24th August 1966 – 3rd September 2021
Michael Wrightson passed away on Friday, 3rd September. The cause of his death was prostate cancer with which had been diagnosed in August last year. Michael was still working at the BBC right up to his final days – his passion for technology never diminished and his ambition to complete the project he was working on at the BBC never sated.
This memorial only tells half of the story, as following you will find tributes from many of Michael’s colleagues and work friends over the years. Michael was also passionate about music – a keen musician (he played piano, trumpet, clarinet and saxophone) – and loved to travel. And Michael was a much-loved family man who leaves behind his wife, Hilary and three children Flo (26) and twins Seth and Millie (23).
When talking about Michael’s untimely death one senior industry executive commented on “how privileged we are to work in this industry; in this village community.” That it is, “exceptionally tight and so well networked and when we lose one of our finest at such a young age, how important it is that this is recognised; and Michael was most definitely one of our own”. Another commented on how the community “has come together as one over Michael’s untimely passing”.
Many of Michael’s former colleagues are coming together to remember him this Wednesday, 15th September at Michael’s favourite Soho pub, The Crown and Two Chairmen from 2.00pm. Everyone who knew Michael is welcome.
Michael’s funeral will be held at St Marylebone Crematorium, East End Road, London N2 on Thursday September 23rd at 2.00pm. Family flowers only please. Michael’s wife, Hilary has set up a JustGiving page in Michael’s memory, where you will also find countless tributes and where you can donate to Nordorff Robbins Music Therapy, a charity that Michael much admired at https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/hilary-cross8
Following are dozens of tributes presented as a timeline going back to Michael’s first job in the industry. Words and themes that keep on recurring are humour, integrity and decency and Michael’s passion, enthusiasm and exceptional talent combined with a desire to share his knowledge which he did throughout his career and so generously. The overwhelming message is that Michael was a widely admired and much-loved man; a true loss to the broadcast and post community.
Michael’s first venture into cinema and film was at the Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA) in the Cinematheque (1985-89)
“Michael’s enthusiasm for how things work led to a job in the ICA Cinematheque, where he could refine his exploration of all the machines, video players, projectors and cutting-edge technologies that are now laughably prehistoric. We [his friends] were all pretty impressed. While we were trying to blag our way into cinemas to watch films, Michael knew how to operate a film projector and to show them.”
Yolanda Zappaterra, freelance arts and travel writer
Michael started his professional career as an Engineer at Metro Video (June 1989 – April 1994)
“I fondly remember working with Michael in 1989/90 when he started at Metro Broadcast as a trainee broadcast engineer. Michael was clearly very talented and eager to learn, devoting hours to understanding the inner workings of broadcast cameras and VTRs. A naturally gifted engineer embarking upon a great and innovative career in broadcast and post.”
Peter Godden, Commercial Director, The Stockroom London
“Michael was a surprisingly talented engineer from the very start in his first job at Metro and he proved himself by going on to bigger and better roles throughout his career.”
David Pacy, Owner, Chillibean (and Founder Metro Video)
“From the day Michael joined Metro it was obvious that he was going to have a successful career in the broadcast industry, as a brilliant engineer who could also successfully communicate complex technical issues with clients at all levels. His integrity, friendly approach and calm temperament made him a pleasure to work with. He will be much missed.”
Geraldine Scher, Managing Director, Clockwork Capital
“Very, very sad news deepest condolences to all the family at this sad time. Michael will be greatly missed. I’ve known Michael for nearly 20 years firstly a client then a very good friend. Always meeting up in Soho, Amsterdam and Vegas too. The way I’ll remember him; ‘The man with a smile and a solution…’ RIP Michael.”
Bob Mann, Managing Director, 24/7 Kit
Senior Engineer, Chrysalis Television (April 1994 – January 1997)
“An untimely departure of a good bloke and a bloody good engineer. Knowledgeable and quick to learn, Michael was respected by colleagues and clients alike, his name only ever mentioned in praise. Several times ‘they’ attempted to steal him away from us, but we convinced him to stay until an offer from outside, too good to refuse, took his career to the next level. I know he stayed in touch with many of the friends he made at Todd AO as his career went from strength to strength and so Michael you will be greatly missed by your friends and of course especially by your loved ones. Rest in peace my friend and God bless your soul”.
