industry and on some of the behind the scenes aspects of the buisness.
Today we have the second part to the interview, in which we talk about being the youngest member of the Production Guild of Great Britain, what is the most gratifying thing about his job and some other things.
Q. You mentioned the age. Are you an anomaly as line producers go?
“Yeah, I’m the youngest member of the Production Guild of Great Britain and of the Production Managers Association, with nine feature film credits, four television credits, two international co production credits, two British Independent Film Award (BIFA) nominations and numerous short film accolades to my name. I’m 27 years old and most people doing my job are at least double my age. So, you know, it’s going well (chuckles).”
Q. Not bad for an -under-30 guy.
“I’m getting there (more chuckles). It’s a difficult job because most producers, line producers are older, of course making my first feature film at 18 obviously helped. And I had the opportunity to manage the Red Dwarf franchise, for which I was also the production executive, that’s the person on much bigger shows in America for example, supervising producers of Friends or Two And A Half Men, those comedy shows, the credit will say, associate producer, executive producer, there’s another credit that says supervising producer, which is the person responsible for all the other producers, because there are so many bl__dy producers.
Here we call them production executive, that’s the person responsible for the entire production and is responsible directly to the network, which is different than the producer from their own production company, that is the person who they give the money to, to make something, so you tell the other producers, you can’t do that, you have to do this. So I was the production executive for the ‘Red Dwarf X’ series for UKTV, BBC Worldwide & 2Entertain which is the biggest comedy franchise in the UK, where I initially began as the Marketing Producer and then during post-production combined both Line Producer and Production Executive roles for the delivery of the series.
The series was the highest rated British comedy series of 2012, with record-breaking viewing figures, high critical acclaim and the biggest comedy download in the UK for Q3 2012. It got the most downloads in iTunes, it’s a franchise that’s been going on for nearly 24 years. Unfortunately it didn’t make it to US TV, it made it to the US in terms of BBC Player and PBS Player, but I think it’s just now becoming available on DVD over there, you’d have to check on it (available at Amazon), I can’t remember off the top of my head, but it’s now reaching that market.
Then I got to work on ‘Inside No. 9′ for which I’m line producing, for the BBC, written and starring Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith (The League of Gentleman). The series cast include Gemma Arterton, Tamsin Greig, Anna Chancellor, Tim Key, Timothy West, Katherine Parkinson, Adam Deacon and Marc Wootton. My producer from Inside No. 9, Adam Tandy also produced ‘The Thick of It’, which is political satire comedy, it’s huge here and ‘In The Loop’ which was nominated for an Oscar for Best Screenplay back in 2010, it’s a very, very big film also produced by Adam Tandy and Kevin Loader who is a very big producer.
My executive producer on Inside No. 9 is Jon Plowman, who produced ‘Absolutely Fabulous’ and he also executive produced ‘The Office’ (the first season), so it’s been good to work with Jon and Adam, because again, both of them have got 40-50 years worth of experience producing British comedy, two of the biggest comedy producers in the country, some would argue Jon Plowman is the biggest comedy producer in Britain, he’s done a lot of British shows that you might not be familiar with, but the casts that he’s worked with, you’d be stunned. He produced ‘A Bit of Fry and Laurie’, which is the show with Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie, who is obviously now famous in the US for his show ‘House’, but 10-15 years before that, he was famous here. So yeah, it’s been good.”
Q. So my next question, which I think you already answered was, how did you get your break in the industry? Would you like to add anything to that?
“(Pause) No, not really, a lot of hard work. Just to take every single person out for coffee or lunch.”
Q. A lot of kissing up then?
“A little bit of that, I like to call it a little bit of friendly seduction (chuckles).”
Q. Who is your role model in the industry?
“(Chuckles) Um….(sighs) it’s difficult, cause you see, I don’t really have role models as such, but I have people I admire tremendously because of the work they do and I wish I could work with them and do the same kind of movies they have done, that would be, David O. Selznick who obviously produced ‘Gone With The Wind’ in 1950 and worked at Warner Bros. he would be one of my role models, let’s say.
Someone like Jerry Bruckheimer who I think is one of the best producers, he’s absolutely incredible, and at the line producing level, cause they’re my role models, Sarah Bradshaw and Kevin De La Noy, Kevin is the line producer of Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy, (The Dark Knight) who has done everything from Pirates of the Caribbean to Prince of Persia, one of the best British line producers. So that’s it (chuckles).”
