Narinder Minhas' TV Diary

Narinder Minhas' TV Diary

By Narinder Minhas,
Monday, 17th October 2022
Narinder Minhas
Narinder Minhas (credit: Cardiff Productions)
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Fish out of water Narinder Minhas on how he learned to swim – and thrive – in a world full of sharks 

In April, I was doing some online research. “Boil the ocean”, “jump the shark”, “blue ocean market”, I read. What are they talking about? Are they advocating moving offshore, I wondered? I was preparing to become CEO of Cardiff Productions, taking sole charge of the indie I co-founded in 2020, and wondering whether I should immerse myself in business books. So, I did what any telly person would do, and jumped on Google.  

Do you know how many publications offer advice on the first 100 days in a new job? There’s a lot, packed full of jargon. I browsed some: Your First 100 Days. The New Leader’s 100 Day Action Plan. And then The Critical Role of Good Hair in Business Leadership.  

This was worrying as I hadn’t been to a barber since the start of the ­pandemic, instead relying on what I call my “Zoom haircut”, which I do myself. The front and sides are, if I say so myself, immaculate. But I’ve no idea what’s happening behind.  

I came to two realisations. First, I don’t have time to read any of these books properly. And, second, I’m not sure I need to. I’ve been in the industry for more than 30 years. It was time to trust my experience and instincts.  

Was winging it foolish? I didn’t think so. From desperately chasing Bill Clinton around the US for his first interview on British television, to having a programme injuncted by the police on the night of transmission, and even receiving death threats for another difficult show, I’ve seen my fair share of drama in television.  

By far the most important experience I’ve had is being an immigrant. Arriving in the UK as a child of ­working-class parents, wandering around the playground, unable to understand the language anyone spoke, instilled a sense of drive, ­fearlessness and empathy.  

For most of my life, I’ve been a fish out of water, learning to swim around, creating opportunities in a world full of sharks. OK, enough of these fishy puns. What I decided to prioritise in my first 100 days wasn’t “boiling the ocean” or a flashy new haircut. It was our brand. At a time when so many indies chase the same slots, I felt that doubling down on our distinctive core values would be vital.  

From our work, we know it is possible to be bold, diverse and popular. So, we’ve been focusing on enriching those brand values, thinking about them at every step of the production process, from development to final execution. And, if need be, making those tough calls. Recently, I decided not to pursue a project that a broadcaster approached us about as it just didn’t fit our brand.  

Our brand also means being bold and diverse when it comes to our staffing strategy. Making Cardiff Productions an exciting and inclusive place to work is key. The vast ­majority of our team are women. A significant proportion of our staff are Welsh speakers.  

We’ve also made great strides in breaking down some of the class barriers in our industry and, over the coming year, we’ll have a big push on helping to improve racial diversity in Wales.  

As for our output, We Are Black and British has just been nominated for a Grierson, as well as a Prix Europa. Tan France: Beauty and the Bleach has also been nominated for a Prix Europa and an Asian Media Award.  

Our competitive walking series Am Dro!, now in its sixth season, has been nominated for a Bafta Cymru. Snapped up by the BBC as Take a Hike!, the English-language version, now in its second season, has been optioned in five European territories.  

And we have more formats in the making. We’re also getting stuck into exciting upcoming projects, from high-end docs to returnable formats to “diverse” drama.  

Our ambition is to create a sustainable superindie based in Cardiff. I’m just so glad my “Zoom haircut” hasn’t spoiled our chances of getting there.    

Narinder Minhas is CEO, Cardiff ­Productions.