Can Harry and Meghan really make it as superstar film-makers?

Rebecca Taylor
·Royal Correspondent
·4 mins read

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have confirmed the first major post-royal move as they sign a “megawatt” deal to produce documentaries, films, and scripted series for Netflix.

The couple have left their palaces behind and turned to Hollywood, saying they want to use their experiences of “diverse communities and their environments” to create “content that informs but also gives hope”.

They also intend to make family programming, inspired after becoming parents themselves.

While Meghan is a former actor, the couple’s production credits are minimal. It will likely be a steep learning curve for both of them - though a source told Yahoo UK they already have at least two projects underway.

Harry is understood to have worked closely with filmmakers on Rising Phoenix, a Netflix documentary he appeared in, and Meghan has years of industry experience, most recently through TV series Suits. They also have a commitment to diversity in front of and behind the camera, so will have a team of experts with them.

Stephen Bates, author of Royalty Inc: Britain's Best-Known Brand and former royal correspondent, told Yahoo UK the pair should be wary of some initial warning signs. “It has already been factored in that they are semi-detached members of the Royal Family,” he said. “They will have to make their own way in the world.

“It sounds like there are really huge figures involved in attracting them - I wonder how much profit Netflix is going to get out of them, except their names.

“Neither of them are particularly experienced in documentaries I expect. It might be a short-term thing.”

He referenced Harry’s uncle, Prince Edward, and his failed production company, Ardent, which is believed to have been dissolved with just £40 in assets before Edward became a working royal. It’s a legacy which might haunt the couple.

Read more: The 360: What has been the reaction to Harry and Meghan's huge deal with Netflix?

Bates said: “He rapidly ran out of ideas. The track record of royals making documentaries is that they tend to make the same ones.”

Asked whether their megawatt star names would be used to draw in others, he said: “I suspect they will have to. I don’t think they have the individual expertise on their own for the operation.”

He added: “I think the hard economic reality will tell in the end. They have a marketable name, how long that will last depends on the expertise their advisers can deploy.”

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex are due to review the arrangements of their post-senior royal life in March 2021, 12 months after they stepped back.

But a multi-year Netflix deal and a new company could suggest they are in no rush to make any changes.

Bates said the Royal Family doesn't always react well to those who try to leave. Harry and Meghan here with the Queen in July 2018. (Getty Images)
Bates said the Royal Family doesn't always react well to those who try to leave. Harry and Meghan here with the Queen in July 2018. (Getty Images)

Read more: Prince Harry and Meghan Markle plant Diana's favourite flowers on anniversary of her death

Bates said: “The Royal Family does not take kindly to people who drop out and especially in the way Harry and Meghan did. I would have thought it is highly unlikely that they are going to come back to anything like regular royal work.

“Good luck to them, if they can make a go of it with Netflix, but I would have thought the number of things they can do is limited.”

Others are more positive about the prospect of royals as producers this time around, with Jonathan Shalit, chairman of the talent agency InterTalent, suggesting the deal is “a very elegant way to solve a serious problem”.

He said: “The challenge that Meghan and Harry have got is on a number of fronts.

“So financially, how do they look after themselves because the costs of living in [California] are considerable for them particularly with the security needs they have.

“So having Netflix behind them, they have a massive financial backer paying the kind of money where they can relax financially.”

He added: “It’s very clear that Megan and Harry don’t want to embarrass the royal family.

“They don’t want to cause problems.

“And some of the potential partners they could have had, could have caused problems but working with Netflix, which is totally objective and neutral, that doesn’t cause a problem.”

The couple, here at the Lion King premiere in July 2019, will be hoping to pull big audiences with Netflix. (UK Press)
The couple, here at the Lion King premiere in July 2019, will be hoping to pull big audiences with Netflix. (UK Press)

Speaking on ITV’s This Morning, journalist and royal commentator Afua Adom said: “They have got the clout that people will want to work with them - it’s Harry and Meghan.

“They will be able to get the right teams around them to make this great content.

“Whatever they do people will find criticism for it... there will be some people who find something wrong with it, but this is brilliant.

“It was definitely to be expected, we can expect more in this vein.

“A Netflix deal or a Spotify deal, this is the modern-day book deal. This is brilliant to see from them and I can’t wait to see what content they come up with.”

Neither Netflix or a spokesman for the Sussexes has confirmed how much their new deal is worth.