We have met with David Tyler, producer of Cabin Pressure
We have met the producing director of the successful comedy series and learnt a lot of exciting information about his job and Cabin Pressure.
On February 23, 2012 MJN Air had its final take-off to Zurich and Cabin Pressure, one of the most successful and worldwide popular British comedy series, found its end.
In David Tyler, John Finnemore, writer and creative head of Cabin Pressure, found a congenial partner and producer. We had the opportunity to talk to this very special producer/director in a very personal, humorous interview and came to know very exciting stories about Cabin Pressure and a lot of fascinating information about being a producer and the British radio and comedy landscape.
David’s career started with quite scientific subject at university: „I did physics at University, sort of quantum physics, subatomic physics…”, he tells us, “but I was also writing and being in shows ...”. Late while he was working as Radio Producer for the BBC, he co-founded the independent production company Pozzitive Production with Geoff Posner, a successful producer himself. The name Pozzitive Production was chosen „…coz he [Geoff Posner] was nicknamed “Pozzi”.
It’s the mixture and variety of the job that David appreciates so much „(…) so it’s a whole mixture of jobs, which is one of the things I really like about it” he says, “I like every bit of it, which is lucky but it changes all the time.” He gets sent 10 to 15 scripts, of which only a few get a chance to be produced, and only very few will become as successful as Cabin Pressure did.
Of course we want to know more about the beginning of the collaboration between him and John, and David answers with a smile: „I met him once because he came to a recording or something else I was doing. We were chatting afterwards and he was just saying “Oh, I’m a writer!” … and I was doing what I always do in those situations, which is “Oh, that’s nice!”.
As expected, John sent his script. And the moment he started to read it David knew that it was something brilliant: “(…).and I read it straight away and just knew it was tremendous, so I rang him up and said “Yeah, let’s try and get this on!”.
Cabin Pressure was ready to take-off. But on its way, both enthusiasts had to take several hurdles. First of all the BBC had to be convinced in order to commission it. To be honest, even though it seems a bit ridiculous that a script like Cabin Pressure might get a NO, but…: “We worked on the script a little bit and then we gave it in, all very excited, and the commissioning editor, Caroline Raphael, who has always been a huge supporter, a very important executive, she was there on the last, the final recording, she said “Oh this is great, this is a great script!” so I went up to the controller at Radio 4, the person who decides – and he said “No!”.
A quite sobering answer. But the creative duo did not give in. David did something he hardly ever does: “And I did something unusual which I don’t normally do coz you can’t really whine or moan when that happens, because they’re in charge, but on this occasion(…) I said to him(…) I think that’s a wrong decision (…) I’m not going to do this very often, you know, once every five years, once every ten years, I sort of go… no really, really you must think about this again – and it’s great that he did. And then, they commissioned it, yeah….”.
And Cabin Pressure went on air with Abu Dhabi and turned out to be a mega streak of success.
We also ask about the casting process. David explains that it was done in liaison with John, that they talked over it and John had the one or other voice already in his head when he was writing the episodes. David: “When you’re casting the lead parts in a sitcom you want people who are good and famous, and famous because they are good. (…) he sends the script to the agents and they read it and liked it also, so that they could be in it – so that’s the main casting.”
Concerning the great guest stars starring in Cabin Pressure, David says: “(…) Again John sometimes has suggestions and we talk about it. I always go through it with him. (…) Most of the time that are people who I have worked with before or people I know who are brilliant, because I have seen other stuff they do.”
The Cabin Pressure Crew was cast, and the many guest stars completed the show in a perfect way.
Nevertheless, such a humorous comedy show also faces its challenges; there have been a few difficulties that needed to be solved as David tells us for example in Ottery St. Mary: „One of the things about Ottery was that it was so hard, it was really complicated. Ben was doing Frankenstein in the West End and he knackered his voice. And the night before the recording, you probably know all this, but the night before the recording he had to call off. So we got a brilliant actor called Tom Goodman-Hill (…) And then we realized that (…) most of the Martin scenes were separate from the Caroline and Herc scenes. It almost split into two when you analyse it. So we suddenly thought (…) we could record the Martin scenes. We could re-record Martins dialog with Ben. Tom was very good about it, he didn’t mind. So we redid Ottery. (…) And then we redid it and it was putting it all in and getting it all to fit into two recordings and it was done in different venues as well, so we had to do quite a lot get it to match. So I think I feel affectionate of it, because it was such a bugger to put together.”
Yes, he is quite affectionate of Ottery, but it isn’t easy to choose a favourite. Paris is also one of the episodes that David liked in particular, saying: “I really like Paris, because that was best Taliskar mystery (…) I genuinely couldn’t work it out ‘til the end, so it was very pleased.”
Asking, if there was anything he remembers in particular, David thinks over: I think there are some great moments, I think the moments, lots and lots and lots stick in the mind of course…But there was one moment where the audience gave a very good reaction and it was in St. Petersburg (…)”. Johns besondere Genialität sei, eine Idee zu Beginn fast schon nebenbei einzubauen – und am Ende entwickelt sich diese Idee zum Lacherlebnis. „And when the audience realized that they gave an extraordinary noise (…) they sort of went “Haaaaaaaaaaaaaah!” – that was a good moment. I liked that, yeah!“.
We learn a lot of interesting background information, sound effects and the work of David’s right hand, Katie, who notes all fluffs and re-takes needed during the recordings. We are even allowed to take a look into an original script when David shows us Katie’s notes. „(…) Somewhat like here – there’s a fluff (…) So she marks where the fluff happens, in that way. That tiny tiny thing is all RS1, restart one. So sometimes they made whole string of cock-ups and that’s just fun…That’s Katie’s job and there are two engineers (…)”
Has he ever expected that Cabin Pressure will become that successful? More than 22.000 ticket applications for the last recoding did break every record….David answers humble: „No, I didn’t really think about it coz Radio 4 is sort of like one of the UK’s secrets. (…). Well yes, it was quite surprising.”
We are looking forward to hearing a lot more about new, funny projects, at which David signalises with a subtle hint. Thank you very much for this extraordinary interview!
Watch out the whole interview – enjoy!
David Tyler was born on 24 June 1961 and is one of the most well-known British television and radio comedy producers. Together with his friend Geoff Posner he co-founded the independent production company Pozzitive Television in 1992.
Since then, David has been working on various British comedy programmes and gained several awards and nominations for his work. Among these:
David himself was nominated for the Radio Production Award for “Best Entertainment Producer” in 2012, the same year Cabin Pressure was nominated for the BBC Audio Drama Award in the category “Best Scripted Comedy Drama” and Another Case of Milton Jones won Silver for “Best Comedy” at the Sony Radio Academy Awards.