Martin McKeand - Series Producer

In part one of our in-depth interview with Martin, he tells us how he got involved in Auf Wiedersehen, Pet, what his role as Series Producer entailed and how he met and worked alongside Director Roger Bamford. Martin also talks about casting the magnificent 7, how ATV (later Central TV) were embarrassed to promote the first series and opens up about some of the problems encountered during the production of the second series given Union problems and the sad untimely passing of Gary Holton. Copyright: The following images, articles and text are copyright awpet.com. Site Release Date: First featured in Newsletter 19 

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Auf Wiedersehen, Pet 1983 - 2016
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Q1. How did you first get involved with Auf Wiedersehen, Pet? Was it something you went looking for, or were you approached?   A. I'd been working in TV in one way or another, all my working life. Commercials, factual programmes and documentaries, but never Comedy or Drama. Therefore I was more than a bit surprised when Alan McKeown, who had put together the  financial deal between ATV and his own company, Witzend, to make Auf Wiedersehen Pet, asked me if I was interested in  producing it. As it happened, we were both in Billy Connolly's dressing room at the Cambridge theatre, after the first night of one of Billy's shows, when Alan asked me, and the next morning I wasn't sure whether it was a serious offer. Happily, it was.   Q2. You were involved with both the 1st series and 2nd, which did you prefer to work on/which did you have most fun on?   A. The first series. We were starting from scratch, we were all in it together, getting to know one another, a great learning  curve for us all, both in front of and behind the camera. By the end of the second series some of the cracks were beginning  to show, there was new management at ATV (which had become Central TV) with whom I didn't get on, there was a lot of  bad feeling between the various Unions involved, and of course there was the death of Gary Holton near the end of the  filming of the second series which affected many of us very much. It had followed a horrible scandal campaign about him in parts of the tabloid press and I believe was partly responsible for his death.   Q3. We know that Central Television wasn't keen on promoting the 1st series which went on to become a  runaway hit, how did you feel about this and were you surprised at how massive it became?    A. Those of us who worked on the programme had great faith in it, but it's true that the scale of its success surprised us.  ATV, or Central TV as they later became, weren't just not keen on promoting the programme, they were positively  embarrassed by it. We had been promised a front page cover and major promotion by the "TV Times", but they were told by ATV that they were not very keen on the show and they would prefer it not to be featured too strongly. So we finished up with half a column on an inside page. And when the show finally aired, they took it off after four weeks to run a feminist drama. During weeks off, word of mouth had built up and when it came back the audience had doubled.   Q4. As the 2nd series began taking shape, was their excitement or did everyone worry that it might not live  up to the hugely popular 1st series?   A. Yes to both. But despite problems, I think the second series was equally popular.     Q5. A couple of the crew made cameos on screen, do you appear in any scenes?    A.  I was in one of the last scenes shot on the last day of series two. It's in a casino, and Hazel says: "Look at that poor man  over there, he looks as though he's lost all his money". Cut to me (man with beard) looking dejected in a crowd. Strangely,  no offers from Hollywood arrived.   Q6. Did you visit any of the locations? As producer, were you constantly around filming and do you have any  behind the scenes pictures?   A. I always scouted locations with the Director, and was present 80% of the time during filming. This can be pretty boring,  as only a small proportion of the time is taken up with acting or action, the rest is moving the lights around or worrying  about parking. Can I say, I don't know how other producers work but I liked to be totally involved in the project in hand.  