You are here:
13 October 08
The Academy pays tribute to Mark Shivas, former head of BBC Television Drama and a multiple BAFTA nominee.
The Academy was deeply saddened to learn of the death of Mark Shivas on 11 October 2008.
Mark was a much-loved and respected figure in the film and television industries who played a highly valued role in the life of the Academy.
He was twice elected to Council (in 1982 and 1997) and served as a member of both the Television Committee (1982 to 1989) and Film Committee (1997 to 2007). Mark also served as Chairman of the Short Film Jury from 2002 to 2007. He will be greatly missed.
During an impressive career, Mark Shivas produced a wide range of television programmes and feature films. His major TV credits include the dramas The Glittering Prizes, Casanova, Cambridge Spies and the Talking Heads series. He executive produced many critically acclaimed films including Truly Madly Deeply, Jude, Regeneration, Hideous Kinky, I Capture the Castle and An Awfully Big Adventure.
In 1987 Mark was appointed the BBC's Head of Television Drama, a position he held until 1993 when he took on the role as Head of BBC Films.
Mark was awarded the Academy’s Special Award at the SFTA Film & Television Awards in 1971 for the six-part television drama, The Six Wives of Henry VIII (see main image, left). He received multiple Academy nominations for his television work and a Best Film nomination for A Private Function in 1985.
Mark Shivas, 24 April 1938 - 11 October 2008
Read tributes from key Academy figures...
Although I had a number of professional dealings with Mark over the years, it was at BAFTA where I really got to see him in action. He was a loyal and hardworking member of the Film Committee and we all relied on his spare, intelligent and wise contributions no matter what the subject of our debate. I often spoke to him after meetings to take advantage of his cool, calm analysis.
He spent a number of years chairing the Short Film jury for the Film Awards and this was an area where many of his numerous talents came to the fore. Wading through the huge number of entries was a massive task but he realised that his skill and dedication resulted in the encouragement of new filmmakers from around the world which I know made him feel that all the hard work was worthwhile.
Mark was a skilled producer and executive who was loved and respected by everyone who knew him. We will all miss him.
David Parfitt is a film producer and the current BAFTA Chairman.
I first met Mark Shivas in 1977, when I was working on Sesame Street in New York and was invited to Madrid to speak for the first time at an international television conference. Mark was there too as a senior BBC drama producer, the dauntingly clever man behind the hugely successful The Six Wives Of Henry VIII. At that time I knew a number of very cool young TV people in Spain, and Mark and I - together with Jim Cellan-Jones, the BBC’s Head of Plays who was also at the conference with his wife Maggie - were taken out every night until the very early hours to an amazing selection of bars, clubs and other trendy Madrid venues. The conference may have suffered, but we all became fast friends.
I saw quite a lot of Mark in the 80s when I was working for Jim Henson in London, and even though we were both producers, I was determined to find a way of working with him. When I was developing The Storyteller, a new TV series using Grimm fairytales, I persuaded Jim that we needed an experienced drama producer on board, and Mark came in as the producer of the pilot, with Anthony Minghella as writer - and I subsequently got Mark to help develop and produce the Jim Henson/Roald Dahl/Nic Roeg movie of The Witches while I produced the Storyteller series.
Mark was an impressive producer, quietly confident, with immaculate judgment and an extremely calm, even clipped, manner. He never used many words, which greatly increased the impression one had of a big intellect, and was an observer rather than a man of action, with very distinctive handwriting and the academic manner of someone careful not to exaggerate. He never quite shook off his image as the clipped, incisive and slightly acidulous presenter of Granada’s film review programme Cinema, but in reality he was an absolutely lovely man - gentle, honest and kind, with a wry sense of humour.
There was a time when he was assumed to have produced every good drama series that the BBC had ever come up with, and was often congratulated by members of the public for work that wasn’t his. He was so scrupulous that I once asked him how he dealt with this. What did he say to such unwarranted praise? "Just thank you," he smiled.
Duncan Kenworthy is a film producer and former BAFTA Chairman.
It is hard to believe that Mark Shivas has died. He was such a constant in the world of cinema and television; it will be a lesser one without him.
I first met Mark back in the 60s when he was writing for the New York Times. He came to the set of Anne Of A Thousand Days (1969), where I was Assistant Director, to do a piece about the film. Before that he'd co-founded the brilliant but sadly short-lived MOVIE magazine.
In 1964, he joined Granada as Assistant to the Head of the Story Department. He learned quickly and before long was directing segments of popular Granada factual series. But Mark’s heart was always in drama and in the late 60s, he moved to the BBC as producer, with Ronald Travers, of The Six Wives Of Henry VIII (1970). A piece of landmark television, it went on to win many awards, including a BAFTA and the Prix Italia for its producers.
