My New Normal: Q&A with James Seabright, Producer, Seabright Productions

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What social media do you regularly use?

I’m mainly a tweeter – with occasional forays into Facebook and Instagram.

What kinds of things you post?

Most of my posts are talking about my shows – I’m not a fan of sharing personal stuff on social media. Both because I doubt anyone would be interested and, as I am a workaholic, there isn’t much to write about.

What podcasts are you listening to? 

Podcasts have only been something that I’ve tuned to since Covid landed with us. I’m now a big fan of Newscast, Americast and the sister news pods coming out of the BBC. Occasionally, I tune into Morning Meeting, the podcast that accompanies Airmail, which is Graydon Carter’s latest thing. I was also suitably spooked by The Battersea Poltergeist and look forward to whatever Danny Robins does next.

And on the airwaves? 

Radio 4 is the default background noise in our house. Every working day starts with the agenda-setting buzz of the Today programme, but, when working at home, I listen out for More or Less and PM.  On Sundays we tune across to Radio 2 for Elaine Paige and Paul O’Grady. It’s also great to have Magic at the Musicals there when a show tune is needed.

Current viewing habits, film, TV, online?

My partner works in TV as a casting director, so he needs to watch a lot to stay up-to-date professionally. This apparently means he needs to have sole control over the remote – does that sound right to you? Honestly, I don’t watch much live TV myself, even when it is on in front of me. I’ve been fascinated by the way that the theatre world has discovered streaming during Covid times and developed quickly to ramp up the production values. In terms of film, you can’t beat being in a proper cinema, and I try to find time to watch new films that I am excited about on the big screen.

What’s your favourite ad campaign and why?

I’ve taken a more cynical view of advertising since I produced Tom Hodge’s show Confessions of a Jingle Writer in Edinburgh back in the mists of time (aka, 2005). But I’ve followed in my father’s footsteps and am also a terrible snob when it comes to commercial television and rarely watch it: commercial breaks are never a good construct to work around creatively.

Your favourite viral, if you have one?

I couldn’t be less in touch with viral content if I tried. It’s hard to avoid being cynical about so much of the content in that area, so I tend to simply tune it out and avoid the embarrassment of trying to create viral marketing assets and failing. Particularly in the world of live entertainment, it is far from assured that a successful viral campaign will translate into ticket sales.

Your favourite maxim for life (and who said it)?

Not a huge slogan fan, but I have successfully followed the Groucho Marx proviso to avoid clubs that would have me as a member…

How has your company responded to the challenges raised by Coronavirus?  

We’ve tried to find ways to keep producing. This has meant everything from doing drive-in shows to filming a new musical for streaming release. But it’s still a huge relief when real-life box office takings make an appearance, as is occasionally happening again now. Our eagerness to get live shows back on was rewarded when we were the first to reopen a show in the West End last October (when Adam Kay brought This Is Going To Hurt to the Apollo Theatre), but it was maddening when we had to close it again 10 days later. We went through much the same cycle when theatres reopened late last year, only too close again shortly afterwards. I’m really hoping that the long shutdown that followed the December lockdown is the final one we will see for the time being.

What opportunities has it created?

I’ve found out how to film theatre and make it look good! I’ve also taken the chance to spend more time working with my peers in the producing side of the industry, as we find mutually beneficial ways out of the pandemic.

What future changes do you anticipate needing to make in the ‘new normal’? 

Embracing uncertainty is an easy thing to say and a hard thing to do, but I have found it the best approach to finding a way through “all of this” and to understanding that we cannot cling to old certainties anymore. I also quite enjoy seeing companies use Covid as a catch-all excuse for revisiting their well-worn approaches to things, even when they’re just using it as an excuse rather than a genuine explanation for why something is changing. Pandemics are phenomenal levellers in that respect, and, as was the case before Covid, my loyalty rests with the brands, colleagues and friends responding honestly and decently to the position we all find ourselves in.