Andy Harries is Chief Executive and co-founder of Left Bank Pictures, an award-winning UK based production company formed in 2007. In a career spanning four decades he has produced some of the UK's most successful television dramas including The Royle Family, Cold Feet, the revivals of Prime Suspect and Cracker, as well as the BAFTA-winning television play The Deal.
In 2006 he received an Academy Award nomination as producer of The Queen, which saw Helen Mirren win Best Actress for her role, and in 2007, the British Academy of Film and Television Arts awarded him the Special Award in Honour of Alan Clarke. 2011 saw the Royal Television Society confer a Fellowship on Harries for outstanding contributions to the broadcasting industry. He has been described by Broadcast Magazine as "one of the UK's most outstanding drama producers".
He is married to novelist and director Rebecca Frayn.
Rebecca Frayn (Spouse), Emmy Harries (Daughter), Jackson (Jack) Harries, Finnegan (Finn) Harries, Eliza Frayn (Niece), Shayne Finn Zigich (Nephew)
Early life and education
Andy Harries was born in Inverness, Scotland on 7 April 1954 and grew up in Peterborough, England, receiving primary education at West Town Primary School until 1961, and secondary education at the public Oakham School. He grew up aspiring to be a war correspondent in Vietnam, or an investigative journalist; his idols were Harold Evans, Jon Swain and John Pilger. He left college at the age of 17 with poor A Level results and became a trainee reporter on the Peterborough Evening Telegraph newspaper. His time on the newspaper raised his awareness of politics, and he sought to further his understanding of it by studying at university. He applied to various northern universities to break away from his southern middle-class lifestyle, and was accepted at Hull University.
Harries stayed at Hull until he was 21, though continued to work at the Evening Telegraph during holidays. At university he developed an interest in music journalism and found an outlet for this by writing reviews for Melody Maker.
Early career (1976–1981)
After leaving Hull, Harries moved to London to work for the Southern News Service news agency, writing diary pieces for the Daily Mail and News of the World from 1975 to 1976. On the advice of a friend, he applied for a position as a researcher for Granada Television in Manchester. He did not understand the appeal of television production, and as a result he was turned away at two interviews before being hired in 1976.
Shortly after being hired he was taken aside by the news producer and asked to read the on-air bulletin for the nightly broadcast. He read the news for three months until one night when he condensed a six-minute bulletin into three minutes. He attributed this to stage fright, which caused him to speak too fast. The rest of the production crew were not ready to move on to the next news items, leaving Harries standing in silence for several minutes. Harries recalled in a 2007 interview that Steve Morrison, the producer of the bulletin, called him into his office and berated him, telling him he did not deserve to be on television and that he would no longer be reading the news. Morrison's remarks angered Harries to such a point that he assaulted the man. Aware that he was going to lose his job, he contacted a Granada colleague who got him a new job at Granada's London centre, which he took up at the age of 23.
Pursuing his interest in investigative journalism, Harries worked as a researcher on the current affairs programme World in Action, where he met Paul Greengrass. While Greengrass achieved success in exposing alleged corruption involving Manchester United F.C. chairman Louis Edwards, Harries investigated irregularities in the British Singles Chart. Greengrass's investigation was a success, though Harries admits his own programme "didn't make a blind bit of difference".
Freelance and Channel X (1981–1992)
In 1981, Harries left Granada and moved into freelance producing and directing. He directed the documentary series Africa in 1984 before beginning a collaboration with Paul Yule, with whom he made four films in Peru between 1985 and 1989—Martin Chambi and the Heirs of the Incas, Our God the Condor, Iquitos, and Mario Vargas Llosa: The Novelist Who Would Be President—and working on editions of The South Bank Show and Arena. While directing a corporate video for BT he met Jonathan Ross, who was his assistant for the day. Ross invited Harries to direct a pilot for a chat show he and Alan Marke had developed that was based on Late Night with David Letterman. The pilot was a success and Ross found a television audience with The Last Resort with Jonathan Ross, which first aired in 1988.
Harries formed a production company called Sleeping Partners with Greengrass in the latter part of the decade, which produced Ross's The Incredibly Strange Film Show and comedian Lenny Henry's Lenny Live and Unleashed film. The latter was directed by Harries and was edited together from a number of performances by Henry at the Hackney Empire in 1989. The Guardian's film critic called the direction "unobtrusive".
