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Interview

Interview

Get To Know Dame Julie Christie

Dame Julie Christine

Hello, we have Dame Julie Christie; I would like you to introduce yourself please and tell us what you do exactly.

My name is Julie Christie, and I work as a television producer in the international market, primarily based in New Zealand but creating content for a global audience.

 

How did you come to receive the Dame title?

I was honored with the Dame title in 2017. The title was bestowed by the Queen of England to individuals for exceptional achievements. In my case, I received it through an honors list, which is released twice a year. Specifically, I was named a Dame of the New Zealand Order of Merit for my contribution to governance and television.

 

What are your thoughts about the Red Sea Film Festival 2023 in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia?

It is great to be here; this is my third visit to Saudi Arabia and it is truly fascinating. Many people may not fully grasp the incredible developments happening, but the country is making significant strides, with grand and ambitious plans backed by ample resources, increasing its chances of success.

I appreciate their approach to the film industry: they seem to be getting everything right. Personally, I am here because I am always looking for untold stories in television. While my company is relatively new under my ownership, spanning just a couple of years, it has a 40-year legacy in natural history, archaeology, and science production. My goal here is to discover stories that have not yet been explored, those that resonate with a global audience, and to bring these narratives to the world stage.

 

I heard that you were in Al Ula and loved it. Could you share more about that?

Yes, I did love my visit to Al Uhla. My main interest was in the Arabian Leopard project. I learned that when animal populations dwindle to near-extinction, the odds of recovery are extremely slim, especially when they are down to such low numbers, such as under 100. For instance, in New Zealand, only 77 Maui dolphins remain, posing a significant challenge for their survival.

However, I discovered that the Arabian leopard project has made significant strides with a successful breeding program in place, which intrigued me greatly. What started as a quest for a great story about leopards led me to uncover the broader scope of this initiative, a large-scale conservation effort encompassing around 30% of the country as a nature reserve.

They are also diligently working on replenishing desert plant life, which has been depleted due to overgrazing by livestock. Witnessing the dedication, resources, and care poured into restoring this area to its former beauty was truly inspiring. The ancient ruins I encountered were particularly striking, and I dare say even more so than those in Egypt.

 

So your story is quite interesting. Can you tell us how you have even entered this field and where you are now?

Growing up as the fifth of seven children in a financially struggling family, my mother emphasized education. My interest in television sparked early, as it was our main form of entertainment. At 27, I made the transition from journalism to television research, where I had an epiphany, and realized my passion lay in this industry.

Believing that everyone has untapped potential, I founded my own company, initially focusing on documentaries, before venturing into unscripted programming. A key moment in my career was the creation of a game show in 2002 that sold globally and led to the development of a format called The Chair. This success allowed me to expand my business further, including selling my company and two satellite TV channels.

After engaging in governance roles, I acquired NHNZ Worldwide, which is known for its contributions to natural history and factual content. The current goal is to develop business opportunities in this region.

 

Having been a strong female figure yourself, what advice would you give to other women interested in entrepreneurship or creative fields, such as film?

I was fortunate to have an incredibly strong role model in my mother, who was widowed at a young age, yet remained resilient and fearless. Her example instilled in me the belief that there was nothing I could not achieve. I have never encountered a glass ceiling or gender-based barriers in my path, which I recognize is not the norm. I attribute my success to my relentless determination and refusal to accept “no” for an answer. When I was faced with obstacles, I did not give up. I found alternate routes. I learned from small setbacks and transformed them into victories through sheer tenacity.

This mindset, I believe, set me apart. Nowadays, I observe a trend where people, especially the younger generation, easily give up on the first sign of adversity. My upbringing instilled in me a strong work ethic, often putting in long work hours. I cherish my vivid imagination, which allows me to perceive compelling stories, such as the fascinating tale of camel races and beauty contests deeply rooted in the local culture here.

My focus has always been on creating television content that resonates with the audience at a profound level, making them watch and talk about the shows. This approach has led to the success of several programs I have produced, despite occasional controversies.

Ultimately, my aim is to craft storytelling that captivates viewers and has a lasting impact.

 

What advice would you offer to emerging global creatives?

My advice is to venture into uncharted territory. Strive to create content that breaks away from norms and stands out for its uniqueness. For instance, I recently produced a shark show for an American network, a topic that has been extensively covered in the past.

However, my approach involved presenting the story without narration and allowing each participant to share their perspectives. This fresh take on a familiar subject sets it apart from the rest and positions it as a pioneering endeavor in its own right.

 

You are truly amazing, a pioneer.

I would not say I am a pioneer, but rather someone who seeks to avoid imitation. The key to this is to identify what has not been done before. This does not always require groundbreaking discovery; sometimes, a unique twist in a familiar narrative can make all the differences. Consider that nearly every story traces back to a fairy tale, highlighting the intelligence of the original storyteller.

During my early television days, I drew inspiration from fairy tales, envisioning how to adapt them to engaging TV shows. It is about finding the right blend of elements while staying attuned to current trends and audience interest. Creativity and imagination are always at play, driving me to explore new storytelling avenues.

 

In your time in Saudi Arabia and after engaging with people, what advice would you offer to young Saudis or individuals of all ages in the Saudi market who aspire to follow your footsteps?

One aspect I find commendable about this country is its abundant resources, not limited to financial wealth, but encompassing training, education, and various other opportunities. Saudi has potential to become a significant influencer in various fields. While the global television industry is facing challenges, with the right training, strong work ethics, and a knack for untold stories, individuals here can make a notable impact.

Discovering narratives that have yet to be explored is crucial. For example, a classic tale like “Romeo and Juliet” has been recounted countless times, but stories of lesser-known characters can also captivate audiences. In entrepreneurship, beyond creativity, understanding the business side is essential. Personally, due to my upbringing, I developed comfort with financial matters and willingness to avoid debt.

Additionally, proficiency in writing is a critical skill often lacking in the creative sector. Being able to produce, write, and directly enhance versatility and market value. In my early career, I leveraged these skills by offering services as a producer, writer, and director, which paved the way for my success. Embracing multiple roles from a young age can provide a strong foundation for a thriving career, especially if one nurtures imaginative capabilities.

 

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