The most important decisions I made were the ones I made in the first few weeks - choosing the lead Director and Casting. I met  Roger Bamford, a young drama director who had produced excellent work mainly at the BBC and with whom I felt an  immediate rapport. Like me, he had never worked in comedy before, but believed that Clement and La Frenais' scripts  would let the jokes work for themselves. As for casting, I'm a great admirer of the work of Ken Loach, who tends to use non-professional actors in many roles. When we were setting up AWP, Ken had just made a film in Newcastle Called "Looks and Smiles" using local people, and I thought  that this was the way we should go. We contacted a local genius, Dave Holley, who arranged for us to meet all the acting  and show business talent in the area. It was Dave Holley who found Jimmy Nail. Jimmy's account of the casting session, in his autobiography "A Northern Soul" is  hilarious but pretty accurate. We also met Tim Healy on that trip. The casting of Tim Spall as Barry was Roger's brilliant  idea. Gary Holton had just made his film debut ("Bloody Kids") and was Ian La Frenais' suggestion. Kevin Whately was an  obvious choice for Neville, as was Pat Roach for Bomber and Chris Fairbanks made a meal out of the smallish part of  Moxey. We had our team. Q7. Do you have any fun stories that happened while on set?   A.  Absolutely no fun was had by anybody at any time. We were all incredibly serious people. Not.   Q8. With the death of Gary Holton, there was a worry that the 2nd series might not even make it on screen, how did everyone cope with the situation?   A.  There was never any question of the 2nd series not being completed. Gary's death occurred after all the Spanish location work was finished, and there was only a comparatively small amount of UK shooting left to do. Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais came over to rewrite some scenes, and we were able to shoot others using body doubles. There's a scene in one episode where a very young Gina McKee (in what may have been her first TV role ?) has a scene with Gary - the two-shots of Gary are for real, the two-shots featuring Gina are with a body double filmed weeks later from behind. As for people's reactions, in hindsight we should have seen it coming but it really was a terrible shock. Gary had been a real pain at times but strong men wept when we heard the news.   Q9. As producer, did you have any input or make any changes to how the series was progressing?   A.  Of course, that's what producers do!   Q10. There have always been rumours about a 3rd series being produced in the late 80's set in Moscow, do you know anything about this?   A.  No, after the second series Central were very keen to make a third series of course, but most of the main cast had moved on to other things. Someone at Central had the insane idea of cutting the episodes down to 30 minutes and re-releasing it as a sitcom. Most of the cast and the director demanded that their names be taken off the credits so that project was abandoned though a few 30-minute episodes were shown I believe. As we know, much later the rights reverted to Franc Roddam and he got further series made with the BBC. I think one of these opened in Russia. I'm sorry to say I didn't watch many of them.   Q11. From memory was there any disasters on set?   A. Almost daily. Tim Healy was particularly prone to mishaps. He cut his eye when opening an envelope. He cracked his head when being driven down a country lane by Pat Roach. At Beesthorpe Hall the only approach to the location was across land owned by the local ( Conservative ) MP. Nobody checked with him and he had us over a barrel. But as far as I remember, no sets fell down, nobody was seriously injured and most of the problems were caused by Union regulations. I remember Kevin Whately saying "This is the first time I've been on a night shoot that was closed down before it got dark ". And a well-known actor saying to director Roger Bamford, thirty seconds before the Union electricians were going to pull the plug: "What do I do now ?" and Roger saying " Just stand there and say the line!".   Q12. Many of the cast and crew we have interviewed over the years, Auf Wiedersehen, Pet seems to be something they hold close to their hearts, how do you feel about AWP, and what does it mean to you?   A.  Well, I'm hugely grateful to Alan McKeown, Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais for asking me to produce the show. As I've said above, I had never done anything like it before. It took up four years and I remember almost every minute. I went on to produce the first two series of Spender with Jimmy Nail which was a different kind of experience. I haven't seen him since that time but follow his career, and that of all the other great actors we worked with, with great interest. Haven't they done well! Met up with Dick, Ian and Tim Healy, Kevin and Chris Fairbanks at "Sunday for Sammy" a couple of years back. Really miss Sammy, a friend and drinking companion both in the Byker Arms, the Live Theatre bar, and in the French House in London. Happy days...   The Auf Wiedersehen, Pet Fansite would personally like to thank Martin for taking part in our interview.

Martin McKeand Interview...

