Join your hosts Saanvi and Saskia as they talk to Ragdoll Productions, creators of popular children’s TV shows including Twirlywoos and B.O.T. and the Beasties.
Welcome to the third episode of our podcast Unravel the Arts!
About Episode #3
Your podcast hosts interview award-winning producer and director Christopher Wood, of Ragdoll Productions.
Ragdoll Production’s shows are loved by children all around the world. Founded by Anne Wood in 1984, it has produced more than 1,500 internationally acclaimed children’s television programmes including B.O.T. and the Beasties, Teletubbies, In the Night Garden, Rosie & Jim and so many more.
As a Producer, Christopher’s credits include Blips, Boohbah, Brum, the BAFTA award-winning Dipdap, The Adventures of Abney & Teal and Twirlywoos.
How to listen
Who is in this podcast?
In this episode you will hear the voices of your hosts, Saanvi and Saskia, as well as Ragdoll’s Chris. You’ll also hear from Danny, our Podcast Producer, plus other members of the podcast team in the background, Sophie and Rebecca.
Missed the past episodes?
In our first ever episode, we tour the Royal Shakespeare Company and in episode 2 we chat to dancers at Motionhouse. Catch up and listen online.
Behind the scenes photos
Photos from our podcast recording with Ragdoll Productions which took place at The Other Place, Royal Shakespeare Company, Stratford-upon-Avon.
Full episode transcript
[Christopher Wood] The most important thing for us is making a really strong narrative that people engage in, that’s funny. We always have a question when writing is about, why do you care? It’s a really hard question to ask.
You have to create a certain level of tension in a story, so that they engage in that. That’s our focus really, is creating a narrative that creates a tension, that you’ll care about it,hopefully it’ll make you laugh. If we get those things right, I can relax. Job done.
[Saanvi] Hi I’m Saanvi and I live in Leamington Spa.
[Saskia] And I’m Saskia and I live in Wellsbourne.
[Both] We’re members of Shout Out for the Arts.
[Saanvi] Shout Out for the Arts is a group of young people who are passionate about the arts and work towards enriching arts and culture in Warwickshire.
[Saskia] Today we’re here at The Other Place in Stratford with Chris Wood, director and programme producer of Ragdoll Productions.
[Saanvi] So let’s explore the behind the scenes productions of some childrens’ favourite TV programmes.
[Christopher Wood] So, thank you for inviting me today Saskia. It’s lovely to come along. How long have you been doing your podcast for?
[Saskia] Think it’s been since September.
[CW] Yeah and how are you enjoying it? Are you OK?
[Saskia] Yes, really good.
[CW] Is it good? Yeah. So how are you Saanvi, are you well?
[Saanvi] I am good thank you, how are you?
[CW] I am well and thank you for inviting me today, I appreciate that. I’m very honoured to be invited to your podcast. It’s great to get to know you. Is this your first time doing the podcast?
[Saanvi] Yeah for this one, but I have done interviews before.
[CW] Oh wow.
[Saanvi] With like.
[CW] Tell me who you have interviewed?
[Saanvi] I have interviewed the RSC’s Head of Digital Development.
[Saanvi] Yeah, cause I’m also part of the Youth Advisory Board at the RSC.
[Saanvi] Which is like a group of 15-20 of us.
[Saanvi] And we’re like from all across the UK and we’re thinking about like changing the perspective of Shakespeare for young people and Shakespeare in like schools, the curriculum. And yeah enriching the arts and stuff.
[CW] I used to work here in stage management many many years ago. So it’s really lovely to come back to The Other Place and to see. I haven’t been back for a long, long time so a lot has changed. But all for the better, all for the good, it looks fantastic space.
You know what, one thing is I was asked to bring something along with me today as well. And just to say I’ve got it in my bag. So when you feel you think it’s a good time, just let me know. Just to let me know. Alright.
[CW] Hello, my name is Chris Wood and I am a producer at Ragdoll Productions.
[Saanvi] Thanks for joining us today Chris.