Graham Hall, former Managing Director at Chrysalis Television Facilities (later Todd AO).
“I first worked with Michael back in 1995 in Camden at Todd AO. He was a young enthusiast engineer and a great fresh attitude to the then crusty department (!) We hit it off straight away and he fixed and dealt with a list of ongoing frustrating issues. I eventually went off to LA and Michael moved on to bigger and better things.
“We have kept in touch through the years and then recently I was helping Gabby try to find the right fit for her head of Technology and I immediately thought of Michael. They met up and hit it off immediately! I know Michael has loved these last few years at BBC studios, because he told me so a few weeks back.
“Even at the end he remained positive, upbeat, and appreciative. He thanked me for helping him get the job he loved. I feel truly saddened to have lost a friend. The industry has lost an amazing technologist, and also a thoroughly decent, top bloke. I will miss him dearly.”
David Barrett, Executive producer and Managing Director, Calmer Media
“I first worked with Michael when he was an engineer at Chrysalis. Michael was a lovely colleague and friend. His extensive knowledge of post-production and distribution, enabled him to successfully provide technical solutions for many studios, content owners and broadcasters during the course of his career. I am sure his friends and colleagues in the industry would agree that Michael had a great sense of humour and was always fun and engaging to work with. My deepest sympathies go out to Michael’s family at this sorrowful time.”
Sue Mitchell, Senior Director, Key Accounts UK, Ateliere
Senior Engineer > Chief Engineer > Head of Technical Operations, VTR PLC (January 1997 – April 2008)
“I first met Michael in 2007. He was chief engineer at VTR, and I was at Filmlight. He was adept at finding win/win technical, commercial and creative solutions and a delight to work with. We worked and socialised together many times after that. His common sense and competence combined with his cheerful smile and enthusiasm enriched our every meeting.”
“I will always remember Michael for his great sense of humour, kind persona and for his wisdom. Always willing to share knowledge and help others, Michael was a great team mate, a pleasure to spend time with and above all a great friend. A very sad loss for us all.”
Daniel Sassen, CTO, Envy Post Production
“Michael was a long-standing client of mine, for around 20 years, from the VTR days, then when they became Prime Focus and later at ITV and Virtual Post. I last bumped into him in Soho Square, just before the pandemic and was really looking forward to a proper catch up, when I heard he’d joined BBC Studios and lockdown began to ease. Michael was an absolute gent and a pleasure to work with.”
Neil Anderson, Media Technology Generalist, Codemill
“I have known Michael from my Sohonet Days way back when I was a young 26-year-old sprog back in 2007. Over those 14 years he has been a client, a mentor, a teacher but most importantly a friend. Michael led with his kindness and integrity. He was old school with the biggest heart. I learned so much from him and most of all I hope I can live up to his example. I wish he was still here as my guide and confidant.”
Martin Hearn, Media Business Development Director, GTT
Group Global Director of Technology and Operations, Prime Focus (May 2008 – May 2012)
“Michael was able to transform from analogue to digital seamlessly and achieved great recognition for his work, from his peers, colleagues and co-workers. He successfully embraced the management side of being a technology leader, having the ability to navigate solutions that worked for businesses both financially and technically. I will long remember Michael’s energy and tenacity to work through challenges, through his life, whilst maintaining a very calm demeanour.”
Anshul Doshi, Consultant for Prime Focus (and ex-Global Chief Operating Officer)
“Michael employed me at Prime Focus where we worked very closely together and became close friends. A friendship that has stood the test of time. Michael was a visionary. Always thinking outside the box and pushing the boundaries. I learned so much form Michael and there was never a time when I wasn’t happy to see him. His sense of humour and positive attitude shone through and I will miss him immensely. A truly class act.”
