Andrew O'Connor: My Life In Media

Andrew O'Connor is managing director of Objective Productions, the television company responsible for last week's controversial stunt that resulted in Tom Cruise being sprayed in the face with water in Leicester Square. The stunt was for a new programme called Balls of Steel, commissioned by Channel 4. Objective Productions has a reputation for specialising in magic entertainment, giving a platform to Derren Brown, Pete Firman and Alistair Cook. But O'Connor, a former magician, has been kicked out of the Magic Circle. Objective's other successes include the sitcom Peep Show.

Andrew O'Connor is managing director of Objective Productions, the television company responsible for last week's controversial stunt that resulted in Tom Cruise being sprayed in the face with water in Leicester Square. The stunt was for a new programme called Balls of Steel, commissioned by Channel 4. Objective Productions has a reputation for specialising in magic entertainment, giving a platform to Derren Brown, Pete Firman and Alistair Cook. But O'Connor, a former magician, has been kicked out of the Magic Circle. Objective's other successes include the sitcom Peep Show.

So what inspired you to embark on a career in the media?

As a child I always wanted to be an actor or magician. I started practising magic aged five and got into performing. My old career was as a musical theatre performer/game show host/TV presenter. (I was the replacement host on The Big Breakfast for a week when Chris Evans was on holiday in 1993. I hated it: you couldn't have a retake and tell the joke again.) In 1995 I found myself out of work and decided to go into full-time production.

When you were 15, which newspaper did your family get, and did you read it?

I don't remember ever seeing a newspaper in the house.

And what were your favourite TV and radio programmes?

I don't remember there being a radio in the house either. Favourite TV shows were Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, The Tomorrow People, David Nixon's Magic Box and Ace of Wands.

What media do you turn to first thing in the morning?

When at home, the net: Ananova, MediaGuardian, occasionally the BBC. And Radio 4 on the way to work via Bath station; I love how 1950s Thought for the Day is.

Do you consult any media sources during the working day?

Never TV. Media sites or US movie news sites, like imdb.com, Entertainment Weekly (ew.com) or reviews in the New York Times.

What is the best thing about your job?

The excitement of taking a great idea and in three months making it become great television.

And the worst?

Finding out great ideas don't always make great television. We made a programme called Bedsitcom - a reality show with six people living in a house, but three of them were actors we fed story lines. The pilot was interesting but we didn't cast it right and the public didn't take to the series. It was unexpected and incredibly frustrating.

What's the proudest achievement in your working life?

Making three shows that really connected with their audience: The Quick Trick Show (our first Bafta and the highest ranking kids show when it aired); Peep Show (the comedy snob's favourite show, it won a Golden Rose and was nominated for a Bafta); and Derren Brown. With Derren we've got a show which makes people question what is and isn't reality, like Uri Geller did in the 1970s.

At home, what do you tune in to?

Whatever my 12-year-old son wants to watch that I also like - recently that's been Jamie's School Dinners and The Apprentice. (The tasks were brilliant.) You think he would want to watch football but that's not the case: he loves property makeover shows and anything on Channel 4 at 8.30. I buy a lot of DVDs - nearly all the new releases. The next big move for the company is in producing low-budget English comedy films like Shaun of the Dead.

What is your Sunday paper?

The Sunday Times - the culture section's great. I can't bring myself to buy the News of the World or the Mail, and the others are just cheap copies of the Times.

And do you have a favourite magazine?

I love Empire, get Broadcast obviously. Also Time Out, Time Out New York - my favourite place in the world - and DVD magazines such as DVD Monthly for reviews. I used to read Heat but have gone off it; it's like a women's mag now.

Name the one career ambition you want to realise before you retire

To make a TV show that sells a million DVDs and make a funny, breakout British movie.

If you didn't work in the media what would you do?

Be the ninth takeover of Caractacus Potts in the stage version of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

Who in the media do you most admire and why?

That one special, brilliant person at a channel who I just adore working with - they know who they are...

The cv

1976: Appears as a child actor in TV series The Canal Children

1981: Wins Young Magician of the Year

1994: Plays the lead in the touring musical Me and My Girl

1996: Forms Objective Productions with Michael Vine

2000: Wins Bafta award for The Quick Trick Show; first airing for Derren Brown's show

2003: Channel 4 broadcasts Objective's critically acclaimed comedy Peep Show

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