THE INSIDER INTERVIEWS: CARYN MANDABACH

The Insider Interviews series started in 2010 as a set of recorded interviews, featuring the likes of Tom Hiddleston, Gareth Unwin, who produced THE KING’S SPEECH, Ben Wheatley and Hossein Amini, the Oscar-nominated writer of DRIVE and THE TWO FACES OF JANUARY. You can watch these here.

The Insider Interviews now exist as live monthly events in central London, which is a combination of a compered interview and questions from audience members. If you would like to check out future speakers and join an Insider Interviews Live evening, you can see more details here.

Caryn Mandabach is a multi-award winning television producer whose ground-breaking US hits include NURSE JACKIE, ROSEANNE, THIRD ROCK FROM THE SUN and THAT 70S SHOW.

In 2006 she set up production company Caryn Mandabach Productions and now divides her time between London and LA.

This Q & A was compered by Rosie Fletcher, Movies Editor at Digital Spy.

 

 

CARYN MANDABACH

Can you start by giving us an overview of what your job looks like? What does a week or a month look like for you? How much time do you spend in the UK versus LA?

I moved to the UK officially a couple of years ago, although I went to school here, I was here when I was a kid. I’ve had one foot on the dock and one foot on the boat for many years.

A lot of folks ask me why I moved here. The reason is ownership. I own PEAKY BLINDERS, and I own my company. I used to own, with my partners, bits of all my other shows.

But in the United States there are no owners any more, it’s all corporate. Ownership, taking your own money and turning it into a TV show, affects a lot in my case. I don’t have a job, I have a company, and I hire people to work for me.

Because I’m well-trained in business, I still have one foot on the dock and one foot on the boat, but now the dock is commerce and the boat is art, or craft.

So I still split most of my time. I prefer to be on the boat than on the dock.

 

You mentioned there’s no individual ownership of shows in America anymore. Can you explain a bit more about why that is and what happened to that?

In the olden days of 1998, Clinton passed a rule that was called the Financial Interest and Syndication Repeal. At that time there were only really four networks, and they could own forty percent of all their shows.

For reasons known best to them, they didn’t want to own, they just wanted to distribute. Rather than forty percent, they only really owned ten percent of all the shows.

Then there were all these other studios that could sell to each other. Sony, Warner, Paramount, these big giants, they could sell to the networks. There was no such thing as vertical integration.

But also at that time, there were great production companies. Garry Marshall, who gave you HAPPY DAYS, or Susan Harris, who did GOLDEN GIRLS, or Aaron Spelling, they owned their companies.

So in 1998, the networks realised that these little people were making money, and that they, the giant corporations, could take it back. The rule was passed that meant they could own 100 percent of their shows, and bit by bit they built a firewall and only bought from themselves.

 

Caryn Mandabach Productions

What does your production slate look like for the future, how many things are you working on?

I don’t think in those terms. It’s not a matter of how many things you’re working on, just if they’re the right things.

It’s interesting because so much changes: markets, buyers, interests, people, distribution platforms, globalisation, politics. So you have to be fleet of foot, and you can’t dictate your own terms.

 

But are you on the look out for new projects?

No, I don’t look for projects at all. What does a producer do? I’m going to tell you right now.

  1. Number one, a producer makes an important association with a writer. And number one is by far the most important thing.
  2. Number two. A producer sells the product into a distribution system, such that they will give you some, if not all, of the money. They’ll never give you all of the money, but you have to start somewhere then cobble it together.
  3. Then three, you produce and post-produce the show. This involves hiring a bunch of people, including a director, some actors, and then you go somewhere and produce the thing.
  4. Four, you market your show, or your movie, or whatever it is you’re doing.
  5. And number five is collecting your money for yourself and your partners.

That is what producers do. So how much time do you spend on number one? Sixty percent.

A lot of people love talking about producers as brave people who go into jungles and take chances. But that’s not what producers mostly do.

