Why we need more Wonder Women in UK drama

Why we need more Wonder Women in UK drama

With the world having just celebrated International Women’s Day, women are becoming more empowered than ever before to stand up for their rights and be heard. So, it is very timely that the role of female scriptwriters in the UK drama industry is currently in the spotlight.

Britain’s unique mix of commercial, private TV and public-service broadcasting has meant that the UK has become one of the world’s leading production hubs. But, despite the fact that Britain is producing some of the highest quality drama in the world, is there enough diversity amongst show-runners and writers?


Nurturing female talent

In an open letter to TV drama commissioners last month, over 70 female scriptwriters criticised the ‘‘glass ceiling’’ and claimed British drama is “overwhelmingly written by men”. If you look at the dramas currently or recently aired on British TV, it’s hard to argue against this. Of the 20 primetime dramas aired so far in 2018, just two – Heidi Thomas’ Call The Midwife and Kay Mellor’s ITV series Girlfriends – were written by women.

I am a real sucker for a good TV drama. The most gripping dramas are those that weave together multiple plot strands before smashing your expectations out of the park with twists and turns that you just haven’t seen coming. When the UK does drama well it is very hard to beat. Making quality TV is recognised internationally as a great British trait and the global appeal of our output is second only to the States. But we do need to nurture the female talent on our little island.

The exception not the rule

Most of the British dramas I’ve enjoyed in recent times have been written by men; Netflix’s The Crown (Peter Morgan), BBC’s Dr Foster (Mike Bartlett), BBC’s The Moorside (Neil McKay), ITV’s Broadchurch (Chris Chibnall), and Sky Atlantic’s current drama Save Me, written by and starring The Walking Dead’s Lennie James. Jed Mercurio’s Line of Duty is also a particular favourite of mine.

There are some notable exceptions. Last year’s BBC Three Girls, written by Nicole Taylor and based on the true stories of victims of sexual abuse in Rochdale, and Sally Wainwright’s excellent Happy Valley, which for me is without a doubt one of the best dramas ever shown on British TV. Yet, it is beyond question that this is a genre very much dominated by men.

Change is coming

Commissioners have suggested things will change in the future. Recently, ITV’s head of drama, Polly Hill, promised that four new dramas written by women would be revealed soon, and yesterday she announced the female-led drama Deep Water from leading producer Kudos and written by Anna Symons. BBC One’s Piers Wenger has also said that 40% of the dramas he has commissioned in the last year have been written by women. With so much talent out there, I’d like to see that glass ceiling come crashing down and shattering into pieces very soon. To quote the Spice Girls – it’s all about #Girlpower.

By Melanie Webb, Senior Account Director, Franklin Rae

The Press Room: John Elmes, C21

The Press Room: John Elmes, C21

This month, we’re turning the press spotlight on John Elmes, Senior Reporter at C21Media to hear more about what’s making waves in the TV industry.


What are you writing about at the moment?

“I’m in the middle of writing some pieces on the technological developments which may (or may not) revolutionise the TV industry. VR and AR are a significant part of this conversation, so if you have insight into either, drop me a line.”

What are the headlines everyone’s talking about at the moment?

“It seems like the whole TV world has been writing about ‘consolidation’ in recent months, thanks to the Disney-21st Century Fox deal at the end of 2017 and the Viacom-CBS talks this year. Elsewhere, column inches tend to be filled by the latest movement in the digital players’ arms race to be the global superpower – which, ironically, tends to lead to stories about consolidation. Who of the FAANGs is going to be top of the pile, and who will be left behind are the questions on a lot of people’s lips.”

What is your biggest frustration as a journalist?

“It depends on the audience I guess! Most of my frustrations stem from being scooped or not being able to stand a story up. Thankfully I work with a great bunch internally and externally, which means these irritations are few and far between. People not getting back to me with journalistic requests is another bugbear, but I’m guilty of that, so am painfully aware of my own hypocrisy…”What are you watching at the moment?

What are you watching at the moment?

“I’m just about to delve into season 2 of Marcella on ITV. I caught season 1 on catch-up and it was brilliant, so am planning to watch the second run linearly. Elsewhere, Mindhunter, Suburra – La Serie and Fargo have been compulsive viewing on Netflix. I’m also eagerly awaiting the documentary series Flint Town on Netflix too. It drops on March 2nd, so not long to go now.”

Content, communication & connections

Content, communication & connections

It’s not every day you make the decision to return to a job you left more than four years ago but that’s exactly what I did, returning to Franklin Rae at the tail end of last year. So why did I come back? Well, that’s an easy one.


Franklin Rae has a long legacy in working with media and entertainment companies, helping them to communicate their messages to the industry as well as promoting their content to consumer audiences.  Working with creative companies has always been something I’ve loved and getting to do it at an agency with such a unique offering was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.