The 1990s began with more direction and production for Ross and Marke's Channel X production company; in 1991 he made the documentary Viva Elvis! and executive produced Middlemarch Films' The Ghosts of Oxford Street, a musical about Oxford Street's history. The script for Ghosts was written by Harries' wife, Rebecca Frayn. The same year, he developed a script with Peter Morgan called Bhundu Beat, a film described by Variety as "a bizarre remake of A Hard Day's Night featuring the briefly fashionable Zimbawean band the Bhundu Boys and Brit comic Lenny Henry". With a development budget of £2,000, Harries sent Morgan on a research trip to Zimbabwe, taking a circuitous route that lasted for three days. Bhundu Beat was never made.
Second Granada career (1992–2007)
Controller of Comedy
At the 1991 Edinburgh Festival Fringe, Harries personally bought the television rights to An Evening with Gary Lineker, a comedy play written by Arthur Smith and Chris England based around a group of England fans at the 1990 FIFA World Cup. Smith bet Harries £100 that he would not be able to get the adaptation on television before the next World Cup. Harries tried selling Smith and England's screenplay to the BBC, Channel 4, LWT, Yorkshire Television and Central Independent Television to no avail. The BBC offered to produce it as a studio play but Harries wanted a full-length film to distinguish it from the original play, which was by then playing at London's West End. He was reluctant to offer the script to Granada because of his previous experience with the company. However, in 1992 he was accepted the position of controller of comedy at Granada and An Evening with Gary Lineker was made. Harries was disappointed that pressure from Granada's management had forced him to replace so many of the original stage cast; England was replaced by Paul Merton, leaving Caroline Quentin as the only original actor. The Edinburgh Fringe played an important role in Harries' early commissions at Granada; he was not fond of traditional styles of comedy and was always looking for alternative comedians. These included Caroline Aherne, Steve Coogan and John Thomson (though Coogan "got away" from him after the BBC offered to produce his Alan Partridge shows). After the failure of Bhundu Beat, Harries commissioned Peter Morgan to write "Mickey Love" in 1993, one of a series of short comedy films for the Rik Mayall series Rik Mayall Presents.
In 1994, after turning down an offer for "the number three position" at Channel 4 and extending his contract with Granada to become controller of entertainment and comedy, he commissioned The Mrs Merton Show from Aherne. In negotiating a second series with the BBC a few years later, another series from Aherne was included; The Royle Family, a sitcom featuring a working-class northern family, aired on BBC One from 1998 to 2000. The first two episodes were filmed with a studio audience, something Harries did not approve of. He scrapped these episodes and had them refilmed without a laugh track. The Royle Family returned for a one-off special in 2006, an achievement Harries described as giving him no greater pleasure. A spin-off of The Mrs Merton Show was commissioned by Harries from Aherne in 1999; Mrs Merton and Malcolm was based around Mrs Merton and her son Malcolm, played by Craig Cash. The programme was Aherne's first critical failure, which Harries blamed on the BBC One schedulers.
In 1995 he commissioned a comedy drama on spec from Mike Bullen, a BBC radio producer and first-time writer. Like An Evening with Gary Lineker, The Perfect Match was based around football and received respectable reviews. Harries was interested in producing more comedy dramas, based on the success of American programmes like Thirtysomething, and assigned Granada producer Christine Langan to work with Bullen. Langan and Bullen developed Cold Feet, which was broadcast in 1997 and was commissioned for a full series in 1998. It won the British Academy Television Award for Best Drama Series in 2002, which Harries collected with Bullen and Spencer Campbell. Harries executive produced two more series of Bullen's; Life Begins (2004–2006) and All About George (2005).
His first panel show produced came in 1999 with Mel and Sue's Casting Couch. The show was Mel and Sue's first programme made for ITV following the success of Light Lunch for Channel 4. Casting Couch had low viewing figures and was not recommissioned. It was one of several comedies commissioned by Harries in 1999 that were produced by Justin Judd. Others included Dark Ages and My Wonderful Life. Judd and Harries began developing Dark Ages—a sitcom set at the turn of the 2nd millennium—in 1997 but could not make it work with the writer at the time. They proposed it to Red Dwarf writer Rob Grant, who liked the idea, and wrote all six episodes. Dark Ages aired nightly during the Christmas 1999 period. A second series was proposed—Harries said it would "hit its stride" then—but ITV did not recommission it. My Wonderful Life was another ratings disaster. Harries blamed ITV Network Centre and publicly criticised the network, courting the ire of its director of channels David Liddiment.