If you’re an independent producer, you choose where you’re comfortable along that chain, and then you fill in the blanks. I’m happiest with number one.

 

Do you find that you have certain preoccupations, certain things that you particularly like? 

I always respond to market considerations. I listen to the sales people, and then combine that with the fact that I actually have an intellectual life and there are certain things I like.

The thing about television in particular is that you’re in someone’s home. It’s very sensitive.

You have to think about how the audience are feeling, and whether or not you’re just wasting their time, whether you’re feeding them junk.

If you want to be in the movie business, it’s very different, because the audience have to go out to see it. They can have a giant experience and they can experience money, and how it’s spent, because we don’t have that money on television.

 

STARTING OUT

I’d like to take you back to when you started your career. When did you first know that you wanted to be a producer?

Well, I was very bossy. I had cousins, and I used to boss them around and make them do shows for our grandparents.

 

What sort of things were you watching when you were young and getting into TV?  

This was quite a while ago. I used to watch FLASH GORDON. GUNSMOKE, MAVERICK, that’s all I remember. THE RIFLEMAN a little bit. Chuck Connors was great.

 

Did you always want to work in TV?

I wanted to be in comedy. I used to go to clubs and a friend of mine asked if I’d like to produce commercials. She offered me a gig producing comedy commercials in the interstitial bits of SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE, selling Miller beer and starring various comics.

And I owned it, that’s the key. Because I owned a little bit, the thirty-second commercial, I made a boatload of money. I would say, for sure, be in the advertising business!

 

GROUND-BREAKING SITCOMS

Obviously you made a massive splash with THE COSBY SHOW, ROSEANNE, and then 3RD ROCK FROM THE SUN, which changed the face of sitcoms. What was it like at the time? Did you know it was a risk?

THE COSBY SHOW was a very odd set of circumstances.

My two bosses were previously buyers at ABC. The female boss, Marcy Carsey, was told she couldn’t be president of the network, because she was a chick! This was a long time ago, 1979.

Needless to say, she was deeply unhappy, because she changed the fortunes of the network. She was the one that set Aaron Spelling up to produce, she was the one that set Susan Harris up in business, and all these people.

And she thought, screw it if they don’t want me. She knew where the bodies were buried. So she got, which is inconceivable now, a four series ‘put’ from ABC. That meant if they don’t do the series they have to pay you as though they’ve done the series

I was her first employee, because I was a producer. Following my wonderful excursion into the advertising business, I had a gig, a self-appointed gig, doing pilots.

I did five a year for about two or three years. And I never spoke, because women didn’t speak. Except for her!

So she hired me, and then she partnered with Tom [Werner]. The first thing we did was with a British format called PIG IN THE MIDDLE. I bought the rights, and then we screwed it up so badly! A nightmare.

Right then, as we were being cancelled, we had a meeting with Bill Cosby. Everyone had an opinion. The network said he should do a show where he’s a DJ in Vegas.

Then he wanted to be one of those people who help you off the plane with a wheelchair. And he wanted his wife to be a limousine driver.

Instead, the feeling was no, why don’t you just do your act where you talk about your family?

We didn’t think it would be a hit. We thought it’d come in second to MAGNUM P.I.

Instead we premiered to a 42 share. 42 percent of the audience that was watching TV was watching our show. The premiere. And it just went up. So it was very heady.

 

And then ROSEANNE after that, which was also very ground-breaking. Centring on a working class family, with a female lead.

I’m working class, and Marcy’s working class, and one day she asked if I’d noticed that there’s no working class people on TV. And then that there are no female leads. Not since Mary Tyler Moore in the ‘70s.

And then she said, “Why don’t you watch this chick, she’s done a commercial.” The character of Roseanne was not her. She played a domestic goddess. That was her act. And she wasn’t socially conscious.