Throughout the 70s there followed over 50 single plays and series for the BBC. Mark collaborated with many acclaimed writers including Hugh Whitemore, Ian Curteis, Dennis Potter, Alun Owen, Alan Plater, David Hare, Christopher Hampton, Howard Schuman, Frederick Raphael and Tom Stoppard. Among the directors he worked with were John Glenister, Mark Cullingham, Christopher Morahan, Silvio Narrizano, Alan Clarke, James Cellan Jones, Peter Cregeen, Rob Knights, Brian Farnham and Alan Parker.
Amongst these many projects were some of television’s most memorable works, with many winning, or nominated for, prestigious awards. These included: David Yallop’s BAFTA-nominated To Encourage The Others (1972); Jack Rosenthal and Alan Parker’s BAFTA and Emmy-winning The Evacuees (1975); Hugh Whitemore’s BAFTA-nominated adaptation of Helene Hanf’s 84 Charing Cross Road (1975); Frederick Raphael’s The Glittering Prizes (1976) and Michael Lindsay Hogg’s film of Tom Stoppard’s Professional Foul (1977), both of which were multi-RTS and BAFTA winners.
This was a glittering period in Mark’s career and lead somewhat inevitably to the larger screen, beginning with Henry VIII And His Six Wives (1972), an adaptation of his 1970 TV drama, directed by Waris Hussein.
In 1980 Mark turned freelance, producing Frederic Raphael’s Richard’s Things (1980) for Southern Pictures with Anthony Harvey directing and Liv Ullman starring. He also produced the eight-part series, co -written and directed by Ferdy Fairfax, Winston Churchill: The Wilderness Years (1981) for Southern. Then for the BBC, another huge series, the ten-part special The Borgias (1981).
There were feature films too during this period: Bad Blood (1981) with Mike Newell, Jerzy Skolomowski’s Moonlighting (1982), a Cannes award winner, and I believe one of Mark’s own favourites, Alan Bennett’s A Private Function (1984) directed by Malcolm Mowbray, which was nominated for five BAFTAs and won three.
Then came his relationship with the late Anthony Minghella. Mark first produced What If It’s Raining (1985) with newcomer Stephen Whittaker directing, before producing the pilot for Jim Henson’s BAFTA and Emmy-winning The Storyteller (1988) which Minghella wrote.
It was around this time that Mark joined BAFTA’s Council. He served on both its Television and Film Committees for many years (1982-9 and 1997-2007 respectively). His enthusiasm and good sense were always prized by those of us who served with him. From 2002-7, he took great pleasure in chairing the Short Film jury which kept him in touch with the work of upcoming writers and directors.
Before returning to the BBC as Head of Drama in 1988, he produced Nic Roeg’s film of Roald Dahl’s The Witches (starring Angelica Huston), also for the Henson Company. He was responsible for some iconic films whilst managing BBC’s Drama output, including Anthony Minghella’s first film as a director, Truly Madly Deeply (1990), and Gillies MacKinnon’s film of Frank Deasy’s The Grass Arena (1991) which won Best Film at the Dinard Festival. Another great favourite, Mike Newell’s Enchanted April (1992) was originally made for television, with Mark as its sole and steadfast source of funding. It was nominated for three Oscars and won two Golden Globes, helping turn Miramax from a small distributor into the giant it has become. Another triumph of this period was Stephen Frears’ film of Roddy Doyle’s The Snapper (1993) produced by one of Mark’s closest friends Lynda Myles.
In 1993, BBC Films was established and Mark was appointed as its Head. There followed several more distinctive films, among them Antonia Bird’s Priest (1994), Mike Newell’s An Awfully Big Adventure (1995), Michael Winterbottom’s Jude (1996) and Gillies MacKinnon’s Small Faces (1996) and Hideous Kinky (1998).
In 1997, Mark went back to being an independent producer. Through his wittily-named company Perpetual Pictures, he made two series with Alan Bennett: Talking Heads 2 (1998) and Telling Tales (2000), as well as Peter Moffat’s The Cambridge Spies (2003).
In 2006, just as he was thinking about hanging up his gloves, Stewart Mackinnon and Kevin Hood persuaded him to join their new venture which Mark aptly christened Headline Pictures. At the time of his death he was still enthusiastically developing several new projects with them.
He was, as many have said, a man of few words but as you can see from the above, equally one of many fine deeds. Whilst he did keep his personal life somewhat apart from his professional one, he always enjoyed a good party and was excellent company on those occasions. He leaves behind an exceptional body of work and will be fondly remembered by a very wide circle of friends and colleagues.
He is survived by his partner Karun Thakar.
Simon Relph is a film producer and former BAFTA Chairman.
Mark ran BBC Films through an exceptionally creative period. Many of today's writers, producers, directors and actors got started in these often surprising and innovative television films.
He was the best kind of executive producer, someone who properly understood the filmmaking process and knew how to get the best out of people without needing to control or interfere. I myself made four films with Mark - The Grass Arena, Small Faces, Regeneration and Hideous Kinky.
We will all miss him. Hopefully his influence will continue through those who were lucky enough to work with him.
Gillies MacKinnon is a film director.