[CW] Thank you, it’s lovely to be here and thank you very much for inviting me.
[Saanvi] First of all can you briefly explain what Ragdoll Productions is and a bit about your role.
[CW] So, Ragdoll Productions was set up in 1984. Quite a long time ago. It’s an independent television production company that specialises in making work for young children. People may recognise Ragdoll through the work we have done such as Teletubbies, In The Night Garden, other shows Abney & Teal, DipDap and Twirlywoos of course, which is going out on CBeebies. Well most of the shows actually, we’re very privileged actually, most of our shows go out on CBeebies now.
So yeah, we tend to specialise in work up to about 6 years of age, so kind of 3-6 is our core audience.
[Saanvi] Yeah, I remember I used to Watch Teletubbies when I was younger.
[CW] Did you? Oh really? Did you like it?
[Saanvi] Yeah. It was really great.
[CW] Oh good, thank you. That’s a relief. Oh good thank you.
[Saanvi] It was really funny as well.
[CW] Was it? Oh good. I tell you what I’m so pleased you said it was funny. Because that’s one of the most important things at Ragdoll. We’ve got to, our ambition, not that we have to make it happen, but it’s down to the audience. But we always always want to focus on comedy, you know, in a lot of our work. We always say that if you can make a child laugh then they’re relaxed. If they’re relaxed, they’re confident and in confidence grows inquisitiveness and all sorts of other things.
So, and more importantly over the years of me working on this and doing this work is. When you make children laugh you make a connection with them, you know. And there’s a great buzz when you create work and make a great connection with the audience. It’s a wonderful thing.
So, shall I tell you what I do at Ragdoll? So, it’s a family run company. So I work with my mum.
[Saanvi] That must be nice.
[CW] Yeah, it must be nice. It is, it is nice. I’m very lucky. She’s a wonderful woman. So her name was Anne Wood, she was the founder of Ragdoll Productions. I’ve worked with my mum for nearly 20 odd years now. She’s the creative director. So her role within the company now is that she identifies and works on developing new work and content.
My role is a producer. So, producers in television have all sorts of different roles, but ultimately they’re kind of an overseer of a production. So my initial role is I will oversee the production to make sure that it is implemented in the right way to the vision of the creative ambition and that the money is spent wisely to our budget, so we can deliver that to the BBC. So, I’m ultimately responsible, but of course with television you can’t do it on your own.
The unique thing about television is it’s a collaborative process, so it requires lots of different people; directors, cameramen, sound engineers, actors, animators, puppeteers – all sorts of people. Particularly in our area. So, I work with lots of different people that help us to get to that final place where we create a new show for the audience, which hopefully if we’re very lucky they’ll enjoy and watch.
[Saanvi] So how’s your experience been working with all these different people?
[CW] Wonderful, wonderful. It really is because I’ve learnt a lot from them. Particularly a lot of the creative people. They have given me all sorts of different influences. When you make something creatively you obviously are making it from your own experience a lot of the time, creative people do.
So, it’s maybe what you’ve experienced in your life or what you’ve seen on a stage or in the cinema. That you might think wow that’s a wonderful piece of work. And all these little things may have an influence on your work. So when you work with creative people, one of the things I think is really important is to get to know them and to get to understand their way of working. Which is important because we all work slightly differently.
But also the opportunity to share. Oh did you see this, did you read that? Having those different kinds of conversations is really really helpful. Particularly for me because when I grew up, when I was very young, I suffered from dyslexia. So I find it really hard, well I found it really hard reading. So when I was very young I didn’t read very much to be honest with you.
Not because I didn’t want to but because I found it hard to. Working in the arts, working in the theatre actually helped me because I discovered that I really enjoyed acting. I wasn’t, I haven’t been, I’m not an actor. But I really enjoyed it and the whole process of me acting gave me confidence so I was able to find my way through the theatre and through other things.