ABC were not brave enough to put THE COSBY SHOW on. So we went to NBC. Then NBC wasn’t brave enough to put ROSEANNE on. So we went to ABC. And then ABC wasn’t brave enough to put 3RD ROCK on, and we went back to NBC.

 

3RD ROCK is interesting because it’s a high concept, which now is really normal but back in the day wasn’t at all.

I know. And I do like to give myself credit for it, because I was spending a lot of time in Britain. I was always at the Edinburgh festivals. For whatever reason I had an affinity for being here, and British comedy, the farce, was in my head.

It took a long time to develop 3RD ROCK. It took three years, so it didn’t just happen.

 

You also did a US version of MEN BEHAVING BADLY.

I’m still really good friends with Simon [Nye]. But I screwed it up, hilariously.

That’s part of the joy of actually talking about being a producer, because there are so many interesting, unique ways to screw it up.

You’ll never guess how something will go wrong.

 

DEFINING AUDIENCES

How do you find the differences between working in the UK and US?

Obviously, I’m happier here. I did NURSE JACKIE, which was really good and it made me think that I could work within the US system.

But don’t forget there’s no ownership, and therefore there’s no control. You’re always going to have a giant corporate boss.

No matter how you look at it, you’re just working for the man. I just wasn’t wired that way.

 

Could you talk about how your pitch for THAT 70S SHOW came about?

I’ve never had an idea, you’ll be happy to know, but this was the exception. Actually, I can take a little bit of credit for 3RD ROCK.

The idea was based on a meeting I had with the sales people. I always really enjoy talking to them, because they’re always smart, and they know what the audience is missing.

The salesmen said, for God’s sake, don’t do anything about women. Women don’t sell. Here’s what you need to focus on. 18 to 49 year old men.

And I said, that’s stupid. There’s no such thing as 18 to 49 year old men. There are only 18 year old men, and 49 year old men. You can’t conflate them, that’s ridiculous.

Then I was in the parking lot, and all of a sudden I did a little math in my head. If you were 49 now, what year were you 18? Answer, 1976.

That way you could access 18 year old men and 49 year old men! It could be about 18 year old men but the 49 year old men would go, “Yeah, in 1976 I was 18!”

 

Do people still think in terms of demographics in that way?

Sure. It’s even harder now, obviously. Everything’s algorithmically designed.

Here it’s even more than that. North and South, everything is in sections.

 

Is there still a perception that that men are a more valuable audience?

Definitely. There’s a higher price on a 22 year old boy’s head than there is on a 60 year old woman’s head.

 

Why is that, do you think?

They’re scarce, they can’t find them. To get their attention, and their spending power, there’s a higher price. If you can bring in a good male demo, you’re doing better.

It’s outrageous when you think about it, because women do 75 percent of the buying. It doesn’t make any sense logically.

But no, nothing’s changed in terms of commercial television. But non-commercial television is all change. That’s why the BBC is so valuable. It’s a beacon of sanity in a world that’s just chasing ad dollars.

 

FEMALE CHARACTERS

How have you found it as a woman working in a male-dominated industry?

I really believed that people were out to help me, and I kind of do. I’m the opposite of a paranoiac. I’m so insensitive that I really didn’t know that people didn’t want me to do well!

It’s a unique characteristic! I don’t know, all producers are optimists. You have to be an optimist, you have to be a bit bossy, and also, in my case, a bit wilfully dumb.

Don’t forget, I came from a place where the ownership was a man and a woman, and she was the boss.

Again, I don’t work for a corporation, I own a company. I don’t have a job, I give other people jobs; I always hire women and I pay them well.

I love paying writers, especially female writers, I love it. It’s an odd thing to say, but it works out.

 

You’ve developed shows with some really great female characters, ROSEANNE, CYBILL, NURSE JACKIE, Polly in PEAKY BLINDERS. Is that something you consciously want to do?

Of course, we want to reflect people’s experiences. Now everybody will say that what’s missing are “strong female leads”!

I hate that word, “strong.” Just use the word “relatable.”

