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
This time every year London plays host to the international drama industry. Producers, broadcasters and commissioners from around the world come together to do business and discuss what makes great TV at C21’s International Drama Summit. So what are the challenges facing international drama producers?
During an in-depth panel about TV drama development, Jill Green, Chief Executive at Eleventh Hour Films said:
“The perfect partnership for a co-production doesn’t come along very often. The challenge for indies [like us] is making that partnership work on an international scale.”
Judging from the audience’s reaction, it’s a sentiment felt industry-wide.
This week, we had the pleasure of announcing an exciting international development and distribution deal between Eleventh Hour Films and Sony Pictures Television International Production. A UK and US collaboration that tells a story from British history, set on a US air base, it ticks all the right boxes for an international partnership.
Rendlesham is a compelling and emotional family drama inspired by the real-life UFO incident which took place at a US air base close to the village of Rendlesham, Suffolk in 1980. The series plays out against the height of the Cold War, exploring themes which resonate stronger than ever today.
With award-winning writer and director Joe Ahearne confirmed to helm the show – it also goes to show that great talent is key to making great international drama come to life.
The Rendlesham announcement coincided with the opening day of the Drama Summit, and was received with applause during sessions featuring Sony’s Wayne Garvey and Eleventh Hour Film’s Jill Green. With a full sweep of coverage across the board in Variety, Deadline, The Hollywood Reporter, Broadcast, C21 and Worldscreen – the news has made an impact for Eleventh Hour at a key time in the industry calendar.
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 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…
Last month we ventured to Paris for Series Mania – the co-production event for scripted producers, and it was buzzing. Now in its eighth year, Series Mania is less about selling TV and more about celebrating the creative talent off-screen and nurturing co-production relationships.
Co-producing with partners that can add real value has become more important to a show’s success. Gone are the days where you would receive a healthy commission from a broadcaster to make a show and a good advance from your distributor, plus additional amounts of income from sales. Although having a broadcaster on-board remains somewhat critical, a production may also need co-pro partners that bring something in addition to finance to the table. It could be a different cultural perspective – resulting in a broader appeal amongst audiences, or it could be a fantastic showrunner, casting relationship, a location genius, a rocking writing-room, a relationship with broadcasters in a different territory, a stockpile of the latest hardware, a fantastic post-facility or just a different way of working.
Series Mania has a different vibe to other events we attend. It’s more creative, with producers discussing the challenges of a second series, how networks can kill a show, or even why Nordic comedy travels. There’s also a full day of experienced production companies from all over Europe pitching their show concept on stage in front of the industry – all looking to forge alliances to get their projects off the ground.
The organisers did an amazing job too in looking after us delegates. Hospitality really makes such a difference and we were spoilt with drinks at the jawdroppingly gorgeous gilt-laden Hotel de Ville, followed by dinner the next day at The Museum of Natural History.
Throughout the whole event, it was refreshing to see the top European production companies building relationships with their UK counterparts.
Great relationships have to start somewhere and Paris definitely isn’t a bad backdrop. Who knows where they may end up?
By Sophie Naylor, Managing Director at Franklin Rae.