Nerys Evans is Creative Director, Comedy, at independent production company, Expectation. She has worked for BBC Comedy, where she produced Miranda, Jonathan Creek and French and Saunders, and Channel 4, commissioning such shows as Catastrophe, Flowers and Derry Girls. Evans was interviewed by Sarah Asante, Commissioning Editor, BBC Comedy.
How her career began: "I’m from a very small town in Wales. No-one I knew ever worked in TV. I had no in. I just followed my dream and worked really hard to get my foot in the door.
"I’m not an extraordinary person. I am very lucky to work with some quite extraordinary people. It’s hard to get into telly and it’s getting harder.
"I am a massive comedy fan. I wanted to do something in comedy although I didn’t know what that would be. I read politics at Liverpool’s John Moores University where I joined the student radio station.
"There were comedy shows on the radio so I worked with a lot of comedians. After university I joined the management agency, Avalon, as a receptionist. I thought I’d won the lottery because I could go and see lots of live comedy for free.
"From there I wheedled my way into television. It took a long time. I was a PA in the BBC comedy department working for Myfanwy Moore who produced Little Britain. It was an extraordinary insight into the editorial process of comedy."
Making the leap into being a producer: "I worked for a year at Comic Relief and then got a job as an associate producer working for Jo Sargent whose shows included French and Saunders and Ab Fab.
"I learnt a huge amount from working with her. Jo had put Miranda Hart in a French and Saunders sketch. She was brilliant and I ended up doing the pilot for Miranda in front of a studio audience.
"It was a big, brave thing to do. Phoebe Waller Bridge takes all the credit but we looked down the lens. Miranda was a story of a woman who felt out of place but was trying to be herself.
"Studio sitcoms normally go on BBC One because they’re meant to be mass market. Miranda started on BBC Two where it was slightly out of the spotlight. That helped because we weren’t as scrutinised as much had we been on BBC One.
"We were inspired by comedies we watched when we were growing up like The Two Ronnies, French and Saunders and Victoria Wood."
The role of the producer: "You gather the team – hire the director, the designer, do the casting, oversee the script. It was fun but demanding. When you find someone who brings the character to life it is exhilarating. On Miranda I worked with script editors who hone the script.
"You rehearse it and hone it before the studio audience comes in on the Friday. You have five days in the studio to rehearse to get it right. You’re putting on a live play. It’s very expensive and an exciting way of making TV. People are doing it less these days.
"As a producer you’re first in, last it. Your DNA is in every part of the show. Miranda is a writer/performer with very strong opinions who is quite rightly part of the creative process. The relationship with the talent varies from show to show. With some productions you are very light touch but much more involved with others."
The role of the commissioner: "When I joined Channel 4 they were riding high with The Inbetweeners and Friday Night Dinner. I thought I’d love to play with some new people. As a commissioner you’re part of the creative process, but you don’t get your hands dirty. You don’t go home and cry.
"I joined a very small team of commissioners led by the Head of Comedy Shane Allen. You don’t necessarily have the power to put ideas on telly, but you develop them to the point where somebody can give you the greenlight and the money to make them.
"The day-to-day job of a commissioner is quite varied. You do look after the shows that are in production, but you take a lot of meetings with writers, agents, production companies, producers and talent.
"The odd treatment comes through, but most ideas come as full scripts. More often than not a well worked-out script is the best way to get someone’s attention. A lot of broadcasters don’t take scripts ad hoc. Often they come via an agent or a producer.
"That protects the writer. If you’re having someone present it for you, they can advise you on things like if it’s similar to something they’ve got already. It’s worth knowing that a good producer is on your side. They can help get your work presented in the best possible way.
"Some things land that are brilliant and others that are just not right. Every broadcaster has a different remit. Channel 4 is exciting because it is all about new talent and trying to get unseen worlds on television and back unheard voices."