The team here at Franklin Rae have such a wide range of experience, they all bring something unique to the table. Whether it’s a heritage in working with brands and/or producers, a passion for factual programming, a somewhat unnerving love of Rob Brydon, experience working in-house for distributors, a history of working for the trade press, or a love of all things TOWIE, everyone brings something to the company which helps to build our effectiveness and deliver for our clients.


Not only does Franklin Rae pride itself on its communication strategies, it also looks to bring added value to clients in a range of different ways. Connecting people is an important part of trying to bring that added value and as you can see from this month’s newsletter we’ve spent the past few weeks working with Edge Investments, setting up opportunities for production companies/content producers to meet with a VC and hear all about what they are looking for and how to be investment ready. Our feedback showed that those who attended found the event really useful and that’s what’s important to us.

Our plan for 2018 is to continue working with creative companies, connecting those in our network and adding value wherever we can. If Rob Brydon also wanted to stop by that would be a bonus.

By Leigh Turnbull, Managing Director, Franklin Rae

How to be investment ready

How to be investment ready

Last month Franklin Rae and Edge Investments, the creative industries’ sector investor, hosted a roundtable breakfast for creative companies interested in learning about business growth and how to be investment ready. Over coffee and pastries, David Fisher, Investment Director at Edge Investments, took everyone through the routes required for raising money from institutional venture capital companies. Here he shares a few of his tips.


Know your audience

Before you approach a company – or an individual – for investment, make sure you know who you are pitching too. Whether it’s an angel investor, a trade company or an institutional venture capital company, know what information they will be looking for and tailor your pitch accordingly.

Be pitch ready

Have a pitch deck. It’s your meeting and this will allow you to control the narrative and tell your story. The deck should highlight your key USPs, your place in the market and your vision for growth. Why are you a good investment opportunity? How are you going to build your IP and grow the business? Don’t over load the meeting but have your key management team in the room. And make sure you each take roles and practice beforehand.

Build a financial plan

A written business plan will help you stand out, but the key is the financial plan. An institutional investor will require at least 12 months in detail, broken down on a monthly basis, and three years broken down on a quarterly basis, plus a detailed P&L and cashflow. The more detail the better. It shows you are on top of the business.

Be realistic

Make sure your plan is sensible. We will understand many companies are not going to sell to Google for £500m, and we don’t expect a plan that projects those returns on exit, but we are looking for companies that can grow to significant scale. We would like to see a sensible exit, based on your sector’s EBITDA multiple. For example TV Production companies usually sell on a multiple of 10x EBITDA, so understand the returns that are on offer to an investor from your plan. We don’t invest for hits, we invest in good solid businesses who are going to build their IP over a sensible period of time. Of course, we hope you have a hit…

Know your numbers

Be in shape when you go to pitch for finance. Make sure you have someone who understands your numbers attend the meeting, but even better, make sure you do. Be ready to answer any questions.

Identify your key hires

There’s three things a VC looks for – management, management and management. Managers and entrepreneurs build the business. We need to know you have the ability, the vision, the drive and the energy to win work, deliver work, manage your finances, manage your team and grow a business. Hires we like to see in place include sales, financial and operations, plus the key creatives. In a content related business we do understand the mix of business and creativity, that blend of people who have a vision for the business corporately and creatively.

Have an exit plan

Building a business takes time, but make sure your vision includes a route to exit. An institutional investor definitely needs to be able to see how and when they can get their money out. At Edge we look at a 4 to 6 year horizon to build the business and generate a sufficient return to be able to exit.

David Fisher is an Investment Director at Edge Investments, the creative industries venture specialist 

The Press Room: Jesse Whittock, TBI

The Press Room: Jesse Whittock, TBI

We speak to Jesse Whittock, Editor at TBI and TBIVision.com to get the scoop on life behind-the-scenes at the publication.

What are you writing about at the moment?

We deliver a daily TBIVision.com newsletter, so that keeps us busy, but we’re also currently getting a digital special together on what we’ve dubbed the ‘UK Screenings’. This is when smart distributors put on events for buyers in Britain for the BBC Worldwide Showcase in February.

Besides that, we’re currently researching the history of TBI and the international TV business for our year-round coverage of TBI’s 30th anniversary (happy birthday to us). It’s been fascinating speaking with previous editors and publishers, and hearing about a time when magazines existed purely on print advertising, crazy thought.

What are the headlines everyone’s talking about at the moment?

This year is going to be all about massive M&A – whether AT&T can close the Time Warner deal despite Trump’s objections and the implications of Disney buying Fox. All of our best connected sources are also predicting further massive deals: everything else will fall by the wayside if Apple buys Netflix.

The TV biz is also a very gossipy one, which is why there will be plenty more people news covered on TBIVision.com as new companies emerge and execs switch teams.

What is your biggest frustration as a journalist?

Where to start? I’d love to be out of the office chasing stories and exploring new opportunities more than I am, but the ship doesn’t steer itself.

