Andy Harries | Founder, Left Bank Pictures, Producer, The Crown

We are thrilled to welcome as our first guest on Creative Entrepreneurs Conversations the highly talented and visionary Andy Harries, Founder of multi-award-winning production company Left Bank Pictures, producer of Netflix mega hit The Crown.

Tune in to listen to Andy share his entrepreneurial journey, from his early days in rebellious Manchester with Lenny Henry, Jonathan Ross and more, his joining up with legendary writer Peter Morgan, the six Oscar nominations for The Queen, starring Helen Mirren, leading to setting up Left Bank. Very British roots which exploded onto the world stage. Andy also shares what it takes to start and grow a creative business and how selling a stake at the right time can help you take it to the next level.

Listen 0:00


About Andy Harries

Andy started his career as an award – winning documentary maker, producing and directing films for Arena, Omnibus, The South Bank Show and the Emmy – nominated Africa for Channel 4. He later moved into the world of comedy directing and producing Lenny Henry’s feature film Lenny: Live and Unleashed.

Prior to establishing Left Bank Pictures, Andy Harries was Controller of Drama, Comedy and Film for Granada Productions. During this period (2000 – 2007) he produced a huge range of dramas, comedies and films for ITV1 and other broadcasters.


Show Notes

0:00 Introduction

3:43 The Crown – flagship show of Left Bank

4:10 Massive changes from the streaming revolution – TV and film has never more exciting, never more global

5:00 Andy’s personal background

6:20 Professional start in journalism, with a passion for film

8:34 Moving to Manchester and Granada Television

10:30 The anti-establishment spirit of Granada

11:30 Working with Tony Wilson, Factory Records, Joy Division – Manchester becomes a major music scene – Peter Saville, Malcolm McLaren and the Sex Pistols

14:00 Working in television, the genesis of story ideas

15:00 The creative proces

16:07 Failure leading to rocket fuel for ambition

19: 00 Moving to London at Channel 4 and getting arrested

20:15 Freelance director in London making documentaries

20: 37 Meeting Jonathan Ross and creating The Jonathan Ross Show

22:50 Being a producer is all about working with creative talent

25:00 Working in LA – open-topped sports car, house in the hills, parties – Brits in LA

26:50 A new direction – becoming the Head of Comedy at Granada – leading to iconic shows Royle Family, Cold Feet

30:00 Different kind of comedy without live audience, in real time – precursor to 24?

32:00 Starting in a new genre – comedy – finding talent – being conned by Steve Coogan

34:20 Casting Lee Evans in a little film with his agent’s instructions: “Can’t get the boy arrested, do what you like with him” – got him cast in a big Hollywood movie

37:40 Taking over Drama at Granada – getting Helen Mirren to come back to Prime Suspect – Emmys – springboard to The Queen

40:52 Meeting Peter Morgan, writer of The Crown

41:25 Work on a film with Lenny Henry

45:00 Making The Deal

47:00 Watching Helen Mirren embody The Queen

48:12 Approaching Director Stephen Frears

49:10 Impact of The Queen’s success

50:10 Moment it became clear he should set up his own company – to have more control over the programmes he made

50:50 Importance of retaining IP

52:00 Wallander with Kenneth Branagh

52:20 Agonising over the decision to set up an independent company – financial risk, in the middle of the crash of 2007

54:05 The boom in drama which totally took off with Netflix

55:58 Successful business as a key means to keep control of your creativity

56:35 Thought process of setting up company, why “Left Bank”

58:00 Being clear on what you want to do – for him, making big international television, making an impact in America

59:15 The importance of networking, putting the time in to build relationships from the bottom up

1:00:30 Growth of television expanding outside of America – streamers have enabled great television from all over the world

1:02:54 Peter Morgan and the play ‘The Audience’ with Helen Mirren, reprising as the Queen, about the weekly meeting with the Prime Minister

1:04:23 Becoming The Crown

1:05:20 Thinking big about a television series

1:07:25 Beginnings of the script and mapping out the money for 6 series covering the whole reign

1:08:50 Taking the idea to the broadcasters, pitching with Peter Morgan and Stephen Daldry – how it ended up with Netflix

1:10:45 Aiming for the highest quality, the best of British talent

1:13:15 Great team delivering it

1:14:25 Tips: starting your own business: initial funding is key, understand how long you can last before things become critical

