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Drama: Anne Mensah on what Sky wants

Blog
11 September 2013

Anne Mensah is Sky’s head of drama and commissions across Sky 1, Sky Living, Sky Atlantic, Sky Arts and Sky Movies. She explains what shows work well for her and what she’s looking for in the future

What’s worked well recently?
We are really excited about the shows we are launching this autumn. The amazing Strikeback and Mad Dogs will be back on Sky 1; for Mad Dogs it’s the last outing and so we are planning a huge finale. We will also have new shows such as The Tunnel on Sky Atlantic, Dracula and the Drama Matters pilots season on Sky Living and the fantastic adventure tale Moonfleet also for Sky 1. Playhouse Presents returned to Sky Arts earlier this year with a phenomenal line up both on and off screen – Kylie Minogue, Idris Elba, Matt Smith, Anna Friel, Marc Warren amongst many more…

What upcoming shows are you excited about?
I’m excited about all our new shows – we have a huge range of series coming up that hopefully will showcase the diversity of our channels and Sky Drama’s output. From Dominic Cooper in our biopic of Ian Fleming’s life to Jamie Bamber and Jodie Whittaker in The Smoke for Sky 1. I really think that there will be something for everyone in the mix.



What defines a Sky drama commission?
Scale, humour and emotion – and maybe a bit naughty or audacious. Sometimes they can be dark but certainly never miserable. With any commission, we’re always conscious to give customers a different offering to what can be found on terrestrial TV.

What are you looking for right now?
Big characters who can surprise us.

What genres work well for you?
We are lucky enough to commission for five seperate channels (Sky 1, Sky Living, Sky Atlantic, Sky Arts and Sky Movies) and that means we can carry pretty much any tone and any genre somewhere on our channels. I think it is one of the most liberating things about working with Sky – the depth and range of what we can do here.

Is there particular talent that works for you?
No – we love diversity on and off screen – with The Smoke, Lucy Kirkwood is writing her first series for Sky 1 whilst Carnivale creator, Dan Knauf is writing Dracula for Sky Living. We’ve had Vanessa Redgrave in a Sky Arts Playhouse, Ray Winstone is in Moonfleet whilst Gemma Fay, the lead actress in Annie Griffin’s pilot Reubenesque, is the goalkeeper and captain of the Scottish Ladies Football team.

What slots are now important?
We don’t tend to focus on slots.

Do you need of serials, one-offs or long series?
No, we will work with any project and hopefully find the slot that best fits the idea. Moonfleet is 2x60’ whilst Fortitude (which we are making for Sky Atlantic) is 13 x 60’.
Do you have a large development slate?
No, we tend to keep the slate small so the people we are working with know that they are not in competitive development nor in a beauty parade.



What kind of drama is not working so well 
for you?
Honestly, I can’t think of anything specific which wouldn’t necessarily work at Sky – it goes back to my earlier point, that the luxury of commissioning for a portfolio of channels is that we have a choice of homes for different dramas.

Which drama shows on rival channels have you admired recently?
I admire most things on the other channels as I know how hard it is to make good work. British drama is in such good health at the moment. It’s a really exciting time.

Tell us about what you’ve been watching, reading and listening to outside of work?
I’m a huge fan of musicals so I can’t recommend The Book of Mormon highly enough. Unless, of course, you are very sensitive. In which case try Matilda.

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