My Mentor: Alain De Botton on Neil Crombie

'He was great at teaching me that audiences respond best to stories about people'
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The Independent Online

The director Neil Crombie got me into the business of making television films. I first met him on a book show he made for Channel 4 in 1998 and clicked with him immediately. He had a warm, searching, intelligent manner - and he asked me what I was working on. I told him it was a book about philosophy and straight off he said, "That would make great TV". No one had ever said that before and Neil's enthusiasm gave me confidence to imagine something that I'd always longed for, but had never dared to pin my hopes on. So we set about planning how to turn a book about six long-dead philosophers into a piece of entertaining television. Within a few months Neil had a commission; we went off with a small crew to various European destinations. From then on, Neil has been a source of constant inspiration and advice. He was great at teaching me that television audiences respond best to stories about people, and however many ideas one presents to them, these ideas have to be wrapped up in living, breathing tales. He

The director Neil Crombie got me into the business of making television films. I first met him on a book show he made for Channel 4 in 1998 and clicked with him immediately. He had a warm, searching, intelligent manner - and he asked me what I was working on. I told him it was a book about philosophy and straight off he said, "That would make great TV". No one had ever said that before and Neil's enthusiasm gave me confidence to imagine something that I'd always longed for, but had never dared to pin my hopes on. So we set about planning how to turn a book about six long-dead philosophers into a piece of entertaining television. Within a few months Neil had a commission; we went off with a small crew to various European destinations. From then on, Neil has been a source of constant inspiration and advice. He was great at teaching me that television audiences respond best to stories about people, and however many ideas one presents to them, these ideas have to be wrapped up in living, breathing tales. He showed me that you could almost bring tears to people's eyes, by presenting an idea in an emotional way.

He was also good at showing me how you hold together a film team, when people are liable to be fractious and difficult. He has an unfailing good humour and endless energy. He always keeps an eye out for a great restaurant to restore the team's moods at the end of a bad day.

A year ago, I suggested we start a production company together. He responded with characteristic grace and imagination and we came up with Seneca Productions. This summer, we made our first production, The Art of Travel.

I feel deeply grateful to him that he took a punt on me.

'The Art of Travel' is on Sky Travel on 20th February at 7.30pm

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