UK, Meet the Next President: Beth Butler

While we Americans are consumed with the news of the US President and his relationship with different news organizations, UK TV producer Beth Butler possess an inside look at the topic from an outside perspective. As producer of Good Morning Britain’s segment back in 2016 in which Piers Morgan interviewed then presidential candidate Trump, Butler pieced together a series interview segment so popular that it prompted a documentary (also produced by her). GMB’s placement of Butler at the helm of these two productions set a precedent for Britain’s view of the man who would become the most discussed American President in modern times on the world stage.

The interview with candidate Trump was recorded in New York at Trump Towers on Friday the 13th May 2016. Butler was placed in charge of the interview due to her track record of success under pressure and this particular interview would make good use of the fact. Tapes of the interview were sent overnight from New York to London for Butler and her team to immediately form into two five-minute segments. Topics covered included: Trump’s Presidential campaign, Brexit (UK’s trade deals with U.S when they leave the EU), London Mayor Sadiq Khan, Melania Trump’s potential future as a First Lady, what Trump would be like as President (in relations with the U.K), Trump on terrorism, discussing Hillary Clinton, his “Make America Great Again” mission, and any regrets he might have about his campaign. The US, the UK, and the world were starting to see signs that a Trump presidency was very possible and while Piers delivered the main course to viewers, it was Butler who supplied the presentation and set the table. It’s the lack of constriction and the presence of immense tension which attracts Beth to this type of work. She relates, “In my experience working in a creative industry there are also so many subjective opinions at every stage of editing, script writing, etc. You have to justify in your own head why you’re doing something so you can justify it to others. You have to constantly self-criticize so that when others do question why something has been done a certain way, you can explain it and hopefully show them that this makes it a more compelling piece of television. This is also why I love working in TV, because there’s no set rule and it’s always a collaborative process.”

In a serendipitous occurrence of timely subject matter and expert production, the GMB segment with candidate Trump was such a ratings hit that the network immediately green lit a documentary. A victim of her own success, Butler was placed in charge of producing the documentary for airing the following day. Emma Gormley (Managing Director of ITV Daytime) met with Beth midday Monday to discuss what would become “Piers Morgan Meets Donald Trump” for ITV, scheduled for airing on Tuesday. Working through the next thirty-six hours (save for one twenty-minute nap), Beth and her editor utilized the original forty-five minutes of interview as well as writing script for voiceovers and ancillary footage (campaign, Trump tower, etc.). Both the excellence and timely nature of the GMB and documentary footage allowed the network to captivate UK viewers and dominate the ratings with an 80 percent increase during the time slot. As for her part, Butler’s role was not only praised by the powers that be (including host Piers Morgan and the network heads) but directly led to her securing a coveted attachment working as a producer at ITV News, the channel’s flagship news program. Beth communicates, “If someone had told me seven years ago, when I was just leaving University, that I’d be producing content with the leaders of the world…I would have been in complete disbelief. I’m extremely goal oriented and am naturally wired to do this kind of work…and I love it but you never know what type of work is going to come your way. These two productions about the man who would become the American President not only garnered attention for him but also for my career. I think we all get a moment to prove ourselves and I’m very happy with how my moment turned out.”

Written by Kelly King

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