Steve Knight said something smart. We were at a Writers Guild event in the US, and somebody in the audience said that all his female characters seem to run their families. And he said, have you ever met a family where the women weren’t in charge?

You just reflect what you know to be true. All you have to do is reflect some honest characterisation.

 

WRITERS ROOMS

I’d like to talk about writers’ rooms. Can you tell us a little about how that works, how you go about building and assembling one?

Historically the way that it worked was that you have to do 25 episodes of television a year. That’s a lot. You need more than one person for that.

Steve Knight writes all episodes of PEAKY BLINDERS and it’s unbelievable. But back in the day, in the US, you can’t just write it yourself.

Usually there’d be one guy, the head writer. Then, for various tasks, there’d be two or three other people in what they’d call the room.

There was no such thing as a showrunner. Even now there’s no such thing as a showrunner. There are head writers and then there are people who run the money.

If you give $100 million to a writer, that’s like giving a knife to a 12 year old on the playground! Except for every once in a while, and very rarely. There are giant brains out there that do that stuff, but they’re rare.

Steve Knight’s not a showrunner, per se. He’s the greatest writer that we have in this country, but he’s not a showrunner. He doesn’t really know the nuances of the budget, and so on.

If you give $100 million to a writer, that’s like giving a knife to a 12 year old on the playground!… There are giant brains out there that do that stuff, but they’re rare.

Back to writers’ rooms. If you don’t have a female voice, you’re my secretary, can you write it? You’ve sat in this room for the past couple of years.

They used to pay separate money for what they called the punch-up, the gag guy. So Jerry [Belson] who used to work for Garry Marshall, and me, and everybody, he was paid $15,000 a night as part of the room. He only worked two nights a week.

He’d be falling asleep on my shoulder and then wake up and, unbelievably, he’d have a great joke. He was an expert.

There were people festooned around the head writer who each had a special skill.

Famously Jackie Gleason never spoke to his writers. He never even looked at them. They would just put the script under his door and then he’d mark it up and then put it under the door back to them.

In drama, however, with hour-long shows, the workload is more. Similarly there’d be a head writer, then the head writer would hire people that they could trust with the architecture of the series.

These writers would have to sit in a room – and they still do it – for months. I know Chip Johannessen who does HOMELAND, and he has a big board breaking it down episode by episode and scene by scene.

You hand out the episodes, then the head writer rewrites because they’re the head writer. But at least all the writers are practicing from the same hymn book, because the whole arc of everybody’s characters is there. Otherwise it’s chaos.

There’s a codified financial structure. There are staff writers, who get paid WGA minium, then there’s a story editor who’s slightly above, and then there’s the co-producer level.

If you’re a good showrunner, you’ll let the co-producer who’s writing that script go down to the set and talk about it, acting like the producer of that episode.

So the goal in the room is to teach. Here, sadly, we don’t have the money to do that. I think we should concentrate a bit more on that.

How else are you going to grow if you don’t have an environment that’s conducive to learning with experienced professionals over a long period of time?

 

What would you look for if you’re hiring for a writers’ room?

It would be up to the head writer. I wouldn’t know who I’d want to sit with or talk to. I’d want to provide a whole bunch of people, give the head writer choice.

By the way, we don’t even do long running shows here. Either you’re doing shows with long running series as an intention, or you’re not. PEAKY was always intended to run.

In America, with a show like HOMELAND, you go in intending to do it for five seasons. Then if they cut it back it’s, “What, you cancelled me?” Here you do a show like BROADCHURCH and then it’s, “What, you want to pick it up again? The ratings were great?”

So over there we plan that first episode like a little acorn that’s going to grow and grow. Whereas here we’re only betting on six or eight episodes. It’s a completely different ethos. You don’t need a writers’ room if you’re planning to end after six to eight episodes.

But Steve’s just a freak. I accused him of paying writer fairies, but he denied it!