So what this kind of career that I’ve had has given me the opportunity is to really catch up on things. Now that I’m getting better at reading, I’ve learnt ways of techniques and I’ve had great support from people who have helped me to learn and read even better. So I’m able to, I enjoy reading now, I love it. So I’ve got a really big appetite, I feel like I’ve missed a lot with my younger years. I’ve been catching up.
So to go back to my creative people they’ve been sharing with me. So working with them has given me lots of different avenues and lots of different things to read and understand as well. That’s just kind of on a personal note.
So to answer your question because I kind of rambled on for quite a while. Is to say yeah it’s been great working with lots of different people and of course everybody contributes to the show. Everybody has a role and it’s really important to understand that and respect that to get the best out of people really, because that’s what it’s all about.
[Saskia] OK, what’s the best part of your job?
[CW] Best part of my job is the most satisfying part of my job is when we share the final piece of work with the audience and that they make a connection with it. It’s a really wonderful, it’s kind of a very straightforward simple thing. But it’s a wonderful feeling that you’ve spent sometimes in development of a show, a new show, for us it can take a year, a year and a half thinking through the ideas and developing it. And then you’ve got another year, year and a half of production, pre-production, production.
You’ve taken a long long time but to share the final piece with the audience and to see them respond is the most wonderful feeling. It’s kind of, yeah you just get a tremendous buzz from it. You just think wow, this does work, you know? Because ultimately you never know how the audience is going to respond. You have experience of understanding what they, you understand what they’re about through all the experience you’ve had and working with education consultants, which we do all the time.
But ultimately you never know when you create that piece of work whether they’re going to like it or not. Of course we’ll try things out on the way. I mean part of my other role is children’s response. So I go out and I share bits of work at certain stages to see yes that’s working. But the ultimate result is you know you have to wait. So getting that connection is just an amazing feeling.
[S] That must be the best risk you’ve ever taken?
[CW] Yeah, yeah. It is. It’s risky, it’s risky you know. But I think the more you do it, the more you understand. So, it’s a risk but it’s a thoughtful risk. It’s a risk that’s taken from experience. You kind of know certain things will work. But ultimately having that yes they’re laughing, which is a wonderful thing you know. Or they’re just sitting and watching, that’s even better because you know they’re concentrating. It is very satisfying.
[Saanvi] Going back to what you said about connecting with the audience, have you ever considered adding in a dyslexic character?
[CW] I mean yeah. I think it’s a very good point. I think it’s really important that the show should reflect every child. We always say in television, television can be a window and a mirror. So it’s really important that we focus on all the audience. So how we shoot things, how we cast things are really really mindful about representing different people from different diverse backgrounds. Also locations that they offer a spectrum of locations. So we know that audiences are from all sorts of backgrounds, so we try our best to encapsulate the diverse culture and the different locations that we have here in the UK.
I think the most important thing for us is making a really strong narrative that people engage in, you know, that’s funny. We always have a question when writing is about, why do you care? It’s a really hard question to ask, you know, when you’re writing something you think why are they going to care about this. You think oh I don’t know.
So you have to think really hard, so you have to create a certain level of tension in a story, yeah, so they engage in that. So that’s our focus really, is creating a narrative that creates a tension that you’ll care about it, and hopefully it’ll make you laugh. If we get those things right I can relax. Job done.
[Saanvi] Since Ragdoll Productions was founded by your mother, did you make any new changes when you joined?
[CW] No. I did as I’m told.
[CW] You know? You imagine you telling my mum. No. I think working with my mum is a really really lovely thing, but also it’s sometimes a bit challenging as she knows you very well. And you know, working in television sometimes the pressure can be on so, it’s a difficult balance but ultimately it has been a fantastic experience, because I have worked with her now for over 20 years. So we must be doing something right for us to be together for that long and not fall out.
But I think ultimately what makes us work together is we have shared values. So the values in our work are very very important to us and that’s what unites us. And I think ultimately that’s why Anne asked me to join and work with her. Because it was a difficult one for her because if I wasn’t particularly good it wouldn’t look good on her and the rest of the company. So that was a difficult call for her, but I think ultimately we both share the same values in the work and she knew that. Because obviously I had grown up those. So I think ultimately that’s what was really important in working with her.