Andrew Condie, Professional Services Director, Escape Technology
“I’m lucky to have counted Michael as a customer of mine since his Prime Focus days. He was a pleasure to work with and always got the right balance between being professional and getting the right outcome but making it fun and not taking himself too seriously. Chiefly I will remember his old-fashioned sense of decency and fairness, his ability to be level-headed and reasonable, even in difficult situations, and his wry sense of humour. A proper gentleman, I will miss him.”
Jason Jenner, Commercial Director, Escape Technology
“I was very sad to hear of the passing of Michael. I had the genuine pleasure of working with Michael at Prime Focus in 2010. It was a crazy time of expansion and change for the company, but Michael was always calm under pressure, a problem solver and just a lovely person to have in your corner. I always admired his Modish/Rockabilly style, and despite the challenges, he always made it fun. He was one of the good ones.”
Matthew Bristowe, Managing Director, Jellyfish Pictures
“I first met Michael in his Prime Focus days when Soho was still in the midst of American and Indian takeovers. In a world of chest-beating, larger than life characters, Michael stood out as the calm, quiet one.
“I soon discovered Michael shared my values and agreed that whilst each facility had its own client facing “secret sauce”, the technology challenges underneath were the same and collaboration was the key to success.
“I would often meet Michael as our paths crossed and would always spend happy times sharing experiences, theories, and laughs. We will all miss him.”
Shane Warden, Chief technology Officer, ATP Media
“I first met Michael when he joined us at Loft when we were going through a technical transformation. The man that I met was a highly motivated technologist who saw through all of the ‘gumpf’. He was able to quickly identify the right course and brilliantly engaged with all parties to get us all to where we needed to be.
“The person that I met that day became a friend. Engaging, quick witted and warm hearted. Respected, honest and brave. A person true to his word and so very supportive to all of those around him. Great council and so very funny. I’ll miss him dearly as will his wide group of friends and peers.
“My deepest sympathies go out to his wonderful wife and children whom he loved so very much.”
Davide Maglio | Director of Sales and Marketing | Calmer Media
Head of Technical Operations, Post Production at The London Studios, ITV (April 2012 – Jul 2014)
“I first met Michael at the informal “cloud media meetup” in Soho when cloud was still a fairly new area for most media companies. I was just beginning in my start-up journey and he was nothing but supportive in moments of uncertainty, guiding and backing our work at every opportunity. He didn’t need to do that, but he did it anyway, and that was Michael all over. We met many times after that to chew the fat and discuss the latest technologies. I remember specifically going for a quiet coffee when he was considering joining the BBC and I thought to myself, here’s someone who has been innovating his whole career and has nothing to prove but he’s still looking for new ways to push the boundaries. Michael was an inspiration to me from the moment we first met and will be forever.”
Rich Welsh, Senior Vice President of Innovation, Deluxe
“Michael was my boss during his time at The London Studios and remained my friend afterwards.
His roguish enthusiasm for all things television inspired me, I will miss him greatly. His loss will be felt by the whole industry.”
Martin Crotch, Senior Technology and Operations Manager, ITV Studios
“I had the pleasure of working with Michael in a few of his many roles at ITV – during his time within the TLS team, and then more recently in 2018 when he re-joined us consulting on our Creative Post Production building move to Grays Inn Road from the Southbank. Every interaction I had with him was a pleasure – he was a gentleman, a wise man and just a really nice bloke! You knew you were in safe hands if he was involved. I really wish I’d had ‘one last drink’ with him to swap stories and have a laugh. I will be raising a glass to him instead. He will hugely be missed by us all.”
Anna Waldeck-Evans, Creative Production and Operations Consultant, ITV Creative
Chief Operating Officer, Virtual Post (September 2014 – August 2019) /
Managing Director, Michael Wrightson Ltd (October 2014 – September 2019)
“Michael meant a huge amount to many people. For me he was a cornerstone, my right-hand man, and most of all a friend who believed in my ideas. I met Michael in 2014. It didn’t take long to realise we shared a similar vision of what the technical landscape could look like. Michael knew EVERYONE. Me, from the regions, didn’t. Over 5 years he helped me take our ideas and open doors with more companies than I could have imagined. Because Michael was a people person. Genuine, kind, outgoing, funny and straight down the line. Always said it like it was and was respected by everyone he met.”
