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2 October 1935|
Buenos Aires, Argentina
Brian R Degas (born 2 October 1935), is a British film and television writer and producer, merchandiser and creative packager of ancillary rights.
Degas was born of English parents in Argentina and while raised in the English language was also conversant with Spanish and Italian languages and cultures. His apprenticeship as a Writer/Director in amateur dramatics laid down the foundations for his career in the entertainment business.
At the age of 21 in pursuit of a dream he emigrated to the United States and was invited to join CBS-TV Network as a Production Trainee in Public Affairs Programming. A variety of posts followed on such distinguished programmes as Adventure and Odyssey hosted by Charles Collingwood led to his cross over into Drama when he was invited to join John Houseman, the distinguished Hollywood Producer in the production of his award-winning TV anthology series – The Seven Lively Arts for CBS-TV. It was under the tutelage and friendship of burgeoning writers (Reginald Rose) and Directors (Sidney Lumet, George Roy Hill) that he forged his creative skills which, significantly, led to being seconded at 27 to the new CBS-TV Affiliate in as Exec Producer of Light Entertainment & Member of the Programming Board. Resolved to writing for film and television as a career, it was on a visit to and a chance meeting with Roger Moore who gave him the opportunity to develop his writing talents by contributing episodes to his The Saint TV series. Extensive TV writing assignments followed with popular Anglo American series including The Baron (Steve Forrest), Strange Report (Anthony Quayle), Shirleys World (Shirley Mclaine), The Informer (Ian Henry), The Mask of Janus for the BBC – a four-part drama adaptation from a novel Death is a Good Living (Leonard Rossiter).
In 1963, he turned to creating and developing his own TV series and was the first of a few guests Producers with BBC Television. It was Vendetta, his audacious anti mafia TV series airing over 3 years for which he not only provided the leading Italian Actor, numerous episodes, 3 paperbacks from the series published by CORGI but also the music which he commissioned independently from Oscar winning composer John Barry and released on CBS Records. Fluent in Italian, it was only a matter of time before he found his way by chance and design Script Consulting and editing for the inimitable Dino de Laurentiis in . Nurtured and encouraged by de Laurentiis and screen credited on Barbarella (Jane Fonda), Danger Diabolik (John Philip Law), Better a Widow (Virna Lisi) and Summertime Killer (Karl Malden) his innovative drive was lost in the restrictive management of rewrites and felt compelled to return to television as Producer of The Venturers a drama series for BBC TV set in the world of high finance.
Combining both creativity and commercial disciplines, Degas went on to devise and develop the television series Colditz, a BBC TV/MCA Universal co-production WWII drama series based on The Colditz Story and The Latter Days by Major Patrick Robert Reid, the first escape officer in Colditz and technical Adviser to the series in association with Gerard Glaister. the BBC Exec. Producer. The series enjoyed numerous awards – Best BBC TV Series, Best British TV Series, Best Design, and Best Music and played to a record viewing audience of 18 million each week. Screened worldwide in 47 countries Colditz testifies to an almost universal name recognition and so great is public interest that anything connected with Colditz continues to be noteworthy.
Hitherto, the lucrative exploitation of Ancillary Rights from Adult movies and TV Dramas was unknown and whereas Degas recognised that Colditz provided a unique opportunity to tap directly into this new power source, he seized this opportunity and, independent of BBC TV, conceived, developed and licensed substantial merchandising projects from the intrinsic drama of the series among them was The Spirit of Colditz, a model of the Colditz glider for Airfix, Colditz Breakpoint, a dramatic journey into the sounds of pursuit, capture and escape from Colditz released on an LP by EMI , The Colditz Escape Kit, a DIY model of Colditz Castle, an Action Man model and endorsements for a Mars Bar promotion culminating in the now classic board-game, Escape from Colditz which Degas conceived and developed jointly with Major P R Reid and sold over half a million copies including a version in Spanish by DEVIR Iberia S.L.. Osprey Games is due to publish a deluxe edition of the board-game in 2016. Osprey calls it “not only an important touchstone in the history of board-games but also one of the best-loved and most respected military themed board-games”.
Returning to the US, and TV programming in New York and Hollywood for a brief period which included Head of Development for Brut Productions and for Danny Thomas Enterprises and with high hopes turned to the world of theatre and co-produced Chapter 17 by Simon Gray, which was a dismal failure at the box office. Notwithstanding, a close friendship with the legendary Gloria Swanson led to an inevitable writing collaboration of her long-awaited biography. Accordingly, in 1979 Degas set up Gloria’s Way Inc and personally closed an impressive publishing contract with Random House in . The 520-page bestselling volume sold over 148,000 in hard cover and close to 300,000 in paperback and was critically acclaimed in all 3 language editions. It was his distinctive marketing plan for the book and his promotional tour with Gloria that refined his marketing skills in all aspects of the media.
Returning to the UK, he joined Polymuse Inc an international film investment company as Exec VP in charge of Creative Affairs and Marketing emphasising that “in an advertising led system in a new billion dollar market in Europe it was time to develop a competitive strategy and target specific audiences on a cost effective bases – and that it was a fallacy to think that inexpensive programmes meant inferior TV.”
In 1990 together with Harry Robertson he brought his innovative skills back to the BBC as Creator, Writer and Producer of Specials, a TV drama series, including three paperback editions published by Fontana, about part-time policemen – ordinary people whose commitment made them extraordinary. This was followed by Virtual Murder, an off-beat psychological “who dunnit” drama series about two jet-set investigative psychologists involved in bizarre crimes. The series' guest stars included Richard Todd, Dora Bryan and Jon Pertwee.
A later project was Confidentially Speaking, created in association with British Telecom, and written as an "eavesdropping drama" down a crossed telephone line.
Degas has been happily married for 30 years to a lady he refers to “as his captain who runs the ship from which he flies his missions”.
- Anthony Clark (9 October 2010). "Colditz". screenonline.org.uk. Retrieved 9 October 2010.