So in terms of making any changes we didn’t really ultimately make any changes, however I helped develop this children’s response unit which is going out and sharing work at various stages and so I introduced those things. But that was because Anne was keen to have a connection with the audience in the development process so that we didn’t lose sight of the audience. Because children live in the same world as us but they perceive it differently.
[CW] And that perception is really really important to us. You know because when you’re growing up you don’t have the references as when you’re older. So you see things for the first time a lot of the time for young children, so it’s really important to connect with that perception. That is the thing that is really important. So, to gather responses from the audience, to input that into the team. It helps give us all, including myself, a very clear focus of where we should take this work.
[Saanvi] And is it sometimes hard to convey your characters in your world through like children’s perspectives?
[CW] It’s a very good question. You’re asking some really good questions.
[CW] Crikey. Let me try and answer this the only way I can. So I think in the work, in the experience – I can only talk from experience really. I don’t know it all. Believe you me. If I knew it all. That’s another good thing you know, I don’t know it all. I’m still learning and that’s why I keep doing the work because you’re learning something new every time.
But I think you have to allow space in the work for children to make the connection for themselves. If you do everything in a story for them they won’t care. But if you give enough space they will might think why is that like that? I’ll watch the next bit, you know, so you always try and allow space and timing.
One of the things in working with Anne, my mum, that I’ve learnt from her, she intuitively really understands about the pacing of the show, how to time that to allow the time for the child to make the connection before moving onto the next beat of the story. If that makes sense, yeah? So, it’s allowing that space in the work that is so important, that children can then feel part of, you know, follow the show and feel connected with it. If that makes sense. Very good question thank you.
[Saanvi] Thank you.
[Saskia] I heard you’re looking for more performers and writers. What talents would they have to have?
[CW] I’m always looking for good writers and performers. What talents? Simple, got to make children laugh. Good question Saskia. I think it’s a sense, it’s a special kind of comedy. It’s what we call innocent fun. That’s why I think a lot of times visual comedy is so important. Because it is very obvious, but you know children love that kind of stuff. But it is this innocent fun and a sense of the audience. It’s a difficult quality to kind of precisely define. But it’s kind of an instinct really.
There’s various things that we do to help to kind of find ways of what we’re looking for. Our approach is one approach of many others. There are lots of other production companies doing really good work for children and they do things slightly differently. But from our perspective we have a certain way of working.
So, we always try to connect, try and do some kind of exercises and think about the person writing or performer. And also you know with performers it’s all about well what are you trying to create, who are the roles, do they work for what you need? So, sometimes it’s quite specific about oh I need that kind of person for this role and you know you just kind of do it from that way.
[Saanvi] Not to make this negative or anything.
[CW] No it’s fine.
[Saanvi] I was just wondering what challenges did you face during lockdown and how did Ragdoll Productions change during lockdown?
[CW] Good question and no it’s not a negative question, it’s a very good question actually. The time of lockdown we were making a show called B.O.T. and The Beasties and it’s a 2D animation. One of the things that we did for B.O.T. and The Beasties was, I was very keen to give young people the opportunity to give their first role in a professional production. B.O.T. and The Beasties was a 2D animation, so its workflow, how you created it was relatively, in my terms, because I do some quite complex work, straightforward. And I knew a really good animator I’ve worked with called Dave McKenna and he helped me devise roles so we could give young people an opportunity.
So, a lot of young people in the Warwickshire area, we invited them in and they did a fantastic job and we spent a year working with them in, they were basically two animators assigned to each episode. There were 50 episodes made in total and they worked with a professional, an experienced animator and then there was this junior animator and it was their first opportunity. And we did a year of that and then Covid hit.
