5 minutes with... Storytelling Expert Robert Thirkell

When did you first realise that you wanted to work in TV?

I started as a sound mixer in radio, but I missed the pictures and the audience. I always wanted to tell stories.

What has been the biggest highlight of your career and the biggest challenge?

So many highlights: being carried on a Palanquin through an outlying lantern lit Rajasthan town with the Maharana of Udaipur, crowds looking on and cheering him, for him to ask when will this end, and me to reply ‘when TV comes there will be other stars.’ But the best was getting up on the Bafta stage having produced and directed most of the Troubleshooter series, with no series producer, but still being called an AP. 

The challenge: persuading anyone to give me the chance to direct beforehand. I was building my flat at the time and always full of paint and plaster. I didn’t look the part.

Tell us what your ‘Storytelling Masterclass’ course is about in a few words.

Applying the techniques of drama to tell factual stories, in a riveting and moving way.

What are the 3 key skills that you think all good storytellers should have?

A simple, unscary, open-minded interest in contributors to get characters wanting to tell the truth: terrier-like qualities of doggedness, so never giving up, and a sense of time and pace, both in filming and in the edit.

What advice would you give to somebody just starting out in the industry?

Try not to be obsessive at home, but obsessive about every detail at work. When things go wrong as they inevitably do, bring your boss solutions. Be fun both offscreen and on. Humour is a key part of life and storytelling.

And finally …

If your life was a series, what would it be called?

First dates - it was so hard getting hooked up in TV.