 

Was PEAKY BLINDERS a difficult pitch? 

No it was really easy!

I didn’t have offices for four years, so I was pitched up at the Royal Festival Hall members’ bar, with Jamie [Glazebrook], my partner. Steve pitched it to us and then he asked if we thought we could sell a show about this.

We said yes, and we did, and that was it. I don’t know what to say, it was just really easy.

 

THE FUTURE OF TV

I was listening to an interview with you from 2010, and you were saying you were worried with the way TV was going, and that it was going to be divided between rich people and poor people. Do you think that’s happened?

It’s totally happened. You have the money to buy Netflix, the money to download from iTunes. If you don’t, you’re stuck watching HOLBY CITY for the rest of your life.

 

Working for the BBC must have been quite important then?

I can’t tell you how important it is to have the BBC. The sad thing is that it can’t compete unless it learns a few tricks from the US.

PEAKY BLINDERS is loved in 200 countries, as far as I can tell. There’s a way to talk to people, internationally. First you’re a person, then you’re a man, then you live in a country, and then you live in a country in a certain time.

You can do well by doing good. It’s not impossible, it’s just hard.

 

What about streaming platforms, like Netflix and Amazon, would you like to work with them?

Who’s going to say no? They have the money. You’d rather work for or with the best partner. Whoever it is, if it’s Sky next, or ITV.

Somehow everybody knows, and I don’t know how, if the network love your show. I don’t know how people know the network loves your show, but it’s something non-spoken. It’s not about marketing, but it is about word of mouth.

We forget that, outside of all this social media business, we talk to each other. So hopefully the BBC’s enthusiasm for PEAKY helped bring everyone to the party.

It certainly wasn’t the marketing budget, because there’s no money!

We had the Socialist Worker give us the best review this year, and the Mail, and the Sun! You can do well by doing good. It’s just hard.

 

And PEAKY really feels like event TV. Even if you didn’t have the marketing budget, when it came along it felt like an event. How did you go about getting these big names in every season?

It’s pretty easy. You wouldn’t believe it, but artists actually have integrity, and they actually like to do good work! It’s not about the money, that’s for sure.

You call up Adrian Brody’s agent, and you say, “Hi, so listen, we’d like to do this Italian character, Adrian would be really good for it. By the way, there’s no money, and it’s really cold in Liverpool. He’s going to have to be there for four months. Sound great?”

Artists like to be associated with other artists. Steve’s a fantastic artist, and Cillian is a fantastic artist, and so are our directors are fantastic artists. These are proper artists, not in it for the money.

 

You’ve done a few movies as well, a couple directed by Bob Odenkirk. Is that something you want to get back into?

There’s no difference between film and TV. If you go home and want something to watch, does it matter?

You’re watching Amazon, Netflix, or whatever. You’re going to watch it on your phone or your watch in a couple of weeks!

 

And PEAKY feels like a movie, it looks like a movie.

Well PEAKY is like three movies, when you think about it. 6 episodes, the equivalent of three movies.

 

I’d love to hear where you think TV is heading in the future, and comedy in particular.  

It makes me sad. I despair a bit about comedy, because the writer is less important than the marketing value of the star.

But the star can’t write, the star is the star. The star can advise on writing, but the star is busy being the star and isn’t sitting in a room and writing jokes, or anything.

Globalisation’s also a problem for comedy, unless it’s physical comedy, or animated comedy. Because Italians don’t laugh at the same thing Spanish people laugh at, for example.

Comedy won’t ever die, by the way, don’t worry about that. One kid in the world wants to make another kid laugh, that’s as solid as rain. It’s always gonna work.

But we’re just in a weird transitional period where I think everyone’s frightened. Comedy is scary because you can get taken down so fast for whatever reason, and I think it’s just super dangerous.

 

Of course, you ushered in a whole new era of it in the ‘80s.

It was easier in the ‘80s and ‘90s. It wasn’t easy, but it wasn’t like it is now.