Drama and film brief
In September 2000, Harries' portfolio was significantly expanded when he was appointed Granada's controller of drama, following the resignations of Sue Hogg and Simon Lewis. 2002 commissions included Doctor Zhivago and Henry VIII. ITV would provide only £750,000 for each hour of the serials, so Harries approached US broadcaster WGBH to make up the remaining funds. Following the merging of Granada Films with Granada Productions in 2002, Harries' brief was expanded to include films.
2003 was a significant year for Harries' drama output; Peter Morgan approached Granada with an idea for a drama documenting the conjectured pact between Tony Blair and Gordon Brown before the Labour Party leadership election, 1994. Granada's chief executive Charles Allen was not keen on producing The Deal but Harries and John Whiston persuaded him otherwise. ITV initially agreed to show it but pulled out before filming began. Harries offered it to Channel 4, who took it within 24 hours. The Deal was a critical success and won the British Academy Television Award for Best Single Drama. That same year Harries brought back the drama serial Prime Suspect, which had not been produced since the star Helen Mirren quit in 1995. Mirren agreed to return for Prime Suspect: The Last Witness only if it was "about something". Two years later it returned for the seventh and final serial, entitled The Final Act, in which Jane Tennison, Mirren's character, confronts her alcoholism in a sub-plot. Lynda La Plante, who created Prime Suspect in 1989, was critical of the decision to "make [Tennison] a drunk", though Harries rebutted, saying, "Lynda was the one who started Jane Tennison drinking heavily—it's not out of character". In 2004, Harries was ranked number eleven on a list of the most powerful figures in British TV drama, compiled by industry experts for the Radio Times.
During the read-throughs for The Last Witness Harries watched other actors and production staff react to Mirren as if she was "like the Queen". Already in pre-production was a follow-up to The Deal that would focus on the royal family in the week following the death of Diana, Princess of Wales. Peter Morgan was due to return as the writer, Stephen Frears was signed on as director and Harries suggested to Mirren that she play the Queen. Mirren agreed and the film, co-produced by Granada and Pathé, was released in September 2006. Among the numerous awards for which it was nominated were the BAFTA Award for Best Film and the Academy Award for Best Picture (the former it won). Despite the success of the film, Harries once again expressed disappointment with ITV for not giving enough backing. In an interview the month before The Queen was released he criticised the management of ITV for being deeply complacent and arrogant, and expressed disappointment that drama on the channel was not as good as it once was. At the end of the year he announced that he would not be renewing his contract with the company. Entertainment industry commentators suggested that he would set up his own independent production company.
Left Bank Pictures (2007–present)
Rumours that he would start his own company, possibly with Caroline Aherne, had circulated since the 1990s. The predictions came to fruition in May 2007 when Harries announced the formation of Left Bank Pictures, which BBC Worldwide immediately took a 25% share in. Left Bank was the first British production house to receive investment from BBC Worldwide, and there was some concern that there was a conflict of interest for the publicly funded BBC; in The Guardian, Steve Hewlett wrote that the deal was a "back-door way of getting around the rules preventing the BBC producing programmes for its British rivals". Hewlett also commented that the investment might limit Left Bank's future prospects, as it was "tied to" the BBC. At Left Bank, Harries proposed to produce two features films per year, as well as several television series. The company's first television commission is Wallander, a three-part series based on Henning Mankell's Kurt Wallander novels. The series was made in association with Swedish company Yellow Bird for the BBC. It was broadcast in November and December 2008, and a second series followed in 2010.
In 2009, Left Bank's first feature film, The Damned United (adapted by Peter Morgan from the David Peace novel) was released. Also broadcast in 2009 was the comedy series School of Comedy and the crime drama Father & Son. Comedy drama series Married Single Other was filmed for ITV and was broadcast in 2010. Harries executive produced the third part of Peter Morgan's "Blair trilogy", The Special Relationship, for HBO Films and BBC Films. It was first broadcast on the HBO networks in the United States in May 2010.
