Alex Cross is a Force of Nature as a TV Executive and Storyteller
“Alex is a uniquely skilled and talented television executive who without fail delivers top class storytelling in every unscripted show she manages. Her ability to tease out and craft story in the most difficult circumstances is second to none and she is a joy to work with” — Natalka Znak, Multi Award winning Producer and President & Founder of Znak TV
Legendary author Joan Didion once wrote: “We tell ourselves stories in order to live.”
Certainly, one of the great things in television is that every role has a part to play in telling the story — not just writers, actors, directors, cinematographers and music composers but also post editors and even Executive Producers. Executive Producer and Co-Executive Producer (Co-EP) Alex Cross, who has contributed to gripping storylines for over 20 years from Big Brother to Go-Big Show and Ultimate Tag, sees her broad role as being inextricably tied into storytelling — from pre-production through filming on location to supporting final post-production.
Moreover, Cross, who grew up loving to be engaged by classic TV shows in her native UK, like Only Fools and Horses, Absolutely Fabulous, Top of the Pops along with Big Brother (UK), talks about how she aims to create diverting stories on the TV shows she’s now hired to produce.
Cross enthusiastically explains: “One of the first roles that I take on a series is producing and crafting backstories to help our audience connect with the cast — this is so key. Backstories are usually shot before principal filming so I’m often meeting cast first, helping them get comfortable on camera and with the production process. Once principal filming gets underway, with multiple cast members, there are multiple storylines developing at any given time. My role is to track and capture the developing storylines, while ensuring there is an entertaining narrative and cohesive series arc.”
“Inside each of us is a natural-born storyteller, waiting to be released.” — Robin Moore, author of The French Connection book
Most importantly, Emmy nominated EP Conrad Green also praises Cross for having a “passion to deliver shows at their very best in the most trying of circumstances,” and, he effuses over her “real eye for detail throughout the whole production process.”
Additionally, Cross, who previously worked as Series Producer/Showrunner on Dating in the Dark, which won a prestigious RTS Award for best cable show, feels one of her many strengths is indeed her storytelling ability.
That ability might’ve been inspired by having to move around the UK and then to Europe, living in different countries and experiencing different cultures growing up. Therefore, she suggests, “When I moved to France, age 12, I was literally dropped into a small French village school, where no one spoke English. I think I knew how to ask for the train station and a return ticket in French, and that was pretty much it. I remember thinking at the time, that if I can communicate clearly, anything is possible. Studying in a foreign language taught me, from a young age, to really embrace being out of my comfort zone and how to adapt to new situations and different people. As a freelance Producer, I regularly work with different production companies, new crews as well as casts from all walks of life. And I have to adapt the way I work to best suit the project being made.” She quips, “I’m not sure if my background prepared me for this type of work or whether I enjoy this type of work because of my upbringing.”
As a result, she developed a fascination for learning about different people’s stories which has supported her present “storytelling” responsibilities:
“Storytelling and telling real people’s stories is what drew me to TV and particularly unscripted TV. Whether it’s a docuseries, a dating show, a competition series, or big talent show, they all have basic storytelling at the core. I’m fascinated by contestants’ stories and what motivates them. This job has allowed me to meet hundreds and hundreds of diverse and fascinating people from all across the world.”
In other words, Cross is inspired by gripping TV. She worked as a Supervising Producer for Big Brother (UK) from 2005–06, but recalls when she first saw this show: “There had never been anything like this on UK TV before. It was like a living soap opera, getting to spy on real people. It was eye-opening TV despite the fact it was just 10 ordinary people living in a house together, but their behavior became national talking points and made front page headlines. It became part of the cultural zeitgeist. At the time, I was just starting my TV career, working on a daytime magazine show. Big Brother seemed so unpredictable and edgy. Five years later, I got to produce two seasons of Big Brother and Celebrity Big Brother.”
So, what did she learn? “Big Brother taught me so much as a producer. The reality shows aired six nights a week, with just a day to turn around each hour episode. It was a huge team and communication was key. I had to really trust my instincts and be decisive. And I quickly learned how to stay calm under pressure!”
Above all, that “edit” aspect also plays a crucial role in storytelling. EP Conrad Green, who has worked with Cross on Go-Big Show, Ultimate Tag and Crime Scene Kitchen, praises her: “Alex has transformed so many shows in the edit, it’s remarkable. She’s one of the most in-demand executives in Hollywood.”
To clarify, Cross adds, “The edit is crucial to every show I’ve worked on. That’s when the storytelling really comes to life. The right pacing, score and reactions can transform the smallest moment into something visceral.”
Over the past 15 years, Cross has worked on almost every type of reality genre and talks about one genre she’d like to try in the future: “I have so much respect for documentary filmmakers who sacrifice years of their lives to raise awareness for an issue they feel passionate about. And make a difference in the world. I hope that one day I have the patience and passion to do the same.”
In the meantime, she admits to being fortunate enough to work and film in exotic locations like some exclusive parts of the south of France — with fast cars, yachts, casinos, helicopters and multimillion dollar villas. But she laughingly confesses, “It’s not all glamorous. I’ve also spent night shifts working in a hut in the middle of a disused airfield hanger. And spent many months in old, drafty portacabins, doubling as an office on location.”
Above all, she says, “I really enjoy producing shows and being part of the creative process. Especially new series, where you’re shaping every aspect of the new format. I want to continue making entertaining shows that inspire me and that I would watch at home. Additionally, I’m working up some ideas myself so hopefully I get to produce my own formats one day.”
Moreover, she looks forward to the role that technology will play, recalling: “Technology has advanced so much already during my career. When I first started in TV in the early 2000’s, Google was just becoming popular and some editors were still pulling footage from tapes. Now, we’re starting to see formats embrace motion capture technology and digital avatars. So, it’s just a matter of time and bring it on.”
In short, Alex Cross feels that while entertainment is paramount, “Television can also offer education and reflection.”
Drop in on Alex Cross on IMDb.