Business News Wales had the opportunity to speak to David Coulthard, Co-Owner of Whisper Films, which recently opened its new offices in Cardiff.
David is perhaps most famous for his fifteen-year career in Formula One, driving for Williams, McLaren and Red Bull Racing. But Whisper Films has been the force behind producing Formula One for C4 and the NFL for the BBC in recent years.
- What was the original inspiration behind Whisper Films?
“Like all the best ideas it started when three people came together and said ‘why don’t we do that.’ The technical TV brains belong to former BBC Sport producer Sunil Patel, we had TV presenter Jake Humphrey, and me. I suppose I’d describe myself as a TV Sports fan, and now I’ve got the chance to be involved at the sharp end now that my Formula One career is over. And I’m really enjoying it. I certainly love being a presenter of the C4 Formula One coverage that Whisper Films produces, and it’s nice to be a part-owner of the company as well. I like to think I’d being doing the job, even if I wasn’t the boss. Whisper Films has become the fastest growing sports TV production company in the UK. The fact that Channel 4 took a minority stake in 2015 shows we’re doing something right.”
- What attracted you to establishing the office in Cardiff
“We were keen to expand from our London base, there is just so much creative talent in Wales and around the UK. So when Channel 4 announced their decision to spend more in nations and regions commissioning, this focused our mind even more. Winning the contract to produce S4C’s coverage of the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan shows an instant return on our investment, even though we are here for the long run. The days when everything had to be produced in a big shiny office in London are history.”
- Whisper Wales Recently Won the Contract for the 2019 Rugby World Cup, can you give us a hint into any other events Whisper may be covering in the future?
“TV production is a competitive world. We keep our pitches close to our chests. But there are lots of things in the pipeline, all very interesting and a couple that could be very valuable for our new Welsh business.
“We are usually described as being ‘Formula One producer for C4’ or ‘NFL producer for BBC’, but that’s really just one part of the story. Early on we produced content for brands such as Red Bull and Shell, and more recently we have won a host of exciting new contracts from Amazon Prime, BBC and UEFA amongst others.”
- Next year will also see the launch of the ‘W Series' will any Welsh Talent be taking part?
“You’ll have to wait to see. It’s very exciting and I’m delighted to be a part of it. Motor Racing hasn’t had its fair share of women competing. As you know those hoping to compete in the W Series will not have to bring sponsorship, but will have to prove their ability through a selection process, and I’m one of the judges. At the moment, women racing drivers tend to reach a glass ceiling at around the GP3/Formula 3 level on their learning curve, often as a result of a lack of funding rather than a lack of talent. Hopefully we can change that.”
- Like your native Scotland, Wales has a rich history of producing motor sport talent – from Tom Pryce in Formula 1 to Elfyn Evans in World Rallying and Chaz Davies in World Superbikes. What makes our respective regions such great motorsport feeding grounds and what young Welsh motorsport up-and-coming talent have you spotted in recent years?
“Without naming individuals I think it’s fair to say that there is some great racing talent from Wales and I will be keeping a close eye on their development and will be available for guidance if asked. But certainly, from Whisper Wales’ point of view, motor sport is only one part of it. Our first big contract is the Rugby World Cup, and in Wales sport doesn’t get much bigger than that. We’ve shown over the last few years that there is no ceiling to what we want to achieve, and there is no limit in creative terms to how we go about doing it. In that sense it’s a little like Formula One when I competed. You don’t do stupid things, but no one is going to say ‘stop’ if you come up with a clever idea.”
- What advice would you give to those in pursuing their career, whether it be in motorsport or the creative industries?
“I know it’s easy to say, but ‘follow your dreams’. Don’t look in a mirror in ten years’ time and say ‘why didn’t I do it differently?’. Just look at some of the amazing creative people at Whisper who left important jobs in the more traditional areas of TV because they wanted to do something different. I defy anyone looking at our output to say it’s ordinary. It’s not. It’s at the cutting edge, and now Whisper Wales is at the heart of it.”