Good Morning TV One

A Transcript of Raymond Thompson’s Appearance on Good Morning – TV One
An export of the BBC in Britain, Raymond Thompson is standing by to tell us about his passion for high quality television and why he chooses to work in New Zealand First of all though international television producer, Raymond Thompson was presented an order of merit in 2002 for his services to the local industry, his international credits include Casualty and Howard’s Way. His production company keeps him on c9 and he joins me now Welcome Raymond – Good morning Lisa How are you? Raymond – I’m very well indeed, nice to be back in New Zealand You like it here don’t you? Raymond – I love New Zealand actually, its home now, its my spiritual home, I love it I really do So just take us back, you were actually born in England but you were raised in Canada.Raymond – That’s right I was born in Redditch, which is in the Midlands in England I know it well. Raymond – Yes that’s right, but my parents immigrated to Canada so I was aware at a very young age of that kind of new world experience and its quite interesting my parents thought about coming to New Zealand or Australia and so I arrived 30 years later, but delighted to be here. Got here eventually. Raymond – Yeah got here eventually So how did you get into television? Raymond – Well I always wanted to write Lisa, I was a child of the 60s you know and the hippie generation. But you were a musician before that weren’t you? Raymond – I was a musician, that’s right I was, everyone was at that time in England with the Beatles and the new culture revolution. I was really inspired by the lyrics of John Lennon and I love words and I always wanted to write. My mother thought I was going to be a doctor because she couldn’t read my own handwriting and I was always spelling and I was terrible at school but I just loved it really. Persistence, nothing succeeds like persistence, so I just kept writing each and every other day, poetry and short stories and eventually I got lucky. So what was your first break in television?Raymond – My first break really was knocking on the door of the BBC I think and hounding the security guard and sending resumes as everybody needs to do, everybody has a story in them and everybody wants to write I guess. But I just had this burning desire to do it and a young man gave me a break and was really supportive. This was back I guess in the 70s and that grew to be very successful and I have to say at the BBC in those days they were as a child with no real education. The BBC would tend to hire people with equal opportunities, they’d hire half from Oxford and half from Cambridge, which were kind of the blueblood universities. So it was quite a big break for me to get in there.
And you went on to be head of development in drama. Raymond – I did very much so yes in the 80’s. Yes I think it was one of my shows that I had written and developed called Howard’s Way – which ran successfully, some of your viewers might remember that in New Zealand, a family saga set against the boating industry. It should have been done really in New Zealand because I mean Auckland… Would have been perfect wouldn’t it? Raymond – Would have been perfect I mean, per capita because I think there’s more yachts here than anywhere in the world and I went on to develop shows like House of Elliott and Casualty, which is still showing here. I worked on All Creatures Great and Small and Love Hurts. Quite a few things, it was a great time really. Do you think that, I mean the BBC is very much held up as the benchmark for drama, does it deserve that? Raymond – In those days I think it did now it’s perhaps in all honesty lost its way a bit. Countries like New Zealand have stepped into that mantle you know because it’s a deregulated market. Its very competitive market now and your viewers I mean they’re the ones who decide who is on top and who isn’t, simply by that remote control switch But they have a pennant for good writers, they believe in writers, and I love writers, and without the writers there’s virtually nothing. So you came to New Zealand really what 10 years ago would it be? Raymond – Yeah that’s right, I mean basically we came down here to do the Enid Blyton Adventure Series initially and I was looking for a country that had a diverse range of locations and I came back to, or I came down to New Zealand initially for about 6 weeks to do a recce or to look at the country and it’s a world in a country, it’s a spectacular country. I couldn’t believe that you have virtually everything here and 10 years later I’m still here, you know I love it. I guess you could argue that New Zealand’s been good to you because you have been very successful with your series. Raymond – Very good, I mean I think there is enormous talent here and I’ve always gone on record as saying I think new Zealand is almost the Hollywood of the 1920’s – this number 8 wire, this kiwi no 8 wire is phenomenal – and without that kind of attitude, its very positive. We couldn’t really have achieved what we have been able to