CV: MALCOLM GERRIE Managing director of Initial

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The Independent Online
I went to Durham University to do a BA in English from 1969 to1972, and then did an extra year at Sunderland Poly to be a teacher. And after that, I went to teach English and drama in a school in a pit village outside Sunderland called Ryhope.

I had no idea then of getting into TV or showbusiness, but it was a very progressive school, and it had a brilliant head of music, who came in one day with an album of Tommy. He suggested we put on a production of it, with him doing the music and me staging it, and it attracted extraordinary interest - making the tabloids and the front cover of the NME.

The year after, we did a version of Stardust, which became even bigger. An LWT arts programme called Aquarius did an hour-long special on the work we were doing, and the producers of the movie of Stardust flew over from New York. One of them was David Puttnam, and he said I should get out of teaching, getting LWT to offer me a job.

I couldn't take it because, at that point, my dad died, but subsequently, in 1976, I resigned from my job anyway, and went to try and do some drama therapy work in a girls' remand home. That was the hardest job I've ever done, but a fantastic experience. Then, Ray Connolly, the writer of Stardust, put me in touch with a woman at Tyne Tees TV called Andrea Wonfor, and, in 1977 she offered me a job.

The first show I worked on there was called Glamour 77 - a Geordie version of Miss World, if you can imagine that. But what Andrea really wanted to do was make programmes for young people, and so we then did a series called Check It Out - a predecessor to things like Network 7 and The Word - before starting a regional Saturday morning show, which I co-presented. After that, Andrea asked me to produce a new music show called All Right Now, which, although never really fully networked, had bands like The Clash, Lindisfarne and Thin Lizzy coming on.

Then, in 1981, Channel 4 was born, and Andy Allen, the director of programmes, asked me to put in a music idea to Jeremy Isaacs. We came up with the idea for a programme called Jamming, on which different acts would play together. Jeremy passed on that, but instead, he asked us for a series of live music shows to start the week the channel went on air - The Tube. At first, because it came from Newcastle, the press and a lot of industry people attacked it and said we wouldn't get the bands, but it worked and there was a real energy about it.

I was really keen The Tube should end on a high, so, in 1986, we just stopped it. Andrea left Tyne Tees to start Zenith down in London, and I left to join her there three months later, bringing with me a project on the 25th anniversary of Island Records.

Then, in 1988, when Andrea went to set up Zenith North, I was asked by Eric Fellner (who now runs Working Title) at Initial Pictures to come and set up their TV production division. And there, we did a big music series called Wired, which was semi-successful, and a classical music series called Orchestra with Dudley Moore and Sir Georg Solti - which became a massive worldwide hit.

But in 1991 our parent company, MGMM, went belly-up. It was a shock at first, but Eric then suggested we buy Initial, so we went to the lawyers and three days later we owned it - which was a brilliant feeling. But, after about a year, it became obvious to me that, unless you had some real muscle behind you, independent production was a bit of a mug's game. So we split the company in two, selling the film side to Polygram and the TV side to the Guardian Media Group.

After that, we did a follow-up to Orchestra, called Concerto, and lots of work came in: Red Hot and Blue (an Aids charity concert), and a radical factual youth programme with MTV USA called Buzz for Channel 4. And I got invited to do the Brits, which I'd been invited to do twice before but had refused, because I felt the whole thing was a joke.

Finally, though, I was allowed to tear the format up and start again, and I've been producing it ever since.

This year, we started making the Pepsi Chart Show. Again, people said we'd never get the acts, but last week we had All Saints and Natalie Imbruglia on. We're also working on a prime-time series for BBC, called Get Your Act Together, which aims to discover new singer-songwriters and give them a platform, and we've managed to get the rights to put on a major event at Greenwich on the last night of the century. Basically, the order book is extremely full.

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