Raymond Thompson Interview (2001)

Interview with the Executive Producer of The Tribe - Raymond Thompson

1. What is your name?

Raymond Thompson

2. What do you do (in one sentence)?

I oversee all aspects of the series from beginning to end.

3. How do you do this? What are the processes involved from start to finish typically?

This involves being involved in all manner of areas such as casting to storyline approval to even locking off the final edits prior to dispatch for transmission.

4. Which other departments do you work with in the process and in what way?

I have a liaison with every single department.

5. What are the factors that affect and inspire a script or a storyline?

There are several factors which govern a script or storyline or the interpretation of this but invariably it starts with a blank page being filled. Any good series has to rely on quality writing from which any and all elements are derived. Within the various departments and during the interpretation of scripts we constantly monitor budgetary considerations, actor and actress performances, other creative elements from lighting to design, make up to wardrobe and logistically extingances also play a very large part.

6. Can you describe a typical working day - what is your routine?

It is difficult to describe a typical working day because the one area of predictability of the role of an executive producer is its unpredictability. I tend to rely on the executive in charge of production and his heads of departments to deal with day to day production matters and when I am brought in it usually coincides with a problem. And so my role is rather like the news in the sense that one does not hear good news but usually bad news which is manifested in a problem.

As executive producer and co-creator I am very much involved in the writing of the scripts and storyline which represents the blueprint of the series and the direction the series will take. I tend to have very much a hands on role throughout the entire the production and post production process and am also involved in the branding and marketing of the series throughout our distribution subsidiary, Cumulus.

The process is not so much a process but a passion and a commitment to trying to deliver quality programming. The end result is very important to me as I believe that the power of television is absolute and that as programme makers we have a responsibility when we are invited into the living rooms of our audience let alone the fertile imagination`s of young people and my aspiration is to be aware of that responsibility throughout every aspect of making a series such as The Tribe otherwise I would be abdicating the responsibility.

7. Are there any ideas or approaches that you considered but did not use in The Tribe? If so, what are they - and why were they not used?

I am forever wrestling with the concept of the series and characterisations and this is probably and inherent quality control in my creative pursuit of the one thing that does not exist perfection! In this context I really am forever considering any and all aspects.

8. Time - how long typically does a costume take to make? Or a script to write?

A series such as The Tribe and more particularly the work load is a demanding one and in my role as executive producer The Tribe has constantly taken my time since 1997 (for the first series and planning of the second) but in reality the concept has in abstract terms been with me for several years. Various departments have a fixed period whereby their duties start and finish such as the writers can fulfil their task mid way through a production and likewise, post production will not start until after the production process and the distribution will generally not occur until sample footage has been shot but my role embraces all these areas and so I live with it every day and there is no beginning and seemingly no end.

9. What`s your favourite thing in The Ttribe you have contributed to and why?

I have no favourite thing in The Tribe in a tangible sense. I am enormously aware of the vast amount of faith investors have placed in the series and the admirable degree of human endeavour from all members of the Cloud 9 team that goes into producing such a series as the tribe - and I am also mindful of the viewers who watch the series at home. And so there are many intangibles which touch me ranging from an actor giving a performance, to a writer inspired by a particular line of dialogue to even a viewers fan letter which makes me realise that something in The Tribe has touched that particular viewer, which in the end makes it all worth while.

10. Do you have any heroes or heroines in your field - if so, who are they?

I have several “heroes and heroines” in my field but they are far too numerous to mention. They range from icons in the industry and throughout the history of the film and television industry and several works have inspired me in my own creative career.

But in the end there really are no heroes or heroines. Anyone who creates something is special in my view. There are no bad films or books or performances…

Everyone in the creative industry with a degree of conviction and integrity bears their soul in an attempt to express themselves in such a way and the ideal is that the masses can “get something” from that process.

As a writer I have a particular affinity with other writers as I know the pain and at times even fear of living with a blank page and struggling to fill those pages. Why anyone wishes to fill those pages is a question i fear can never be answered but at times god seems to smile on some writers inspiring them to express themselves in such a way that mere words will touch the hearts and minds of a viewer or reader and i think that process is a profound one.

11. How did you get into your field? When you were younger, did you always want to do what you do today?

I probably always wanted to be a writer without at first realising it. But I always had a need to write long before I was aware that I was given a talent to write and have always loved to written word, even if the words were committed to paper for my own eyes.

Now those words touch several million eyes around the world but fundamentally the process is the same (ie. I feel the need to write something and, in material terms, I have been fortunate that the masses have been interested to share my creative process, or at least have an interest in it which is fulfilling and rewarding on an elemental level but even if this was not the case I feel I would still have the need to write.

12. What advice would you give to people who wanted to do what you do?

In the cold light of dawn, when everyone else sleeps, a writer writes. They can not plan to write. They simply write. And so my advice would be to anyone aspiring to be a writer is to write with passion and integrity and tell the story the way the particular individual wishes and not to get too hung up on how anyone will respond be they from academia or the critical press or wherever.

As far as an executive producer is concerned my advice would be to try and gain as much experience as possible in any and all departments and areas of the television industry which is essential in order to fulfil the role.

Like any other ambition in life I believe that someone needs to know what they want otherwise they will never get it and generally I think if someone wants something and is sincere about that in the sense that they want something for the right reasons and if they are willing to pay the price then they should throw their very being into pursuing it.

There is an adage of being aware of what you want because if you want it badly enough then you will usually get it. I think that is basically true.

And so my advice to anyone embarking upon whatever they wish is to dream. But to dream big dreams and not to let anything or anyone dissuade them of pursuing that dream within the confines of what is ethical.

A high jumper, for example, should throw their heart over the bar and I believe their body will follow and that has been my metaphorical image.

I wish everyone much success in whatever they chose to dream…

…and above all, that the scars are little ones in the pursuit of their dream (there will always be a degree of pain on that journey to success).

13. What`s your favourite episode - or moment in The Tribe - and why?

My favourite moment in The Tribe was when the format was completed followed by the first shot on the first day of filming.