I was incredibly impressed with everybody and how they coped with that. So, with 2D animation it’s mostly based on a computer screen, which in one sense is a good thing because you can take a computer screen, you know a strong computer and put it anywhere really. So, I knew there was a point where one of the things I always try to encourage is to be collaborative. So by working together, having lots of different people working together it’s always good. Because when you sit in a room and you’re working creatively, you might have an idea, you might come across someone and say you know oh whatever to the person next to you and have a quick conversation. And those quick conversations can be really really helpful because they inform lots of other things, you know.
But when you work in isolation you don’t have that connection, so that, that’s what we kept together. Because of Covid we couldn’t keep together. So we had to, what we did was we went off into our homes and we connected through the internet. And we used an app called Slack, everybody worked really hard. Everybody was incredibly dedicated to the work, you know. Working from your home on your own, sometimes it’s quite hard to motivate yourself, isn’t it? You get up in the mornings, you know.
[CW] You know, so they were fantastic. But no, you know, considering some of those people, as I said earlier, it was their first professional job. They had that year with us, so that was so important. So they at least got into a rhythm of what we need to do and how much output we needed to create. The style of the show, you know, really honing in the idea of composition of story and all of those things. So they got that. But then to work on your own, you know, particularly when it’s your first job is really hard.They did fantastically well, I was so proud of them. Brilliant. We didn’t miss a beat, we delivered on time and everything. So, I was lucky.
[Saskia] Carrying on with Covid and stuff.
[Saskia] Obviously lots of people were at home and things like that, I wanted to know what the most popular show was during Covid.
[CW] Crickey. I don’t know.
[CW] Well one of ours obviously! Well you know what I mean I think I don’t know what the most popular show was, however in those difficult situations I think sometimes you know watching a show is a great thing, isn’t it? You stay at home, you feel blah pretty down cause you can’t get out. But just having a show that can just for those few minutes take you, you know, your imagination somewhere different and hopefully make you laugh and make you feel relaxed, you know. Then that’s really important thing, isn’t it, you know what I mean, for your own kind of wellbeing.
[Saanvi] My screen time during lockdown was 4 to 5 hours a day.
[CW] Really? Was it?
[CW] How was that? Was that a good thing 3 to 4 hours?
[Saanvi] I mean I was quite bored during lockdown, so yeah TV was the one thing that kept me like not bored.
[CW] Yeah, really? What did you enjoy when you were watching?
[Saanvi] Mainly like Netflix.
[CW] Yeah, yeah yeah yeah.
[Saanvi] I do a lot of reading as well, I love reading. Did you pick up any new hobbies during lockdown?
[CW] I didn’t pick up any hobbies but I learnt a bit more about technology.
[Saanvi] I think everyone did.
[CW] So I grew up you know we didn’t have the internet, we didn’t have the web you know. So, you grow up in a really interesting time with all this kind of connectivity and social media and all that. I didn’t have any of that.
Can I bring out? I’m really excited about, is that alright?
So, here we are with my red and white spotted bag. I’ve brought with me today. When I was invited to this podcast, one of the things they said to me was bring something along because we’re at The Other Place and we’re not over in my office where I’ve got lots of things. Could you bring something along to share. So I thought OK let me have a think and what I’ve done. So in my spotted bag here I’ll unzip it here. Just undo it yeah. I brought a few friends along with me I thought you might like to see. So, here we have.
[CW] There we go, so here’s.
[Saskia] That’s cool!
[Saanvi] I used to watch that.
[CW] Did you? Good. Oh thank goodness for that. Here’s Great BigHoo.
[Sophie] We still watch that.
[CW] Yeah yeah yeah.
[CW] Here’s Toodloo.
[CW] Do you want to take those, you can take them.
[CW] So what I’m putting on the table here is I’ve got Great BigHoo, Toodloo and Chickadee and Chick. These are the characters that we use to animate. You take the little one there. If you move it around, do you see how inside there is a little metal armature?
[CW] OK. So TwirlyWoos, these are the TwirlyWoos for those who are listening. The great thing about them is that they come into the real world. So, and they have adventures for those that don’t know. But they also live on a boat.