Jon Lee, CEO Virtual Post
“I first met Michael in 2015 when he was working at Virtual Post and was based at The Joint. He was such a lovely man, always had time for everyone and was full of fun. He is a great loss to the TV community, and I will really miss him, our music chats and occasional dancing.”
Sarah Mackay, Managing Director, The Joint
“Hello Michael, I am going to miss you terribly. What a time we had building the ITV Gray’s Inn Road facility. We are going to miss your sense of humour, patience and in-depth tech knowledge saved us from many occasions. Thank you for everything. Rest in peace dear friend!”
Thomas Joseph, Studio Technology Support Engineer, ITV Studios
“I emailed several of my BBC colleagues yesterday about this awful piece of news. Everyone is shocked and deeply saddened… One of my colleagues had texted him about 20 mins before I called them to tell them. It was as per usual in our industry just one of those casual texts asking for a spot of advice and some thoughts along with a ‘how are you doing.’ It is truly sad that there will never be a reply…
Michael was respected, trusted, well liked, professional and excellent company!”
Peter Russell, Director of Technology, ITV Studios
“Working with Michael was a complete pleasure, he was kind, funny, warm-hearted and always had time for you. He deeply cared about doing things the right way. I was lucky enough to work with him at both ITV and the BBC, and in both roles he created real positive change. My fondest memories of Michael though are outside of work over a pint, where we would talk endlessly about tech, family, music and funny anecdotes. He was a lovely man, who I will really miss.
Ryan Norman, Production Innovation Executive, Natural History Unit & Unscripted Productions, BBC Studios
“On 1 December 2020 Michael was a key participant in a DPP session on the evolution of remote editing during the pandemic. He presented a case study on his work for BBC Studios, and then contributed to a discussion with others from the production community. He was a long term supporter of the DPP: he attended our launch party on 30 April 2015, and was active, when he was at Virtual Post, in our work on IMF. He was was always generous with this knowledge, ideas and advice – completely committed to working in an open, collaborative and collegiate way.”
Mark Harrison, CEO, DPP
Director of Technology & Operations, Post UK, Technicolor (September 2019 – January 2020)
“Michael was my manager for a short time when he was at Technicolor. He was always very helpful, knowledgeable and kind. I learnt a lot from the short time I spent working with him and I will always remember his humour and guidance. It has helped me manage quite a few situations and his presence shall not be forgotten. I wish his family all the best in this terrible time. He will be missed.”
Rob Siddall, Head of Engineering, Picture Shop London
Vice President, Global Media Technology, BBC Studios (January 2020 – September 2021)
“When I think of Michael, I remember his razor-sharp wit delivered with a warmth and wry grin. Professionally he sought to create a wholesome working environment with genuine support for others, which in turn brought out the best in others. A very balanced man, driving but fair, optimistic but grounded in pragmatism, and supremely adaptable with an intelligence and capacity to handle complex and fast-moving projects. In retrospect it’s clear to see why he was often found at the leading edge of things. A gentle giant of the industry.”
Tim Burton Managing Director, 7FiveFive
“Time with Michael was a privilege. I have never seen one person make such an impact so quickly upon joining a new company. A brilliant strategist; he saw the value in everyone and knew exactly how to maximise their effectiveness. Most of all, he was a gentleman. I am so grateful for the time I spent in his company – I learned a tonne and gained a friend.”
Emma McCarthy, VP Business & Branded Services Operations, BBC Studios
“I met Michael when I joined his team just a few short months ago. His knowledge and wisdom were immediately apparent and his wonderful, positive approach just made things work. Boss, mentor and friend, his legacy will live on and he will be missed for a very long time.”
