Chantal Rickards has spent most of the last three decades working in television in the UK. Rickards began her career in television as a researcher at ITV’s Yorkshire Television where she spent eleven years in entertainment becoming a producer, director and executive producer; later she became Channel Director at Carlton Television’s Taste Network. Her TV credits include the international formats for Masterchef, Countdown and Through the Keyhole. She spent time as a commissioning executive at the BBC, and recently has served as the head of programming and branded content at MEC, a division of the media investment company Group M.
Chantal spoke with Red Touch Media’s Kelly Forshaw about some of the great work BAFTA LA are doing, including celebrating the work of British talent in the U.S.
Kelly: Chantal, tell us how long have you lived in LA now?
Chantal: I’ve been here for four months, so I’m a newcomer.
Kelly: You are! What were doing before you came over to LA?
Chantal: So, I used to work for a media agency in London, MEC part of the WPP Network, which was fascinating. But, my main career prior to that was being a producer and director in television for the BBC and ITV for many years. I used to come to LA a bit, I used to make a TV show called ‘Through the Keyhole’ about the lifestyles of the rich and famous, so I used to come and film at celebrities houses in Los Angeles occasionally in my old career. So it’s lovely to be here as a proper working person for the first time.
Kelly: You must of worked with some fascinating people and have some incredible stories, with these A listers I imagine.
Chantal: At the moment there’s a bit of a gear change going on because I’m moving into the film world having worked in the television world. I worked with Sir David Frost for many, many years who in his own way was one of the most important people globally in media and there was a film made about his life too. He’s probably one of the most important people I’ve ever worked with, but we’ve got lots of big events coming up in BAFTA in Los Angeles over the next four to six month we’re really gearing up towards the awards season. We’ve just announced we’re having our big Britannia, British Academy awards in October here in LA and we’re honoring Meryl Streep and James Corden who is now a big deal on the West Coast as well as in London, and Sam Mendez and more to come, so that’s going to be a really exciting night.
Kelly: Is that about celebrating the talent on both sides of the pond? Like actors such as James Corden who has come over he and been so successful, he’s gone down so well over here!
Chantal: He has, and actually that’s what this award is there to do, we’re giving him the British artist of the year award that’s being sponsored by Burberry. We’re incredibly happy that he’s come over here, he’s made the fantastic transition to the West coast and his career is just stratospheric. We’re happy to be a part of it.
Kelly: It’s a unique thing, because there’s such a difference, especially in humor. What some British people might find hilarious might not go down so well over here. So what he’s done is a fantastic achievement.
Chantal: He’s done incredibly well. He’s worked out exactly what comedy works on both sides of the Atlantic. Virally, he’s doing a hell of a lot of stuff in his programs which have turned into fantastic viral moments that are being spread across social media and they’re just so much they’re great, great pieces of content so- lucky him.
Kelly: Speaking of content, how does BAFTA LA use content to promote and market, and let people know what BAFTA LA is all about?
Chantal: Well, we create content as well as actually promote content, we’re here to show all our members the new movies that are coming up so they can vote on those during the awards season, but we also put on Q&A’s, master classes, all of those go up on to our websites. We’re spreading that message about BAFTA in LA all the time. Clearly, we’re a charity so most of what we do is raise funds for the charitable work we do with scholarships and also in the schools programs, community outreach programs that we do. Again, we try to make content out of that we upload to our website and spread the message further and wider.
Kelly: Tell us, it must be hectic around award season, have you experienced it yet seeing as you’ve been in your role for four months?
Chantal: Well, we are just gearing up to it now- I’m not sure how many more hours there are in the day because I seem to be working most of them already. People tell me it gets busier and busier, so I think you’ll have to ask me in about four months if I’m still standing I’ll give you an answer!
Kelly: We are at Stubhub center, the home of LA Galaxy, is there anything you miss about the UK? A lot of people miss the football, but I suppose it’s growing a lot over here!
Chantal: The obvious answer is my children, but I was sharing the football with them this morning because I phoned them this morning and they were watching Manchester City playing and I was watching in on the television over here in Hollywood – so we were actually sharing what was going on via TV. It was lovely to do that and they’ll be coming out here to visit so it will be lovely to see them. So, my kids are the first thing, otherwise probably, decent chocolate, and decent ham, which is a slightly stupid answer but I cannot find decent ham anywhere! If you know anywhere that sells really good ham in Hollywood just let me know!
Kelly: I’ll keep on the look out for that, well that you so much for speaking with us! Good luck with BAFTA season and your career at BAFTA.