Norma Percy on her powers of persuasion


How do you go about getting a president or a prime minister on screen?

With difficulty! And with a lot of time. And it takes time. The first thing you need is time because Percy’s first rule is that everyone worth having says ‘No’ at least three times, so you need time to keep going back. And in this series, the two people we saw first for a research interview… because to research decision making, which is what I suppose we slowly came on to, first you have to know what the big decisions are, and the meetings that happen in secret. Normally the people don’t know it, so you have to find out what they are, you have to find out people to tell you what happened at them. You have to meet the people who were there to tell you what happened, off the record. Then you have to persuade them to do it on film. And that takes time. But also the really important people, so you’ll go up to the advisors or the junior ministers to the top ones, but to get the top people to do it, it takes time.

First of all when they say no, persistence does not mean just writing another letter. What you have to do is find someone who they trust, who knows to trust you, and get them to get back to them.

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