Director Douglas Mackinnon Interview
When did your love of Doctor Who begin?
Douglas: When we got our first television – I was born and brought up on the Isle of Skye so we only had black and white BBC 1 till 1978.
How many Time Lords have you worked with?
Douglas: Arguably 6, but John Hurt only appeared in a flashback in Listen, and the 1st Doctor was only a wee boy and not yet a Time Lord in the same episode. Peter Davison I’ve directed twice in ‘The Last Detective’. Other than that, Peter, Matt and David.
What have been the highlights of working on Season 8 of Doctor Who?
Douglas: The writing, the whole crew and all the actors, particularly Jenna and Peter. But getting the first draft of Listen was pretty amazing.
Working on set of any production is busy, but what is the biggest bug bear of any production you’ve worked on?
Douglas: The bug bears are the problems you have to work out. It’s the process, I love it!
How did you get started in the business, what was your first big break?
Douglas: Getting that first telly was the biggest break. I really couldn’t say, but when I was 19 I got a place as a trainee photographer on a Youth Opportunity Scheme in Inverness, so I guess that was where things really started.
What was the hardest of episodes of Doctor Who to film/direct?
Douglas: ‘Listen’ because it was so fragile, ‘Cold War’ because it was so wet, and ‘Flatline’ because it was technically so difficult. Loved doing all of them – all the interesting scripts are difficult/hard....
What do you enjoy about working on the set of Doctor Who?
Douglas: The banter.
Have you ever directed a controversial programme?
Douglas: ‘Line of Duty’ has had its moments.
What tips do you have for anyone wishing to take up Directing as a career?
Douglas: Just start directing. Then show people, anyone, what you’ve directed. Be in the room as they’re watching, you’ll learn lots!
Will you be returning to Scotland for Hogmanay this year?
Douglas: I live in Scotland so will be at home for Hogmanay.
When you’re not working, how do you relax?
Douglas: Watch Doctor Who.
What was the last film you saw at the cinema, Netflix or other outlet?
Douglas: ‘Edge of Tomorrow’.
What did you want to be when you were 12?
Douglas: A vet.
And if you could meet your 12 year old self, what advice would you give him?
Douglas: It’s going to be ok most days.
When you’re putting together a production do you have a say in the music you’d like to have for the episode/scene?
Douglas: Usually you have a music spotting session with the composer, which is a very useful time to talk about intentions. On some shows this doesn’t happen and I think it is a shame.
When you’re filming episodes for a show, how do you do it? As in do you film a bunch of beach sequences regardless of whether they will appear in one episode of six, or do you work on episode to episode?
Douglas: This depends on the state of the scripts. If they’re all ready, we’ll schedule without fear. (But actor availability often influences this as well – especially the bigger names). On Who this year we’ve mostly been working on blocks of two episodes at a time. A schedule might look like a big mess to an outsider, but there are so many factors to build in – location availability, night and day scenes etc, - that it’s not surprising that it is a complicated process.
What does a Director wish for off Santa???
Douglas: Doctor Who toys.
Will there ever be an opportunity for a fan of Who to write an episode for the show?
Douglas: They do! I haven’t met a writer on Who yet who isn’t a fan of the show.
What’s it like working with Peter Capaldi and have you ever worked with him before?
Douglas: He’s fantastic. Never met him before.
The episodes you directed in Series 8 were fantastic – I especially enjoyed ‘The Time Heist’ and smiled noticing the nod to Torchwood through Captain John Hart.
Douglas: Thank you.
Where did the idea of the Teller come from, as it reminded me and my son of Commander Ackbar in Star Wars initially?
Douglas: I think it was the guys at Millennium who came up with the first concept, then we all pitched in as ever.
Thank you again for an awesome interview Douglas.