And the way that we created it we used stop frame animation OK and live action. So we shot the live action first and then we created these characters in stop frame and then we put them into the live action images with a process called compositing. Which is is kind of a digital process which meant they look like they’re in the real world. And stop frame animation is a way of creating animation, it’s done with using a camera, a digital camera and you shoot a frame and then you move and then you shoot another frame and then you move. And a second of time takes 24 frames. 24 pictures. So as an animator you have to be incredibly patient.
[Saanvi] Yeah we’ve done stop frame animations in school.
[CW] Oh have you?
[Saanvi] And I remember, it was really fun.
[CW] Brilliant. What did you animate? Can you remember?
[Saanvi] We just had to do like anything, the sky was the limit literally. We could do anything but we had to make our own characters and props. Basically what our group did, it was in drama like last year. We painted on cardboard like a landscape, like sky and hills. And then we made a clay polymer clay I think and we painted it. Then we made characters like blobs or something.
[Saanvi] We put eyes on them and it was really fun. Yeah it took us like about 4 lessons, so about 10 hours to complete.
[CW] The animation for TwirlyWoos was created, so what we do is we work with other companies as well, so there’s a company up in Manchester called Mackinnon & Saunders. And they are the best. The best stop frame animation company in the UK. And they created all these puppets and did all the stop frame animation. And then we filmed all the live action animation and stuff here in Warwickshire.
[Saanvi] One question.
[Saanvi] How would you describe like what animal is it? So obviously these are chickens but what about?
[CW] Well they could be. They could be. They could be not, you know.
[CW] I think they’re just characters. They are who they are really. They’re TwirlyWoos is what they are. So in a way you don’t want to be too precise, because it allows. Going back to what I said earlier, it allows space. Some of them might think they look like little chickens and that’s fine. But other people could think they look like something else and that’s OK as well.
But ultimately they’re TwirlyWoos and they get up to mischief. So we’ve got to be careful today, OK? Fortunately we’re watching and keeping an eye out for them, but they get into all sorts of trouble.
[Saskia] What was sort of the weirdest Christmas present you got?
[CW] God, I’ll tell you a Christmas present I find really annoying. That’s not very good is it? Bit negative but and that’s my mum bought me this. My mum and my dad thought it was funny to buy me a flat cap OK? Cause I’ve got a bit of a bald head as you can see, so every Chritsmas I get this light brown cap that I wear.
[CW] Which I just think yeah thank you very much. I’ll add it to all the others that they send me. It’s kind of a joke so I get that every Christmas. That’s kind of like a weird thing that I get.
[Saskia] My one year old cousin’s favourite show is In The Night Garden and his favourite.
[CW] Right, tell him thank you very much when you see him, yeah.
[Saskia] And his favourite character is Makka Pakka, what’s yours?
[CW] Makka pakka appa yakka ikka akka oo!
[CW] I think I like them all, because if I said I like one when I got back they might say oh why didn’t you not give me a go. I do like Iggle Piggle because he sometimes doesn’t get ready for bed, you know he’s a bit naughty. So.
[Saanvi] What’s your favourite TV programme that you’ve produced?
[CW] I tell you what the favourite show that I have produced is probably the one I am currently doing now. No, I don’t know really. I think they’re all different, you know and that’s important. I think when you’re making work you don’t want to keep repeating yourself. So you’re always trying to do something new, something different. But yeah it’s hard sometimes, particularly when you’ve worked on a show that works really well. You kind of think why am I going to do something different when I know that one works. It’s that difficult step moving forwards into something different.
But I can’t talk about what I’m doing at the moment because it’s in development. It’s all very confidential. But I’m excited about the new show I’m working on at the moment. So I suppose the thing I’m most excited about is the thing I’m working about now.
But, I have affection for all the shows. And I think when I look back on the shows I’ve produced, things like DipDap, Abney & Teal, TwirlyWoos, there’s always something that you think; oh that was interesting and you’ve learnt from it. You know, and you can think about when you’re developing new ideas. So they kind of give you that experience and that journey which is, so you’re grateful for all of them in their own way.