achieve. We’ve been very prolific we’re considered one of the leading independents around the world. But its not me it’s the kiwi talent that’s built the company and I owe a lot to New Zealand and I owe a lot to the talent and I carry that, I travel the world quite regularly carrying the banner of New Zealand talent and rightly so. Why do you think that its been mainly geared towards children’s television? Raymond – Well I believe we have a responsibility in television, as custodians of the airways, you know when we’re invited into peoples livings rooms, and particularly for children, there is so much fast food television – in the lowest common denominator, karate chop television, particularly in animation, and when I saw my grandchildren looking at some of these shows, I mean I grew up on the some of the Disney classics, Bambi which are great stories, very strong storytelling and I think that I, I really believe that its essential that we provide positive and inspirational programming. So we kind of provide a niche for ourselves and it think its important family kind of programming which granny, mum and dad, and all ages can sit down and really enjoy it. And there’s little available these days I have to say with this reality tv. Nothing wrong with it – but I wish the broadcasters around the world would save a slot. In my day it was Sunday teatime you could sit down and you knew it was safe so I’ve aspired to have Cloud 9 evolve into a brand that people know what they’re seeing and its not going to be violent or controversial. What are you working on at the moment? Raymond – I’ve just finished an animation series, a 3D animation series, called Roly in the Country with Blue, which is about a polar bear and a snail. It’s targeted at preschool and that was just launched about 2 weeks ago in Cannes at the MIP festival. And I’m hopeful that that will do well and that so it’s a fun evolution for us to get into animation from live action. And coming up in the near future? Raymond – Coming up I’ve just entered into a joint venture with a lady called Brit Allcroft who is quite an icon in our industry she did Thomas the Tank Engine and Brit’s a very big fan of New Zealand actually, she’s going to come down here and we’re just looking at kind of locations to film a new series which I hope will go into production about January and that will last throughout 2005 and will come to the screens in about 2006. And you’ve bought a vineyard haven’t you? Raymond – I’ve bought a vineyard, Tirohana Estate, which is fun. That’s exciting. Raymond – Its important Lisa in my business, I spend my life in aeroplanes and hotels and I love the Wairarapa, you know I mean when I drive over there as people say down in this neck of the woods, it just kind of winds me down and I think its important in life to have a balance and I like to sit on the tractor and look at the hills and get away from everything really, so its kind of fun. Hmm do you think you’ll stay here? Raymond – Yes I do, New Zealand is my home really I mean its my adopted home, I’ve taken up kiwi citizenship and my family love it here and I mean the business is a global one. And I sadly am not able to spend as much time here in New Zealand but you have to go where the work is like any actor, director or whatever. But New Zealand is where we want to be and my grandson is a Kiwi, he was born here and we love it, we try and get back as much as we can. And now we have the vineyard and that’s a reason for us to switch off turn off the mobile and get on that tractor and get back to the basics really. Which you’ve got to be able to do Raymond – Yeah absolutely You also do quite a bit of charity work, tell me about the Aspergers thing Raymond – Yeah we have a charity the Cloud 9 Children’s Foundation, my youngest son was diagnosed with Aspergers and we found it very, very difficult you know to find any advice indeed information about it, this was 10 years ago I have to say lately its becoming more known to mums and dads and teachers particularly. So we set up a charity to really try and raise the profile of it and that’s very, very important. Generally just to educate people because they can be misdiagnosed as kind of rebels or bad kids really, its just special needs – each school has somebody that is touched by it or affected by Aspergers. So we do a lot of work and mainly to try and raise the profile. And to break down the stereotype too Raymond – Very much so yes There’s so much of that out there isn’t there?Raymond – Very, very much so, yes there is. And do you get any spare time to keep writing, are you doing any writing yourself? Raymond – I write every day you know, again not as much as I would like to but I feel the need to write, I have to write and if I could understand my own handwriting that would be good but my assistant is terrific at dictating and I think its important – it’s a way that I can express myself and its what I do and love doing really. Well long may it continue. Thank you very much for being with us this morning Raymond – Thank you Lisa nice to see you.