Boom! news · 7 May, 2019

Finding new dramatic voices

Boom! PR’s Account Director Andrew Dickens reviews Broadcast Intelligence’s Drama Commissioner Index Breakfast Panel

Commissioning more dramas from the UK’s Nations and Regions and portraying more diverse voices on screen were just some of the themes to emerge from an insightful panel at the second Broadcast Intelligence Commissioner Index Breakfast Panel last week.

Scores of independent producers assembled in London on Tuesday, April 30th, to listen to the scripted programming needs of Lee Mason, Commissioning Editor of Drama, Channel 4 (C4); Huw Kennair-Jones, Drama Commissioner at ITV and Phillipa Collie-Cousins, Drama Commissioner at UKTV.

C4’s Mason, who has overseen series including ‘The End of the F***ing World’, ‘No Offence’ and ‘Ackley Bridge’, said the broadcaster was continuing to hunt for dramas that were “cheeky, subversive and have a fair bit of irreverence” and wanted new shows to be “brave with the subject matter they tackled”.

But the former Keshet International executive also called for all broadcasters to reach out to the UK’s nations and regions for new ideas. “Maybe we do need to look a little bit more inward and a bit more regionally, and actually look at those distinctive voices that are coming out of different parts of the country,” Mason said.

“If you look at ‘Derry Girls’ and how well that’s done for Channel 4, that’s doing really well in Northern Ireland and that’s important. There’s nothing wrong with finding particular worlds and stories that are really reflective of communities within the country.”

Kennair-Jones, who looks after ITV long-running soaps ‘Emmerdale’ and ‘Coronation Street’ and returning series such as ‘Vera’, agreed but also re-iterated his own commercial broadcaster’s requirements for “bold and mainstream” programming that appeals to a wide audience and “isn’t too nice.”

Meanwhile, UKTV’s Collie-Cousins, a Bafta award-winning director, felt it was imperative that UKTV “shows the different voices we have in the modern society.” “I am totally passionate about launching a ‘coming up scheme’ – we have various initiatives and I am definitely nipping at various people’s heals to make sure we can do that,” she said before adding: “Drama isn’t always very modern – it gets stuck in ways of doing things and can be quite self-referential. It’s about working out how to make characters relatable and nuanced.”

Producers in attendance also received an insight into all three commissioners’ programming requirements. ITV’s Kennair-Jones said: “We will look at most things but we have to be a bit careful with sci-fi, supernatural and dystopian genres – but we will look at most things that are populist.”

UKTV’s Collie-Cousins said shows pitched to her needed to be “contemporary” and “not period pieces”. “I’m not interested in soft procedurals. We sit somewhere between ITV and Channel 4 so it’s about being bold and distinctive and mainstream still,” she said.

Meanwhile, C4’s Mason said: “Period is something that we are never actively looking for, unless it’s telling a different version of a story takes us back into a different time in history and shows us a different perspective on it. We don’t tend to look for this and we are not actively looking for sci-fi.

“That said, if there’s something that feels so unique then we will make it. In terms of slots, four-parters work really well for us, as well as returning series. Returning series are incredibly hard to find and we only do one or two a year.”