The director of Wolf Hall discussed making the BBC drama and the blossoming British film industry during a free public event hosted by Bournemouth University (BU) and the Royal Television society (RTS).
Peter Kosminsky spoke about the making of the Wolf Hall series, based on Hilary Mantel’s novels about Thomas Cromwell’s rise to power during the reign of Henry VIII, and expressed his surprise at the overwhelmingly positive response from the public and critics following the broadcast of the BBC2 drama.
“I don’t think any of us anticipated what was going to happen,” he said. “It broke box office records and had the best set of reviews of anything I have ever done.
“It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience and a thrilling one. If you do programmes, you want people to watch and be influenced by them.
“It’s the sort of thing I dreamt about and it was a complete joy.”
Peter, previously best-known for contemporary dramas based on real-life events – such as The Government Inspector, about the death of Dr David Kelly – urged those going into film-making to use it to ask difficult questions.
“It’s an immensely powerful medium, use it to some purpose,” he said. "Try to ask a few awkward questions and rock the boat a bit."
In conversation with Gordon Cooper, Chair of the RTS Southern Centre, Peter also spoke about the role and influence of a director.
He said: “90 per cent of it is getting the script right and getting the right actors. Once you have done that, really don’t interfere too much. Don’t give directing notes just for the sake of it.
“My job is to create the right atmosphere to allow the actors that I cast to do their best work. People are not tuning in to see the shots – they are tuning in to see the performance and the actors.”
Peter, who is a BU Visiting Fellow and received an Honorary Doctorate in 2009, also spoke to undergraduate TV Production students before the free public event.
He said that the industry-focused teaching and reputation of BU’s media production courses were vital to help capitalise on the introduction of tax breaks for those making films in the UK.
“I come to Bournemouth because the Media School [Faculty of Media and Communication] has traditionally been very industry-facing and produces people with the skills that we need to come and work in the industry,” Peter said.
“Tax breaks have been transformative for the industry, there’s a blossoming the like of which I have never seen - all the studios are full. But we don’t have the crew.
“So it means that the pressure is on places like Bournemouth training people to have the skills to come and work in the film industry and make films and TV. We rely so heavily on you guys to continue producing people of the calibre you have historically.”