[Saanvi] I read that you won a BAFTA award for DipDap, how did you feel when you received that award?
[CW] Oh, I was over the moon. I was over the moon. It was wonderful to have BAFTA acknowledge that is just amazing. Because you know, yeah, I mean it’s great when you get. Have you got awards?
[Saanvi] Well not like a proper proper one like BAFTA but.
[CW] Well tell me, just tell me. An award is an award, tell me your awards. Come on.
[Saanvi] Well, I used to live in India like until I was 8. So there I did my Olympiads and stuff, I got medals, I won gold and bronze.
[Saanvi] I won gold in English and bronze in Science I think.
[Saanvi] And I think I won like the national spelling bee, also in India and I won like sports competitions at school.
[CW] Wonderful. That’s brilliant, that’s great, isn’t it?
[Saskia] Yeah my things are just to do with school as well.
[Saskia] I got certificates and things like that.
[CW] Yeah. But it’s great to have that recognition isn’t it? You’re thinking I’ve done OK, you know. So, for fellow TV people or to say yeah this is a good show and we’ll give you a BAFTA for it. I was over the moon, you know. So and I was really chuffed for all the people that worked on it, you know. Cause ultimately I’m there overall reposbible for it but without them I couldn’t do it. So it’s not just me, it’s about the whole team who gets the reward so amazing.
But, and I keep telling them when you move onto the next show you start again. Cause you’re only as good as your last show. So you can’t get all kind of woo. So you’ve got to crack on but it’s lovely to have that recognition. I’m very grateful to BAFTA for that. It’s wonderful.
[Saanvi] What do you think is the future for children’s television?
[CW] My word!
[Saanvi] Big question.
[CW] Big question. Can I, not to sound like a politician, but can you give me your thoughts on that?
[Saanvi] Well, I think children will always like love watching TV. I don’t think that’s ever going to get old. Like children’s TV programmes like Teletubbies, TwirlyWoos. I think they’re just like that, especially if you’re like me. I used to watch Teletubbies. It’s just like, I don’t know how to explain it but it just has a place in my heart.
[CW] Thank you.
[Saanvi] And I feel like children in the future they’re still going to watch TV and they’re still going to imagine their own characters. They’re still going to live in that imaginary world so yeah. That’s what I think.
[CW] That’s a very good answer actually because it is a difficult question but thank you for saying what you said. I think it’s very interesting. I think you’re right, I think it’s really interesting the future, I have no idea is kind of the truthful answer. But if I was to guess I think the work would probably continue and the way that you want, as long as we can create work that engages with children’s imagination then I think you know there’s always a place for it.
I think perhaps what will be different in the future is perhaps how you view it and how you watch it. Because things are moving so quickly now, you know. I think that’s the thing, it’s the challenge of creating the work to a place children can watch it you know. I’m heartened by what you said about the imagination about connecting with that. It’s really important that we don’t lose sight of those things you know.
[Saskia] What would you say to younger children if they want to become like part of Ragdoll, become a performer or a writer?
[CW] I think well, great to come to Ragdoll. But if you wanted to work in television and work in, I’d say have a go. It’s not an easy business to be in. You’ve got to learn to take rejection, because you’ll get a lot of people who’ll say no. But I would say trust in yourself, go with your gut instinct.
I was lucky in that when I went to school I had a wonderful headmaster and his thought was every single student in this school is good at something. What you have to do is discover what you’re good at. And normally what you’re good at is something you really enjoy doing. But focus on that, you know. And if you focus on that and you have that passion and you’ll go places, you know. Don’t lose sight of that passion, that’s one thing I’d say.
The other thing is go out there look at people’s work and see what people are doing, find out out there the things you really enjoy. So, if you find someone doing a particular piece of work that you love then maybe and you want to get involved in that, go and talk to them. Because if you’ve seen their work and you enjoyed it and go in there and talk to them and say look I’m here and I want to work with you because I’ve seen the show and love that. They’re obviously going to be a lot more engaged in what you’re doing cause you’ve taken the time to consider them, you know.
