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Jane Hewland (Mile High Creator and Executive Producer) Interview

Q) Are you happy with the way Mile High ended, and do you feel it was the right time to end the show when you did ?

I was sorry it ended when it did. In theory it could have run for a very long time but timing made that impossible really. First we were knocked in development by 9/11. The series nearly didn't get made at all. Then in between shooting series 1 and 2 the management changed at Sky. Sometimes there are people in this world - it's almost a chemical thing who are perfectly decent talented individuals, but they just don't get you and you don't get them. The result is, you can't really produce good work together. The creative industry isn't logical sometimes. Things work for mysterious reasons or they don't. Anyway the new boss at Sky really liked the show, but she did not understand the logistics of drama production, the length of time script development takes and so on. She had never been involved with drama before and creativity is really not her thing anyway. I tried to argue that she should take a leap of faith and recommission scripts right away before the first series had been transmitted - otherwise we were not going to be ready to take advantage of the coming summer to shoot a second series in Majorca. We had a small window from September when prices fpor travel and hotels become affordable, to end October when the weather goes. In those 8 weeks we would have needed to shoot the foreign material for at least six episodes. But to have six scripts ready we needed to be given the go ahead right away. She wanted to wait for the ratings for the first series to come in and make the decision based on that. We lost the window. Which meant we lost a year, because everything had to move to the next weather window in Majorca. We lost key cast because of the delay. We lost the Series producer and exec producer - couldn't afford to fund them, while we were not in production. And we lost creative momentum. Plus we lost the audience's awareness of us. If a series disappears for a year or more, you're dead. (Unless you're the Sopranos but they already hads several series under their belts and a worldwide rep)

Eventually when we did get the new commission it made no real sense. For financial reasons they wanted 26 eps. They wanted at least some on air quickly, but that meant - again because of the weather, that we had to shoot in two very lopsided series, one of just 7 episodes and the other of 19. 7 episodes on multichannel make no real impact. There isn't enough volume to build an audience around. And then it was months later that the final 19 came on stream, by which time we'd lost the audience and lost the channel's confidence in us. It also has to be said that, with the original Exec and Series Producers gone, the mini series of 7 lost its way creatively. I didn't like those 7 episodes at all. Not enough good characters or good cast or good stories. I felt the thing came to life again when we merged Fresh and Goldstar and bought a battle of the airlines into it. I like the stories that developed around Captain Dan (Luke Roberts who I think is a terrific actor)

Then finally, to make things worse, the policy at Sky changed 180 degrees right as we were in the middle of the 19 ep series. The previous boss had been pushing us to be more sexually explicit. That was the message. Sky had had lots of programmes like Naked in Westminster and Ibiza Uncovered which had done very well by being quite raunchy. Suddenly that went out of fashion. This wasn't anyone's fault. Times just change. I don't think the audience was ever comfortable with the more explicit things we did. It's not what people want in their living rooms. But the whole show got branded as tacky - the title MILE HIGH does encourage that. By now everybody but us had lost faith. I really enjoyed making the final episodes. I thought we'd come back and found our way again. But creatively i was knackered from having had to produce 58 hours of drama in a single year.(We were doing Dream Team at the same time and I actually tried to pull out of the whole thing at one stage I got so tiured and emotional) High volume can't be done to any standard of quality, especially not on the money Sky were paying, trust me.

Q) Who were you favourite characters from Series 1 and Series 2 and why ?

Favourite characters for series 1 Will (my all time favourite for all the series. I am so proud of that character and pleased he has gone on to become somewhat of a gay icon in the US) The actor Adam Sinclair is in fact straight and married with a son, but he's an incredible talent and I hope he makes it in the wide world. He's in LA right now. I also liked Janis Steel because I put a lot of myself into her and am still good friends with the actress who played her, Jo Anne Knowles. aS i said above Captain Croker and Captain Dan were also faves. For series 1 I liked both KC (Sarah Manners) and Jason (James Redmond). The BBC nicked them both off me to go into Casualty and the show missed them when it returned.

Q) Do you know about the popularity of the show in the US and are you surprised?

Yes we are very pleased the show has found an audience in the US. This has led to a new sale of the format there. We have writers who wrote for Friends currently preparing a script and we have two studios interested in producing it for Lifetime. The boss at Lifetime Maria Grasso is a big fan and has been a great support to us.

Q) In a magazine article recently, Mile high was described as coming close to suffering from the ‘Eldorado curse’. Do you feel that nearer the end of the show, Sky lost interest and let Mile high down with the lack of publicity and by moving it in the schedule from Sundays to Wednesdays, therefore losing the audience for the series, and with low viewing figures the inevitable reason for ending the series?

Yes. But that's the way it goes sometimes. I really don't feel bitter about any of it. Life turns out how it turns out. You get lucky. You get unlucky. The main thing is we all loved making the shows (except for the middle 7) and that's what it's about in the end.

Q) I believe the Mile high format was sold to Fox in 2004, are you disappointed that nothing really happened with the show in the U.S and that the pilot was not made? Do you know what happened to that deal, and why in the end Fox did not decide to take the format any further?

Yes Fox took an option but the script that was produced was absolutely dreadful. Nothing to do with us I hasten to add. So they did not take it further. We have BBC America to thank for reviving interest in the US. And our fantastic distribution team at Target who sell our formats for us. The woman who represents us there, Ellen Lovejoy , has worked like an absolute demon for years to bring the Lifetime sale about.

Q) Whats next for Hewland, any new drama's in the pipeline ?

We have three or four new series in development that we are very excited about. Shooting one pilot this coming weekend. On High Def which is exciting. We are learning a lot from that. Drama has to be much more real. The smallest fake thing - not just sets or make up or costume but even the acting hitting a wrong note - destroys whole scenes. We're abandoning formal scripts for it and using a lot of ad lib to make it more documentary like. It's called ROUGH JUSTICE. It's a legal show with a few twists. We're also doing a telenovela called HUNGRY. A saga about a possessed building PENINSULA HEIGHTS - The Shining meets Wall St. An interactive slasher thing. A boxing drama YOUNG BLOOD. And a seriously big top secret project which I would have to kill myself if I told you about.

Q) If you had to choose one episode or storyline that you regret doing, which would it be and why ?

Episode 16 Series 2/3. Too much full on sex with Ed shagging the bride. Not very realistic. Ran out of time to make script better. Also I think I regret Poppy and Jack. Never made them work interestingly.

Q) What did bring about the decision to finally release Mile High on DVD, did the fans have any persuasion in this ?

A DVD company made us a satisfactory offer. Simple as that.

Big thank you to all the fans from all of us. We're glad and grateful that you like the show. We're happy to have been able to entertain you for a while.

Jane Hewland
Creator, Executive Producer and sometimes Writer
Mile High

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