Odenkirk’s brilliant. He’s from my hometown of Chicago, and he’s so funny. But he thinks of himself as a writer first, and an actor or performer second. Tina Fey thinks of herself as writer first and performer second.

You have to talk about who among the comedy elite answers the question. Am I a writer? If you scratch me, do I bleed writer? Do I bleed performer?

Here it’s just really hard, because there’s no evident faith in writers.

 

Is there anything you haven’t yet done that you’d love to have a go at?

I’ve had a charmed life. I’ve been completely lucky!

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QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR

I was interested in your transition from sitcoms to drama.

Well, Steve was a comedy writer. Jasper Carrott was his parter. So he was making the transition as well. Comedy’s harder, obviously, everyone knows that.

I don’t know why Steve chose us, but he did. I think it’s just an approach to character. The number one thing is that we honour character, not plot. And he was all about character.

The working class, Chicago background helps. I’m not in the club, I didn’t go to Oxford or Cambridge. My experience is honest.

 

You made the process of choosing projects seem really intuitive. Could you speak more about what you look for?

It doesn’t matter what I look for really, it’s market-driven. I listen really hard to what’s not there. I listen to what they say they want.

People use terrible words here, you can’t even understand what they’re saying. Bold, ambitious, what does that mean? I don’t know what they’re talking about!

But I’m an audience member. We look at Netflix, at BBC, trying to figure out what isn’t seen. I know that there’s a character out there that’s missing, like with ROSEANNE.

NURSE JACKIE was my god-daughter. I went to see her work and then I realised that there was a spiritual crisis, because she’s a Catholic and it wasn’t working out. On any side of her life.

I bought her life rights, and I asked her to keep a diary where she’d write what she’d do and say if she knew she wouldn’t get caught and thrown in jail, or sent to the loony bin. That person wasn’t on TV.

Television is so dystopian, there’s a boatload of serial killers out there. Anything that’s entertaining now is going to help. The show VIKINGS, for example. It’s fantastic and it’s so entertaining. Michael Hirst is a great writer.

 

Maybe that will be good for comedy then? 

It would be, apart from all the other issues I mentioned. It doesn’t travel and everyone’s terrified of it.

You can count on the fingers of one hand how many things actually travel. It’s still got a long way to go. Here we’re so middle class, and we’re so angry, there’s no getting around it. But that’s not how everyone feels. It’s parochial to British people.

In order to have a hit that travels, you have to go deeper, past whatever seems to be British, and it’s super hard.

That’s the answer to your question, actually. Something that I haven’t done that I’d like to do is a comedy in Britain.

 

Why do some British shows or concepts, for example THE OFFICE, work in America and some don’t? 

Everybody has an office.

The reason why certain things work cross-border is because we have them and you have them. We have fatuous bosses, you have fatuous bosses, we have offices in the middle of nowhere, you’ve got the same.

That is the reason it travelled.

ALAN PARTRIDGE doesn’t travel. I speak both languages, I’m an aficionado, so I knew ALAN PARTRIDGE when I first saw it. But you can’t adapt it, because it’s just too British.

Americans can be obnoxious. They really think they’re doing the best stuff. And 90 percent don’t have passports. It’s very difficult for Americans to say, “I was in London once.” It has to be about the Queen for them to like it.

There’s a real lack of sensitivity. Here, there’s a show on Channel 4 that’s Swedish and you don’t care. You’re part of a greater world. We’re so parochial. Our culture is overwhelming! It’s really hard.

But if you have the wit and the strength to do it, it can be done, as long as it’s relatable. How do you think the Disney empire is built? It’s on big eyes, big ears, and mother stories. Usually dead mother stories!

 

Where do you see the endpoint is for companies like Netflix?

I think somebody will probably buy them one day, or they’ll go bust. I have no idea, I don’t really follow the business of the business, because it’s just too big.