Left Bank's inception lead to Harries being listed in The Guardian's Media Top 100, making his entry at number 66. At the end of the year he was listed in Broadcast's Top 100 Producers, being described as "one of the UK's most outstanding drama producers". In May 2007, the British Academy of Film and Television Arts awarded him the Special Award in Honour of Alan Clarke. In December 2009, the Radio Times ranked him at number six in their "Faces of 2010" feature, a compilation of "the biggest names and the coming stars in the year ahead". In Broadcast's Top 100 for 2010, Harries was ranked at number two in the executive producers category. He received an Academy Award nomination as producer of The Queen which saw a run of six Academy Award nominations with Helen Mirren memorably winning Best Actress.
Harries has been married to writer and director Rebecca Frayn since July 1992. The couple have three children; Jack and Finn (identical twins) born in 1993, and Emmy Lou. Emmy Lou was conceived through in vitro fertilisation (IVF), an experience Harries worked into the storyline of Cold Feet and Frayn used as the basis for her novel One Life. Emmy Lou also had a cameo in The Queen as the little girl who hands flowers to the Queen outside Buckingham Palace. In 2008, Jack appeared in the Channel 4 Comedy Lab pilot School of Comedy, and the subsequent E4 series, which was produced by Left Bank. Finn appears in a School of Comedy sketch entitled "Continuity Errors", as a clone of Jack's character. Jack and Finn also run a successful YouTube channel, JacksGap, which has attracted over 4 million subscribers. (3.8 million subscribers, November 2014)
|1980||World in Action||Researcher||Television documentary series|
|1982||Disappearing World||Researcher||Television documentary series|
|1983||Twenty Twenty Vision||Director||2 episodes of television series:
|1984||Africa||Director||Television documentary series[n 1]|
|1984–1988||The South Bank Show||Director, producer||4 episodes of television series:
|1985||Food for Thought||Director||Television documentary series|
|1986||South of Watford||Director, producer||2 episodes of television series
|1987||A Short Sharp Shock||Director, producer||Television documentary|
|1987||Arena||Director, producer||2 episode of television series:|
|1988||The Incredibly Strange Film Show||Director, producer||1 series of television series|
|1989||Lenny Live and Unleashed||Director, producer||Feature film|
|1989||Son of Incredibly Strange Film Show||Director, producer||1 series of television series|
|1990||True Stories||Director, producer||1 episode of television series:
|1990||Omnibus||Director, producer||1 episode of television series:
|1991||Jonathan Ross Presents for One Week Only||Director, producer||1 series of television series|
|1991||Viva Elvis!||Director, producer||Television documentary|
|1991||The Ghosts of Oxford Street||Executive producer||Television film|
|1993–1995||Surgical Spirit||Executive producer||3 series of television series|
|1993–1995||Rik Mayall Presents||Executive producer||2 series of television series|
|1993||Full Monty||Executive producer||1 series of television series|
|1993||Comic Timing: That Nice Mrs Merton||Executive producer||Television pilot|
|1994||The House of Windsor||Executive producer||1 series of television series|
|1994||An Evening with Gary Lineker||Executive producer||Television film|
|1995–1998||The Mrs Merton Show||Executive producer||5 series of television series|
|1995||The World of Lee Evans||Executive producer||1 series of television series|
|1995||The Perfect Match||Executive producer||Television film|
|1996||True Love||Executive producer||Television film|
|1997–1998||Holding the Baby||Executive producer||2 series of television series|
|1997||Comedy Premieres: Cold Feet||Executive producer||Television pilot|
|1997||Comedy Premieres: The Chest||Executive producer||Television pilot|
|1997–1999||My Wonderful Life||Executive producer||3 series of television series|
|1997||Comedy Premieres: The Grimleys||Executive producer||Television pilot|
|1997||Jack Dee's Sunday Service||Executive producer||1 series of television series|
|1997||Comedy Premieres: King Leek||Executive producer||Television pilot|
|1998||The Misadventures of Margaret||Executive producer||Feature film|
|1998–2000||The Royle Family||Executive producer||3 series of television series|
|1998–2003||Cold Feet||Executive producer||5 series of television series|
|1999||Mrs Merton and Malcolm||Executive producer||1 series of television series|
|1999||Passion Killers||Executive producer||Television pilot|
|1999–2001||The Grimleys||Executive producer||3 series of television series|
|1999||Mel and Sue's Casting Couch||Executive producer||Television chat show|
|1999||Dark Ages||Executive producer||1 series of television series|
