Mike Blair

Holly Allen


What’s your role at MultiStory?

I’m really lucky that my role gives me a very wide brief. Documentaries and current affairs cover just about everything on telly, though I’ve still not cracked turning our crime docs into musicals – yet! We’ve relaunched and invested more money in our documentary unit to capitalise on current successes and to focus on more premium films and series. It means we’ll be working with an increasing number of brilliant filmmakers alongside a very strong in-house team. Exciting times!


What made you want to get into TV and how did you make that a reality?  

At the very beginning I needed to earn a few quid to continue my travels after leaving school – and accidentally got a job as a trainee journalist. Seriously! I basically made the tea and was sometimes allowed to write about sheep-dog trials and fell running (It was in the Lake District)! I found I loved it. I moved to a very large freelance agency mainly covering courts, then into radio – and then my big break into Regional TV News. Back in the day it was a brilliant training ground (it probably still is) because you had to do everything. I even presented programmes. Rumours I was taken off air because of a viewer’s petition are somewhat exaggerated. But I did want to tell longer form stories, to explore more detail, get under the skin of things – and make a ‘difference’. That meant a move into factual programmes and documentaries where my journalism skills (nosiness and an irritating persistence) really helped. As did a willingness to work very hard over many hours – and still love it whatever the task – investigations, war zones, wildlife films, art programmers – and even the odd car show.


What’s the biggest hurdle you’ve had to overcome to get to where you are? 

I think it’s the same hurdle many people have – impostor syndrome. Do I really deserve this ‘success’? When will they finally rumble me?! When I was a kid, career advice at the comprehensive I went to was either join the army, if you wanted to get away; or a factory apprenticeship if you were staying put. A job in TV was in another galaxy. It’s a syndrome you need to make work for you, to help push you to achieve the very best in yourself and in others!


What has been the highlight of your career so far? 

Cliche warning! Highlights – The people I work with and the people I’ve met doing the best job on the planet. TV is a privilege. It allows you into places and other people’s lives in a way no other job can or does. I’ve met Prime Ministers, Presidents, ‘ordinary people’ and Princes. I’ve been involved in filming on almost every continent on earth; seen the very best of humanity and the very worst. I’ve been part of programmes that have held the powerful to account, given a voice to those who didn’t think they’d ever be listened to, and ones that have ‘changed things’. I’ve also been part of films that have simply been about beautiful stories, with lovely humans in beautiful places. I admit I do go on a bit … but you get the drift!

And there have been so many ‘pinch me’ moments when I’ve been ‘working’. Here’s just a few. From the sublime … riding a Harley through the Rockies and sharing a beer with David ‘Del Boy’ Jason in San Francisco; To the surreal … getting changed out of my cycling kit in a Buckingham Palace toilet and sharing jokes in the Middle East with a camera Op as missiles streaked overhead; to the seriously humbling… meeting the wonderful women of the Aberfan Wives Club to spending time with a holocaust survivor in Belsen.


Are there any big learning curves or disaster moments you can look back and laugh about now? 

I’ve made loads of mistakes, including a film once described by an exec in a viewing as the worst 30 minutes of his life (it got a bit better). But I’m not going to list them because I can’t remember which ones I owned up to – and which ones I made right before anyone found out! Truth is, as long as no-one is maimed and you’re not fired, mistakes can be a good thing. They force us to learn, to review and reevaluate what we did and how we can do it much better next time. Importantly, they can and should also make us more understanding and compassionate when others do the same thing!


What are your favourite TV shows?  

No surprises I’m a fan of news programmes – I still get a slight twinge of envy when a journo is covering a huge national or international story. I think the past few years have been the most extraordinary of many lifetimes and I feel my teams and I have collectively been across most of the biggest ones.

Probably also no surprise, I’m an avid watcher of documentaries. Netflix has done some amazing true crime series. Some I get by word of mouth, others because I love the title (Worst Roommate Ever). When I’m not watching crime docs – I’m still in love with Scandi-Noir dramas! Light relief comes in the shape currently of Stanley Tucci Searching for Italy on the BBC. It’s so simple and beautiful – he’s a gem of a presenter. And a big shoutout to Simon Reeves South America also. For complete escapism – The Mandalorian (It’s really a western set in space) Stranger Things (brilliant soundtrack) And I’m currently going through the entire Marvel catalogue with my daughter (great comedy).