Q. What is the most gratifying thing about your job?
“(sigh) It’s um…it’s when the final product is out; it’s that sense of creating something special. When you go through a shoot that lasts 6 or 7 weeks and the people you work with all become a family and you get to know them very, very well because you’re spending so many hours a day with them.
You get to know quite a lot about them, you become quite close and then the shoot ends and everyone’s a little bit depressed, because when are you going to see these people again, and everyone aims at staying in touch, but as soon as you start your next production you’re back to those silly hours and what ends up happening is sometimes, two years later the show or film that you worked on comes out.
So you go to your premiere or screening and all these people that you had such good times with are there (smiles) and you all catch up and you all remember the good times, people forget the bad times (chuckles) and then everyone sits there and watches it, and I think watching a product, in which other people are laughing and enjoying your work, if it’s a comedy, they’re laughing away or if it’s a sad movie you can hear a few sniffles.
The audience’s reaction to your project is very gratifying. And having people come up to you telling you that they have enjoyed watching the series or the movie, is the most gratifying thing. Sure, awards or nominations, things like that are great, but that’s not what it’s all about, that’s not the way to do your job. You don’t do the job for the money, or accolades. You’re doing it because you want to give something to the audience for their enjoyment and entertainment or pass some kind of message, depending on what kind of production you do. That’s what it’s really about and you know you’ve done a good job if you’ve been able to get people to enjoy your work. I think the money and the accolades are just a bonus, that’s not the thing that makes it gratifying, they’re the icing on the cake.”
Q. Great. So in your mind, it’s all for the audience.
“I think everything has to be based on the audience, you could discuss director lead productions, telling a story that the director wants regardless of the audience, but I think you don’t spend millions of pounds of people’s money and of corporation’s money to create something you wanna create, you should create something you enjoy, but other people can also relate to and enjoy.
People think that it’s all about big media professionals blowing off money and dinning and just enjoying the life. Just as an example, I got invited to this really posh place for dinner in SoHo (London) tonight, but because I have to finish budgeting tonight because it’s due tomorrow, I’m not going. I really wanted to go, but can’t.
The other thing that happens is, not last year, but the year before I spent three months filming in London, Paris and Amsterdam and I was back for a week and then I went to Newcastle, which is 400 miles away from London and lived there for three months, shooting there and literally, I came back and the following day I went to Shepperton Studios (on the outskirts of London), not near my house, it’d take me about two hours to get home. So I ended up living in Shepperton for six months.
And I’ve done projects in which they shoot in America, or in Spain where you’re away for so long. And on top of all the other problems you have to deal with, you’re gone from home. People with families can’t do it, you just don’t do it, it’s a shame. There are people who would love to be doing it, who can’t unfortunately do it, because they have families or whatever.”
Q. How is it different producing a movie from a TV Show?
“The challenges are different and traditionally, there is more money available on TV productions than on low budget features. You are shooting 6-7 pages a day in TV and usually 3 pages a day in film. TV comes with a natural support base from the production company and the network, whereas in films is a small group of people and one or two companies that share the burden of all production problems. I enjoy doing both –it’s great fun and a lot of the skills required are transferable, to both TV and film. In movies the main difference I found, is that you can spend more time being artistic and have a little more luxury in terms of shooting schedule and having more time to shoot the movie. In TV it’s more rigid, and you have to be creative and artistic in a short period of time. Both are challenges.”
Earlier in 2011, Roopesh line produced ‘St George’s Day’ for Elstree Studio Productions; a crime thriller shot on location in London, Amsterdam, Berlin and LA, starring Frank Harper (Bend It Like Beckham, The Football Factory), Craig Fairbrass (Cliffhanger), Vincent Regan (300), Ashley Walters (Bullet Boy), Charles Dance (Game of Thrones), Luke Treadaway (Attack the Block) and Keeley Hazell (Like Crazy). St George’s Day was released theatrically in the UK on September 7th 2012 by Metrodome.
‘St. George’s Day’ Trailer
Next up some more ‘get to know you’ questions with Roopesh and an interesting discussion about ‘Downton Abbey’ and ‘Ripper Street’ and why are shows released so late outside the UK. Stay tuned.
The final part of this interview will be published next week.