From a PR perspective, I really, really wish more time was spent identifying if a story is right for TBI. The worst thing a PR can do is send me a passive aggressive ‘have you considered the release/pitch I sent you two days ago’ email when the original mail was completely wrong in the first place.

It’s the only thing that makes me lose my rag a bit, and the best PRs never make that mistake, because they know intrinsically what we want to cover.

What are you watching at the moment?

It’s a long list: season three of Narcos, which is fantastic; I’m Dying Up Here, which I love but for some reason haven’t finished; McMafia – haven’t made up my mind on it yet; re-runs of Scrubs, a great comedy that reminds me of the 2000’s; Netflix comedy Love; Archer season six; a planned binge of Blue Planet II as I missed it first time around; and Peaky Blinders, which is ridiculous and silly and I love that.

I’m also a big podcasts dude – I recommend Mark Maron’s WTF, Romesh Ranganathan’s Hip Hop Saved My Life, Hollywood and Crime: Young Charlie, This American Life, 30 for 30, No Such Thing As a Fish and The Football Ramble.

Making news count at MIPCOM

Making news count at MIPCOM

It’s the busiest time of the year for the TV industry. And our press office is no exception! Everyone wants to make an impact at market and we’ve been busy doing just that for our clients, announcing some of the biggest deals that happened at MIPCOM. Here’s what we’ve been working on:

Shellhut and Tiny Island Pictures sign record 10 feature film MOU with Shanghai Media Group’s Wingsmedia

The biggest animation film cooperation deal took place between Thailand’s Shellhut Entertainment and Singapore’s Tiny Island Productions earlier this month. Both companies signed on a 10-feature film co-production with MOU and WingsMedia, a member of Oriental Pearl Group and Shanghai Media Group. Valued at an estimated USD$250 million, this is the first ever China-Singapore-Thailand animation co-production! Following a buzzing press conference at MIPCOM, news of the deal was covered in Variety, C21, MIP Daily, The Hollywood Reporter, Content Asia, Animation magazine to name but a few.

Komixx secures worldwide rights to Wattpad sensation ‘Captured’ by Kelly Anne Blount

Independent film and TV producer, Komixx Entertainment announced it has optioned the worldwide screen rights to electrifying young adult thriller novel Captured; the debut novel from award winning author Kelly Anne Blount with more than 15.6 million reads worldwide on Wattpad. Captured builds on Komixx’s reputation as a leading producer of exciting YA TV and film adaptations internationally. With the announcement featuring prominently in The Bookseller, C21, Variety and the Variety newsletter on the first day of MIPCOM – Komixx is fast becoming known as the leader in identifying content to surprise the YA generation.

Talesmith explores the history of Earth in spectacular new documentary for ZEEL and Smithsonian Channel

High-end, specialist factual production company Talesmith has been commissioned by Zee Entertainment Enterprises LTD (ZEEL) and Smithsonian Channel to produce the incredible Life of Earth: From Space and Life of Earth: The Age of Humans. A world-first collaboration between Talesmith, ZEEL and the Smithsonian Channel – this spectacular two-hour 4K/UHD feature documentary delves into the planet’s extraordinary 4.5 billion-year old history as never seen before. With coverage in the MIP Daily, Realscreen, C21, TBI, Worldscreen and TV Asia – this was one announcement making history at MIPCOM.

Smithsonian channel™ renews hit series ‘America in Color’ from Arrow Media

Arrow Media has been re-commissioned to produce six new hour-long episodes of its hit series America In Color by the Smithsonian Channel. The series, which first premiered in July, presents iconic moments in U.S. history as never seen before – using artistry, an expert colorizing team and cutting-edge technology to transform black-and-white films and photographs into vibrant 4K color. The announcement appeared in Televisual, Realscreen and C21 at an important time during the market to help Arrow make an impact.

Channel 5 orders second season of Naked Entertainment’s ‘Celebrity 100% Hotter’ 

London-based Naked Entertainment, the production company creating bold, innovative factual and entertainment programming, chose MIPCOM to announce its extreme-make-under format 100% Hotter has been commissioned by Channel 5 for a second celebrity spin-off series. Following the success of the first series, which almost doubled the broadcaster’s primetime average among 16-34 year olds, the four hour-long episodes will air in January 2018.  C21, Worldscreen and Realscreen all covered the news with enthusiasm!

TV Azteca and Keshet International join forces in scripted co-development deal for Mexico market

Keshet InternationalKeshet International announced a scripted deal to co-develop and produce a new original Spanish-language super series (60 episodes) to air on TV Azteca. The series will be developed under the KI banner and co-produced in house with TV Azteca and set to launch in 2018. Keshet International will distribute the series globally. With widespread coverage across the board in Variety, Rapid TV News, Hollywood Reporter, Deadline, Worldscreen, TBI and C21 – the news comes during a period of tremendous growth for KI in Latin America.

Until next year MIPCOM…