In part one of our in-depth interview with Martin, he tells us how he got involved in Auf Wiedersehen, Pet, what his role as Series Producer entailed and how he met and worked alongside Director Roger Bamford. Martin also talks about casting the magnificent 7, how ATV (later Central TV) were embarrassed to promote the first series and opens up about some of the problems encountered during the production of the second series given Union problems and the sad untimely passing of Gary Holton. Copyright: The following images, articles and text are copyright awpet.com. Site Release Date: First featured in Newsletter 19
Do you have something to add? If you have something to add, whether it be pictures, a magazine interview or something else, we would love to have it on the Fansite! Please use the Contact link above in the navigation bar and Email us.
Auf Wiedersehen, Pet 1983 - 2016
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Q1. How did you first get involved with Auf

Wiedersehen, Pet? Was it something you went

looking for, or were you approached?

 

A.  I'd been working in TV in one way or another, all my

working life. Commercials, factual programmes and

documentaries, but never Comedy or Drama. Therefore I

was more than a bit surprised when Alan McKeown, who

had put together the financial deal between ATV and his

own company, Witzend, to make Auf Wiedersehen Pet,

asked me if I was interested in producing it. As it

happened, we were both in Billy Connolly's dressing room

at the Cambridge theatre, after the first night of one of

Billy's shows, when Alan asked me, and the next morning

I wasn't sure whether it was a serious offer. Happily, it

was.

 

Q2. You were involved with both the 1st series and

2nd, which did you prefer to work on/which did

you have most fun on?

 

A.  The first series. We were starting from scratch, we

were all in it together, getting to know one another, a

great learning curve for us all, both in front of and

behind the camera. By the end of the second series some

of the cracks were beginning to show, there was new

management at ATV (which had become Central TV) with

whom I didn't get on, there was a lot of bad feeling

between the various Unions involved, and of course there

was the death of Gary Holton near the end of the filming

of the second series which affected many of us very

much. It had followed a horrible scandal campaign about

him in parts of the tabloid press and I believe was partly

responsible for his death.

 

Q3. We know that Central Television wasn't keen

on promoting the 1st series which went on to

become a runaway hit, how did you feel about this

and were you surprised at how massive it

became?

 

A.  Those of us who worked on the programme had great

faith in it, but it's true that the scale of its success

surprised us. ATV, or Central TV as they later became,

weren't just not keen on promoting the programme, they

were positively embarrassed by it. We had been promised

a front page cover and major promotion by the "TV

Times", but they were told by ATV that they were not very

keen on the show and they would prefer it not to be

featured too strongly. So we finished up with half a

column on an inside page. And when the show finally

aired, they took it off after four weeks to run a feminist

drama. During weeks off, word of mouth had built up

and when it came back the audience had doubled.

 

Q4. As the 2nd series began taking shape, was

their excitement or did everyone worry that it

might not live up to the hugely popular 1st series?

A.  Yes to both. But despite problems, I think the second

series was equally popular.

 

Q5. A couple of the crew made cameos on screen,

do you appear in any scenes?

 

A.  I was in one of the last scenes shot on the last day of

series two. It's in a casino, and Hazel says: "Look at that

poor man over there, he looks as though he's lost all his

money". Cut to me (man with beard) looking dejected in a

crowd. Strangely, no offers from Hollywood arrived.

 

Q6. Did you visit any of the locations? As producer,

were you constantly around filming and do you

have any behind the scenes pictures?

 

A. I always scouted locations with the Director, and was

present 80% of the time during filming. This can be pretty

boring, as only a small proportion of the time is taken up

with acting or action, the rest is moving the lights around

or worrying about parking. Can I say, I don't know how

other producers work but I liked to be totally involved in

the project in hand.  The most important decisions I

made were the ones I made in the first few weeks -

choosing the lead Director and Casting. I met Roger

Bamford, a young drama director who had produced

excellent work mainly at the BBC and with whom I felt an

immediate rapport. Like me, he had never worked in

comedy before, but believed that Clement and La Frenais'

scripts would let the jokes work for themselves.