Disney is buying Fox! This is like one of those Japanese monster movies. It’s scary, I try not to think about it.

I’m not in that business, that’s where I’m not on the dock, I’m really on the boat.

 

Do you think the BBC should be worried about competition from streaming?  

PEAKY is a third of the money of MINDHUNTER, maybe less.

Some of the best movies, films that won the Academy Award, MOONLIGHT, are cheap. Developed at Sundance. You don’t have to spend huge amounts of money.

The BBC I think is going to be fine. The bigger problem is the training of the individuals who know how to do binge-able series.

HOWARD’S END is great, but it’s not exactly binge-able. It happened, it’s only four episodes. Developing things for longer runs is the challenge for the BBC.

 

When you went to the BBC with PEAKY BLINDERS, did you say it would be five seasons from the start?

I’m sure they were shocked. But it’s not necessarily about the money, it’s about viewing habits. This is not going to change.

Back in 1988, I had a T-shirt that said, “I survived 14 time slots.” They moved 3RD ROCK to put on their own shows. Only one of the 14 worked, which was FRESH PRINCE OF BEL-AIR.

3RD ROCK was really challenged. People had to find it. Habit is important to develop, especially among the prize viewers, who are the young men.

They commissioned season 4 and 5 of PEAKY in one go. That’s precedent. do you know how happy I was?

 

Does iPlayer makes a big difference?

Oh, it’s fantastic. The more they can do that, the better off we all are. I think half of our viewership is on iPlayer now, roughly.

 

You mentioned earlier that you find writers, that they don’t come to you. How would people starting out get on the grid?

You have an agent, that’s a start. We talk to them. Otherwise it’s quite vulnerable, if somebody sends you something you’re liable to lawsuits and it’s nerve-racking. You don’t want to be in that position.

So we go through agents. We meet with them, and we’ll say the areas that we’re interested in. Personally I’m interested in the British character.

Anything that is perennial, non-parochial, present and about British characters.

So Tommy is present. He’s damaged, he’s screwed up, he’s got a family he doesn’t quite know, kind of loves his kid, kind of doesn’t, he has a girlfriend, maybe that’ll work. He’s as real as he’s sitting right here, right now.

Secondarily, I’m interested personally in, and the market is too, what’s happening now. That means talking to journalists, which I do. A movie like SYRIANA, for example.

We don’t get enough of that high quality stuff. I’d love to see more of that. That was a really great movie, great script, great director. You could have developed it here, but here it would have been a four-parter on BBC2.

Things that are important, but not necessarily heavy, or sad, or the saddest.

 

I thought Steven Knight’s LOCKE was great.

Best movie ever. Unbelievable. How about no nominations from the Academy for that? It had a tiny bit of money, no marketing, and it was revolutionary. That’s a great movie. Everything he’s done is brilliant.

It’s very relatable too, which is the point. You may not be a father, I wasn’t. I may not be Aunt Polly, but I know Aunt Polly.

Don’t make characters distant, or weird, or one-offs. Oscar Wilde is interesting, but I don’t know anybody like him. He’s too different to me now. I’m not looking for the oddball. It’s all about the relatable.

 

I’m 55 years old, and this year I wrote, directed and produced my first feature film. But I still felt that, even when I’d raised all the money, and was standing on my own movie set, I’d stepped into a minefield of misogyny. I was still fighting to be heard. Do you have any tips?

It’s annoying isn’t it?

The first thing is, in the way that we do, we share our stories. We talk to each other. We try to do what you’ve done, which is to protect yourself by owning it and raising the money.

You have to find a culture where respecting women is normalised. In terms of the dire situation of quid pro quo, an “if this, then that,” those people are banished, and you’re loud about it. You heap shame on anyone who gives you a quid pro quo.

If they touch you – metaphorically – you kick them in the nuts, that’s what you do. Without being hyperbolic, you banish their existence.

 

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The Insider Interviews: Caryn Mandabach
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