Last week, I interviewed the editor of the Wall Street Journal, Gerard Baker, for the book. It was a fascinating discussion, ranging from his experiences of politics at university, through to his editorial career in the States. In the same week, Lord Rowan Williams, the 104th Archbishop of Canterbury has also become a contributor. If you have any questions for him, please tweet them at me via @Ashley_Coates.
Whether it’s a camera suspended from a bicycle wheel, suspended from a wire, scaling a mound of bat droppings or hut in a rainforest set up months in advance to capture the illusive birds of paradise, the efforts involved in producing natural history content are staggering. Given that the reaction of so many viewers to the BBC’s natural history output is “how did they do it?”, Alastair Fothergill is a very appropriate interviewee in this series. The programmes he is best known for, including Frozen Planet and Life in the Freezer, feature both spectacular images of the natural world and feats of filmmaking innovation. Each of Alastair’s major series took several years to complete with teams working across many different parts of the world recording often filming in single locations for many months. In this interview, Alastair discusses both his own career path, which took him from producing student films at Durham to becoming Head of the BBC Natural History Unit, and how his own films are put together.
A few months ago, I spoke to Tony Little about his teaching career and his experiences at the helm of Eton College. Arguably the most interesting part of this interview is where we discuss what it is that makes Eton’s boys so successful. Eton has produced an extraordinary number of the great and good of this country, including 19 Prime Ministers, Princes William and Harry, Boris Johnson, John Maynard Keynes and Ranulph Fiennes to name a few. For Tony, himself an Old Etonian, self-reliance, an ability to get things done, the sense of being part of a great institution, and a passion for excellence, are four reasons why Etonians are high achievers.
“You have young men, in the main, who are the kind of people who roll up their sleeves and get things done, with an attitude that “I can change the world”. Sometimes they think too much that they can change the world. But it is a good starting point. I would sum it up by saying this: schools should enable young people to have a true sense of self worth, because if they have that, then they can start being of use both to themselves and to society.”
44,000 words in, How Did They Do It? is now about half way towards completion. There are 29 contributors to the project and between them there are 4 knighthoods, 2 Lords, 2 billionaires and 13 multi-millionaires. Over the last few months I have visited the headquarters of Red Bull Racing, the House of Lords and Sandhurst to name a few locations. What I hope is being captured are both the specifics as to how these individuals have achieved success in their various fields as well as getting a sense of what sort of person has, for example, launched Superdry, or Time Out. In the interview I am editing at the moment, Alastair Fothergill explains in-depth how he and the team behind Planet Earth and The Blue Planet managed to film the extraordinary sequences from those two projects, both of which took many years to complete. He was also on BBC Breakfast this morning discussing his latest project, Chimpanzee, a feature-length documentary produced by Disney Nature which is out in cinemas tomorrow. In the last week, two other giants from the world of film have joined the roster, Nick Park, the creator of Wallace and Gromit and Sir Peter Bazalgette, the man behind some of the most successful television series of recent times. The latest interview to be uploaded was with BBC journalist Evan Davis.
Donato Coco’s obsession with automotive design began while he was in his school years, copying out sketches of the cars that he found most inspiring. His career really took off when Citroen spotted the young designer’s talents through a competition and sponsored him through the Royal College of Art where he received a Masters in Automotive Design.
Prior to working at Lotus, Donato Coco rose to become Chief Designer at Citroen, heading up the design teams that produced the Xsara, C3 and Picasso amongst others. More recently he worked on the Ferrari F458, F430 and California as Ferrari’s Director of Design and Development. His role at Lotus has perhaps been his most challenging yet, tasked with producing six new concepts in ten months as part of the company’s efforts to demonstrate its new focus on innovation and bolster its drive to up production of its light-weight sports cars.
Before you commit to anything, it’s really important to look at what your worst case scenario would be. If, for whatever reason, your business doesn’t work out the way you thought it might, what would be the consequences for you? For instance, If you’re leaving a secure job there’s a good chance that you’ve got a strong enough background and CV to get another job, so it’s not too risky. Once you’ve made the decision to do it, go for it and don’t look back.
Travelling to Washington DC and witnessing Martin Luther King’s speech at the Washington Monument certainly helped. University saw John diversify into a number of different areas including comedy and theatre, I asked him why he chose journalism over his other pursuits.
“I suppose I had a choice between being a comic actor of some kind and being a journalist and I always thought that journalism would be more exciting, I thought we would travel the world, which in those days was quite difficult to do. If you wanted to go to Vietnam for example, it was quite difficult to do that if you were an ordinary person, where as if you are a reporter, it’s often horribly easy to find yourself in Vietnam because that was the big war that was going on and there were a lot of reporters involved.”
Last week I spoke to Chris Edwards, the co-founder and co-managing director of Poundworld, the discount retailer which last year opened it’s 208th outlet. Chris began his career in retail on his parent’s market stall in Wakefield, West Yorkshire. Despite the explosive growth of Poundworld over the last six years, Edwards is adamant that his primary motivation is “fear of failure” in the increasingly difficult environment of the UK high street. You can read the full interview here.
Despite receiving a grilling in a 2006 episode of Dragons’ Den, Rob’s company has gone from strength to strength, prompting Duncan Bannatyne to comment that Trunki was the “one that got away”. You can read part of my interview with Rob here.
My interview with Allan Niblo is now online here. Allan co-founded Vertigo Films, producing The Football Factory, Streetdance and last summer’s The Sweeney.