Jack Thomas-Richard – Executive Producer, Top Gear France
“Sometimes it’s great to face problems on a show because if you don’t, that means it was probably too easy for you.”
Jack Thomas-Richard is an Executive Producer at BBC Studios France and has executive produced the French edition of Top Gear for the last five years, travelling the world in the process. He has honed his skills to create features for some of the world’s most exciting motorsport events such as the Dakar Rally and Extreme E.
Outside of motorsport, Jack specialises in producing documentaries and Reality TV shows including The Bachelor.
He sat down with the Sports Marketing Group shortly after his trip covering the Dakar Rally in Saudi Arabia to talk about his experience producing one of the biggest TV shows in the world.
Where it all began…
I arrived on Top Gear and the BBC by luck. I’ve always been a motorsports enthusiast, but not so much into my cars. Whilst working I did lots of shows abroad and I was contracted to produce one particular show in Japan because I already worked on a show there before so knew how it worked.
I used to work abroad a lot and so this is how my Top Gear adventure began because I produced the first one in Japan, and then I started taking care of the show and moving them back and forth across the globe, which is what I’ve been doing for more than more than five years now.
My role in 10 words or less…
Taking care of business.
Why what I do is important…
I’m not a surgeon or a doctor, I’m not saving lives but I like to think that I bring joy to our public and to our fans in France. I get a lot of satisfaction when I’m on a shoot and there are lots of fans who like to have a chat and look at the cars and share a particular memory about the show.
It’s nice working on this type of programme because it’s always passion that drives the people; whether that’s an engineer, a mechanic, or just a fan who came by to watch the beautiful cars. We are essentially all sharing wonderful memories.
My First Feature…
When I first started at Top Gear, I really thought that in France there was only Formula 1 – it was the main event! In my mind there was only Magny-Cours and Paul Ricard as the two big race tracks in the country. Those are the ones that I knew because they were in the newspaper and I followed Formula 1 on TV. But when I joined Top Gear, I realised there are motorsport events every weekend across the country on some of the most beautiful tracks.
The first one I did was in Lédenon, which is in the south of France and it was a 208 Racing Cup so it was not a major event.
It wasn’t on TV and there was no big media there except for us. But there were 15,000 people working there, coming from all over, all over the region, only for the race and to support each other.
There were no VIPs, no big drama. It was just passionate people that would spend the day racing and competing against each other and the nights having a drink together. It was a great event.
My most challenging moment…
When working in TV one of the most challenging moments is when you need to get the whole crew abroad to another country. Sometimes you go to countries where it’s difficult to shoot because of the language barriers or because the admission and visas are complicated.
For me, I think the main challenge was trying to get the crew out to shoot a road trip in Vietnam. We had issues with permits and visas as, at the time, there was going to be a meeting between President Trump and the President of North Korea in Hanoi. The officials didn’t want any publicity or any filming so what we had planned was delayed (which in TV production usually means it’s aborted.)
So my job was to ensure that the project was still going ahead. I did a lot of lobbying with the Vietnamese government, and basically all the contacts we could find in Vietnam to convince them to let us film…but it was really, really tough. I had to bluff a little bit, I had to charm everybody, and it worked! We ended up with a really great show.
”My main advice would be, when you work in television, you need to be flexible to adapt. When producing, you may not know what you're going to do in two weeks or in three weeks.Jack Thomas-RichardExecutive Producer, BBC Top Gear France
My Proudest Moment…
My proudest moment is always the same, at the end of our big shoots. It’s when I give a toast, and a speech at the end of the shootings, saying, what a great experience it was.
Sometimes it’s a really bad experience. Sometimes we fight during the whole thing and everybody cries and everybody’s grumpy but at the end I make a toast to mark that we did it and to bring us back together! It’s always good to see the smiles of the team, and the smile on the director because they have been through everything that they had imagined from the shoot. It’s also always nice to see and thank the locals working with us.
Though the filming is done, the job isn’t over. We still have editing but usually there’s a big smile on everybody’s faces which means I did an ok job, I guess, because everybody’s smiling and everyone will remember this in years to come. It’s always rewarding.
An F1 Memory I’ll Never Forget…
Definitely when Pierre Gasly won for the very first time, in Monza in 2020. Nobody was expecting him to win and it was so moving to see Pierre be so proud to win the trophy. But it was also so moving to see all the people in the French media who cover sport and motorsports sharing this unbelievable happiness.
The last Frenchman to win in Formula 1 was in 1995, so it was a long, long time to wait for this victory and I think it was one of the best sporting moments for me – not only in motorsport, but in sports in general.
Working with SMG…
I have worked with SMG on and off for about a year now. It’s always great to know I can count on their help with the coordination of getting to more difficult places and getting things done.
I have worked with Martina and the team at both the Extreme E event and the Dakar Rally in Saudi Arabia. I value the help of SMG because they arranged for us to attend these events and supported us in making some really powerful and impactful content, in a country that has a completely different work culture from ours.
I have some great memories from the Extreme E and Dakar Rally events and I hope there will be a lot more opportunities to work with SMG in the future. They opened the door for me to work in Saudi Arabia, where otherwise I would never have been able to go and I definitely wouldn’t have made the fantastic connections in the country. Thanks to SMG and thanks to Martina.
My Next Project…
Producing the new season of Top Gear France in the next few months. It is challenging but exciting to see what we do with it because it is basically starting over again.
Some people struggle with change, myself included, so it’s going to be a challenge for myself but I’m excited to see how I can contribute to launching a new format.
My Advice for Aspiring Producers…
My main advice would be, when you work in television, you need to be flexible to adapt. When producing, you may not know what you’re going to do in two weeks or in three weeks. Not everyone has the same agenda or priorities as you and things can also go wrong or not go as planned. For example, the show’s host can get sick but you still need to shoot! So you have to adapt yourself to any situation and you also have to adapt yourself to all the people who are working with you.
There is not only the producer, but there is the local producer and the main producer and we all work to get the end result as a team. Sometimes it’s difficult because you may not know them when you meet them on the ground, you don’t know their strengths, you don’t know their weaknesses. But you know you have to shoot this incredible project together.
So my advice is to always be flexible and you have to adapt to all the small issues and problems that you may face. But sometimes it’s great to face a problem because if you don’t have any problems on the show that means it was too easy for you.