If I had to start again... Lord Puttnam

...I'd throw myself into the digital world with the same self-belief I had entering the ad industry in the 1960s.

Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

I had loathed school and left with no qualifications, and replied to an ad for a messenger boy at the Evening Standard. I loved work, and was soon at an agency alongside Alan Parker, Ridley Scott and Charles Saatchi. It was an extraordinary time. Scott and Saatchi would stay past midnight, trying to out-do each other. There was a lot of laughter, and a real sense the world was changing and you could do anything.

At 28, through a mix of ludicrous arrogance and complete lack of knowledge, I got into the film industry. For the first time, I felt like a round peg in a round hole. My first production was well received. But I learnt more from producing my second film, Jacques Demy's Pied Piper, which starred Donovan and was catastrophic.

I had a hit with Midnight Express in 1977. It paid off my overdraft, but it wasn't how I wanted to work, and out of that experience came my more personal films: Chariots of Fire, Local Hero and Escape from the Killing Fields.

In 1986 I took a job heading Columbia Pictures. It was an honest mistake. The nature of the deal guaranteed me an income, the fruits of which I still live on. But was I happy? No. Was I suited to the job? No. It was like being a general in World War II, up in the chateau poring over maps when you're best out commanding the troops. The job gave me ME, which I've had now for 20 years.

I quit film in 1998. My films just weren't as good as those of 10 years earlier. I was now a member of the House of Lords, and working in the Department of Education - it was hopeless trying to do it all.

I'm now trying to broker a future for intellectual property. Copyright-holders are keen to criminalise consumers, a crazy way to run a business. Not on my watch.

- Lord Puttnam of Queensgate is president of Unicef UK.

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