And try things out, never be afraid to try something new. And never be afraid about making mistakes, because when you make mistakes is when you learn. When you don’t make mistakes you don’t learn. So whenever you make a mistake, however difficult it is take time to reflect on that and learn from it. Because every time you make that mistake you’ll always learn something new. In my experience, because I’ve made lots of mistakes!
[Saanvi] Yeah, one of our main school motto is rejection is redirection.
[CW] Oh right, OK.
[Saanvi] And we stick by it.
[Saanvi] Also our headteacher she loves to say everyone is flawsome.
[CW] Oh right.
[Saanvi] So everyone has their flaws but everyone is also good at something.
[CW] God yeah.
[Saanvi] So focus on that.
[Saskia] If you were to describe your job in three words what three words would they be?
[CW] Er. God, you ask some difficult questions.
[CW] I’m stalling here because I’m trying to think what I should say. I think listening is an important quality. Should I say the 3 qualities that I think is important? I think being a producer you need to be a good listener, you need to make decisions and you need to be clear in communicating to people I think, you know.
Take responsibility for your decisions, good listener and communicate as clearly as you can. I think those are the 3 key qualities I have learnt over the years that put you in good stead, you know. And sometimes when you listen it helps you to communicate better. Yeah. That’s a really important job, as a producer you are managing people and that’s a really important quality that’s needed.
[Saanvi] What kind of like hard or soft skills do you need to be a producer?
[CW] Wow. I mean, so you have to be a people’s person, you have to enjoy people’s company. You have to, that’s kind of a soft skill. There’s lots of kind of soft skills. One of the things I have learnt is that a lot of people, a lot of young people coming through, they have tremendous understanding of the technology, the computers and what have you, which is fantastic. And a lot of those young people teach me how to use them as well.
But, don’t forget those core values that are important in television. You know of composition, of narrative. Those kinds of key things are really really important. Stories and how a thing is constructed and composed and they don’t change. So, don’t lose sight of those core fundamentals inside the technology you know. Because technology moves and changes but those core things about connecting with an audience, you know, know who your audience is, is really really important. So whatever you make, who are you making it for? There are 3 key questions, OK here we go. Are you ready, got your pens ready, here we go; 3 questions, the key things. The why, the what and the how.
Why are you doing it? What is it? And how are you going to do it? Those are 3 key things I have learnt in presentations that people really expect and those are the key things. So the why is you know, why are you making it? Well it’s we’re making something to entertain the audience. OK, therefore who is your audience? Why will they engage in it? Those are hard questions you really need to think carefully about before making work.
So, going back to that connection with the audience. That’s the fundamental thing, if the work doesn’t make a connection then it has no meaning, it’s really important that you make that connection. And this is just me talking you know from my experience but that’s what I feel is important. I’ve probably gone way off what you actually asked me but.
[Saanvi] No you haven’t.
[CW] I did that probably cause I couldn’t go into too much detail but there you go.
[Saanvi] That’s great advice.
[CW] OK. Thank you.
[Saanvi] Thank you. I think that’s all. Yep. Thank you so much.
[CW] Can I thank you both. Because you’ve been really good listeners as well. I do talk a lot and you’ve asked some really good and interesting questions and I’ve really enjoyed it so thank you.
[Saskia] Thank you.
[Saanvi] Thank you so much for joining us. It was really nice meeting you.
[CW] You too. You take care and good luck with all your things yeah. I expect high things from you, you’ve done a great job on your podcast. So I shall be looking out for you in the future, alright.
[Saanvi] A big thank you to Chris for coming on the show. You can find out more about Shout Out for the Arts by visiting shout out for the arts dot co dot uk.
[Saskia] Look out for more episodes in the series and until next time.
[Saanvi] I’ve been Sannvi.
[Saskia] And I’ve been Saskia. And you’ve been listening to.
[Both] Unravel the Arts. Bye!
Photos by Shout Out for the Arts.