1:15:07 Tips: selling at a later stage: selling to Sony Entertainment in 2012 was a good time for Left Bank, took it to another level globally, was before The Crown, helped Left Bank secure the Netflix deal

1:16:15 Why US studios are great partners for independent production companies

1:17:30 The difference between a creative business and a widget business

1:19:45 Darkest hour? When in the early days shows got cancelled while trying to start a business

1:21:30 Succession planning – hard as an entrepreneur, when by definition you’re either all in or not in

1:22:00 Tip: work/life balance? “It’s SO important… but you don’t have to go to the top of Kathmandu”

1:23:46 “If you’re selling, which is a critical part of what I do, you’ve got to have the passion, you’ve got to ensure the people who are buying understand that passion and believe it”

1:24:12 “If you can’t make a sale, make an impression” As most often you don’t make a sale, you’re building your brand, leaving an impression of someone they’d like to do business with in the future

1:24:00 “Follow your instincts. When I haven’t followed mine, that’s when things have gone wrong.”

1:25:30 “Don’t harbour grievances”

1:26:40 “I’d always want to be a seller, never a buyer. I’d never just want to be saying “yes, no, yes, no” all day

1:27:17 The problems with streaming being so algorithm-led

1:28:00 Creative Entrepreneurs Conversations’ brand New Closing Tradition! A single question to be asked to each guest

1:28:25 Andy chose the question: Listen to hear what it is, and his answer


1:32:20 The huge controversy Season 5 attracted, being about the ’90’s, arguably the most difficult time for the British monarchy

1:32:28 Impact of the passing of Her Majesty the Queen only a few months before the release of Season 5

1:30:00 Increased interest as Seasons get closer to contemporary times

1:34:30 Impact of change of monarch

1:35:00 Efforts to try to limit any damage of Season 5, before any of the shows had dropped

1:36:00 Similar to dropping of trailers on the Meghan and Harry documentary

1:37:00 Challenging timing that the new series dropped just as new monarch took on role

1:28:00 Season 5 looking at the 90’s in a very unsensational way – The Crown has never sensationalised anything

1:38:50 The research operation that ensures upmost accuracy

1:39:55 The death of Her Majesty the Queen when the release date had already been set

1:42:48 The royal family being at the top of the news agenda for many reasons besides The Crown, e.g. the Meghan and Harry documentary, the succession

1:44:10 Choosing which royal family stories to depict in The Crown

1:45:15 When the British tabloid press is the source of stories

1:46:55 Final Series, Series 6, goes until 2005 – 18 years short of where we are now – half way through filming now, dropping in 2023

1:47:55 Impact of the controversy on the business of The Crown and Left Bank Pictures

1:48:45 The Crown has big budget all spent in uk good for British economy – reflects strong and positive image of the UK and has reinforced the best of the royal family over the 6 Seasons

Quotes we love from the interview

Andy to Helen Mirren: “Have you ever thought about playing the Queen?”

Andy to Stephen Frears: “Stephen, I’m with Helen Mirren, I just had this crazy idea about making a film about the Queen with Helen”

Stephen: “Oh, that’s a good idea.” (With an excellent Stephen Frears impersonation)

About The Queen: “The narrative of the way Blair helped out the Queen that week is now very familiar to all of us, but because Peter [Morgan] brought it to life.”

About The Crown: “Six series covering the whole reign – you’re talking about a proper appraisal of modern British history post war – wow, that’s epic.”

“The big difference between a creative business and a widget business is when somebody buys you and you’re in the creative business, they don’t want to get rid of you, quite the opposite, they’re buying the people and the creative relationships.”

“I would have lied down in a road in front of a truck to get a commission”

“I think people understand them [the royal family] a great deal better, a lot of sympathy has been generated for when they’re in difficult situations and a lot of insight into how they operate and why they operate as they do and what they mean to people, I think has all been inherent in the stories that we’ve told.”


Left Bank Pictures
The Crown (IMDb)

Book recommendation: From Manchester with Love: The Life and Opinions of Tony Wilson

by Paul Morely

Critically-acclaimed and bestselling author Paul Morley’s long-awaited biography of Factory Records co-founder and Manchester icon Tony Wilson.