As for casting, I'm a great admirer of the work of Ken

Loach, who tends to use non-professional actors in many

roles. When we were setting up AWP, Ken had just made a

film in Newcastle Called "Looks and Smiles" using local

people, and I thought that this was the way we should go.

We contacted a local genius, Dave Holley, who arranged

for us to meet all the acting and show business talent in

the area.

It was Dave Holley who found Jimmy Nail. Jimmy's

account of the casting session, in his autobiography "A

Northern Soul" [LINK TO BOOK IN SHOP] is hilarious but

pretty accurate. We also met Tim Healy on that trip. The

casting of Tim Spall as Barry was Roger's brilliant idea.

Gary Holton had just made his film debut ("Bloody Kids")

and was Ian La Frenais' suggestion. Kevin Whately was an

obvious choice for Neville, as was Pat Roach for Bomber

and Chris Fairbanks made a meal out of the smallish

part of Moxey. We had our team.

Q7. Do you have any fun stories that happened while on set?   A.  Absolutely no fun was had by anybody at any time. We were all incredibly serious people. Not.   Q8. With the death of Gary Holton, there was a worry that the 2nd series might not even make it on screen, how did everyone cope with the situation?   A.  There was never any question of the 2nd series not being completed. Gary's death occurred after all the Spanish location work was finished, and there was only a comparatively small amount of UK shooting left to do. Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais came over to rewrite some scenes, and we were able to shoot others using body doubles. There's a scene in one episode where a very young Gina McKee (in what may have been her first TV role ?) has a scene with Gary - the two-shots of Gary are for real, the two-shots featuring Gina are with a body double filmed weeks later from behind. As for people's reactions, in hindsight we should have seen it coming but it really was a terrible shock. Gary had been a real pain at times but strong men wept when we heard the news.   Q9. As producer, did you have any input or make any changes to how the series was progressing?   A.  Of course, that's what producers do!   Q10. There have always been rumours about a 3rd series being produced in the late 80's set in Moscow, do you know anything about this?   A.  No, after the second series Central were very keen to make a third series of course, but most of the main cast had moved on to other things. Someone at Central had the insane idea of cutting the episodes down to 30 minutes and re-releasing it as a sitcom. Most of the cast and the director demanded that their names be taken off the credits so that project was abandoned though a few 30-minute episodes were shown I believe. As we know, much later the rights reverted to Franc Roddam and he got further series made with the BBC. I think one of these opened in Russia. I'm sorry to say I didn't watch many of them.   Q11. From memory was there any disasters on set?   A. Almost daily. Tim Healy was particularly prone to mishaps. He cut his eye when opening an envelope. He cracked his head when being driven down a country lane by Pat Roach. At Beesthorpe Hall the only approach to the location was across land owned by the local ( Conservative ) MP. Nobody checked with him and he had us over a barrel. But as far as I remember, no sets fell down, nobody was seriously injured and most of the problems were caused by Union regulations. I remember Kevin Whately saying "This is the first time I've been on a night shoot that was closed down before it got dark ". And a well-known actor saying to director Roger Bamford, thirty seconds before the Union electricians were going to pull the plug: "What do I do now ?" and Roger saying " Just stand there and say the line!".   Q12. Many of the cast and crew we have interviewed over the years, Auf Wiedersehen, Pet seems to be something they hold close to their hearts, how do you feel about AWP, and what does it mean to you?   A.  Well, I'm hugely grateful to Alan McKeown, Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais for asking me to produce the show. As I've said above, I had never done anything like it before. It took up four years and I remember almost every minute. I went on to produce the first two series of Spender with Jimmy Nail which was a different kind of experience. I haven't seen him since that time but follow his career, and that of all the other great actors we worked with, with great interest. Haven't they done well! Met up with Dick, Ian and Tim Healy, Kevin and Chris Fairbanks at "Sunday for Sammy" a couple of years back. Really miss Sammy, a friend and drinking companion both in the Byker Arms, the Live Theatre bar, and in the French House in London. Happy days...   The Auf Wiedersehen, Pet Fansite would personally like to thank Martin for taking part in our interview.