Mark Stanway, Operations Manager, BBC Studios
“Michael lit a fire when he joined BBC Studios and his impact and influence will burn brightly for years to come. I am a better person for having met Michael, his courage was inspiring, and I will forever be thankful for the opportunity to have worked with him.”
Alex Pickering, Content Security Director, BBC Studios
“I’ve learnt a great deal from working with Michael. He was of course a fountain of knowledge, but I also learnt from his decisive and determined nature. I felt there was an anarchic spirit inside him and when he was in troublemaking mode it was always fun to watch. His determination led him to forging a whole new path for our department and the company at large. It really is quite a legacy. Whilst he cared immensely about the work at hand, he also cared about his teammates. He was kind and supportive to those he worked closely with and was open and honest with us. I’m in awe of how much he shouldered and so appreciative of the time he gave to me.”
Nell Sugar, Post Production Executive, BBC Studios
“Michael was a truly exceptional person, talented on so many levels and one of the kindest, most respectful people I have ever met. Michael brought such positive enthusiasm to his work which was hugely uplifting and energising to be around, even on Zoom. I loved how he would light up excitedly when he talked about music or one of his passions, of which he had many. What Michael has achieved in his time at BBC Studios has been phenomenal, I am so lucky to have had the opportunity to work alongside, learn from and get to know Michael over the last couple of years or so. I will miss him dearly.”
Rebecca Craig, Projects and Change Analyst, BBC Studios
“Having known Michael for a number of years, I was always captivated by his knowledge, openness and positive outlook. When I saw he was hiring at BBC Studios, I got in touch and was immediately inspired by his vision, passion, pragmatism and downright honesty. I am honoured to have had the opportunity to work with Michael and always felt supported and trusted to help deliver that vision. His legacy will live long, and he will be dearly missed by myself and all who had the privilege of working with him.”
Adam Jakubowski, Media Technology Manager, BBC Studios
“I feel very honoured to have been able to work with Michael. He was a very special person with a wealth of experience and knowledge and was so willing to share this with you. I thank him for bringing his vision to the department, it had a huge impact on me and my work in the best possible way. I thank you for your time and your conversation. I will miss you.”
Kathy Bateson, Projects & Change Analyst, BBC Studios
“I was lucky enough to work with Michael on two projects. The passion he showed for his work and his ability to get the best out of everyone around him made his contribution immense. His knowledge of the industry (and contact book) was peerless. He will be sorely missed.”
Mark Glennon, Media Technology Consultant, BBC Studios
“Although I worked with Michael for a couple of years, being half a world away meant we regrettably never got to meet face to face. It is a testament to Michael’s personality to say that despite this he always made me feel welcome and included. He was a wealth of knowledge and experience and the genuine enthusiasm he had in the projects we worked on together was infectious. His legacy in the business will undoubtably remain well into the future and he will be sorely missed.”
Mark Smee, Director of Technology, BBC Studios
“Michael was a warm and generous colleague with time for everyone. He was a real expert in his field and widely respected, not only at the BBC, but right throughout our industry. He made a huge impact during his time with us, launching our new Media Technology function and leading the business through a period of significant change whilst putting in place a number of new initiatives that will forever be his legacy. He will be fondly remembered and sadly missed by all.”
Gabby Redfern, EVP Global Operations, BBC Studios
And the following very neatly summarises who Michael was
“I am very proud of Michael. I have always said he’s amazing – but I didn’t realise quite how many other people did too. He loved technology from the start – he didn’t only work his way from mending industrial videos at Metro Video to VP Global Tech at BBC Studios, he also built his own music recording studio In Dalston and, in the last year, recreated it on a small scale in the garden room at home so he and Seth (our son) could make and record music. When other 14year olds got their first radio, they tuned it to Radio Luxembourg. Michael took his apart to see how it worked.
“He loved his work – it inspired and challenged him and gave him enormous satisfaction. Give him a problem, he’ll rise to the challenge – whether one of the neighbour’s printer isn’t working or the BBC thinks a new approach to global asset management is called for, he’ll give it a go. With modesty, kindness and buckets of knowledge.”
Michael’s wife, Hilary Cross
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