|2000–2001||Bob Martin||Executive producer||2 series of television series|
|2000||Back Passage to India||Director, executive producer||Television mockumentary|
|2000||Metropolis||Executive producer||1 series of television series|
|2000||Safe as Houses||Executive producer||Television film|
|2002||The Jury||Executive producer||6-part television serial|
|2002–2003||The Forsyte Saga||Executive producer||2 series of television series|
|2002||Lenny Blue||Executive producer||2-part television serial|
|2002||Doctor Zhivago||Executive producer||3-part television serial|
|2003||Cold Feet: The Final Call||Executive producer||Television documentary|
|2003||Watermelon||Executive producer||Television film|
|2003||The Deal||Executive producer||Television film|
|2003||Henry VIII||Executive producer||2-part television serial|
|2003–2006||Prime Suspect||Executive producer||2 series of television series|
|2004–2006||Donovan||Executive producer||2 series of television series|
|2004–2006||Life Begins||Executive producer||3 series of television series|
|2004–2006||Murder City||Executive producer||2 series of television series|
|2004||Island at War||Executive producer||1 series of television series|
|2004||Wall of Silence||Executive producer||Television film|
|2004||Dirty Filthy Love||Executive producer||Television film|
|2004||Whose Baby?||Executive producer||Television film|
|2004||Christmas Lights||Executive producer||Television film|
|2005||Bloodlines||Executive producer||Television film|
|2005||Planespotting||Executive producer||Television film|
|2005||The Walk||Executive producer||Television film|
|2005||Colditz||Executive producer||2-part television serial|
|2005||Pierrepoint||Executive producer||Television film with territorial theatrical release|
|2005||All About George||Executive producer||1 series of television series|
|2005–2006||Vincent||Executive producer||2 series of television series|
|2005||Secret Smile||Executive producer||2-part television serial|
|2006||Eleventh Hour||Executive producer||1 series of television series|
|2006||Northern Lights||Executive producer||1 series of television series|
|2006||The Incredible Journey of Mary Bryant||Executive producer||2-part television serial|
|2006||The Street||Executive producer||1 series of television series|
|2006||See No Evil: The Moors Murders||Executive producer||2-part television serial|
|2006||The Kindness of Strangers||Executive producer||2-part television serial|
|2006||The Queen||Producer||Feature film|
|2006||The Girls Who Came to Stay||Executive producer||Television film|
|2006||Cracker||Executive producer||1 episode of television series: "Nine Eleven"|
|2006||Behind the Scenes: Cracker||Executive producer||Television documentary|
|2006||What We Did on Our Holiday||Executive producer||Television film|
|2006||Longford||Executive producer||Television film|
|2006||We Love The Royle Family||Executive producer||Television documentary|
|2006||The Royle Family: The Queen of Sheba||Executive producer||Television episode|
|2006||Losing Gemma||Executive producer||2-part television serial|
|2006||Perfect Parents||Executive producer||Television film|
|2007||Dead Clever: The Life and Times of Julia Bottomley||Executive producer||Television film|
|2007||Northanger Abbey||Executive producer||Television film|
|2007||City Lights||Executive producer||1 series of television series|
|2008||Comedy Lab: Kids' School of Comedy||Executive producer||Television pilot|
|2008–2012||Wallander||Executive producer||3 series of television series|
|2009||The Damned United||Producer||Feature film|
|2009||Father & Son||Executive producer||4-part television serial|
|2009–2010||School of Comedy||Executive producer||2 series of television series|
|2010||Married Single Other||Executive producer||1 series of television series|
|2010—2013||Strike Back||Executive producer||4 series of television series (18 episodes)|
|2010||The Special Relationship||Executive producer||Television film with territorial theatrical release|
|2010||DCI Banks: Aftermath||Executive producer||2-part television pilot|
|2011||Zen||Executive producer||1 series of television series|
|2011—2013||Mad Dogs||Executive producer||3 series of television series (12 episodes)|
|2011—-2014||DCI Banks||Executive producer||2 series of television series (16 Episodes)|
|2011||The Lady||Producer||Feature film|
|2012||All in Good Time||Producer||Feature film|
|2012||Cardinal Burns||Executive producer||1 series of television series|
|2012||Loving Miss Hatto||Executive producer||Television film|
|2013||The Ice Cream Girls||Executive producer||3-part television serial|
|2013 (post-production)||Tommy Cooper: Not Like That, Like This||Executive producer||TV Movie|
- Directed and produced with Paul Yule.
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