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Salary Survey 2015: results in full

Televisual’s 20th annual salary survey is now available to read in full in the Reports and Surveys section of our website.

Based on feedback from hundreds of Televisual readers, the salary survey reveals the weekly and daily rates for key jobs in the industry, as well as information about pay by sector, region, age and gender.

The survey paints a mixed picture of pay rates in broadcasting and production. 


On the plus side, the median salary according to the survey is £45k a year  compared to an average UK salary of £26.5k.

A producer can expect to earn £46.5k while an offline editor is likely to take home £47.5k. The median salary of a director is £58k; for a series producer and exec producer it is £70k and £90k respectively.

43.5% of respondents say their their earnings are up – compared to 14.2% who say they have fallen, and 42.3% who report they have stayed the same.

However, as in previous years, the feedback to the salary survey is dominated by concerns that tightening broadcaster programme budgets are continuing to bear down on salaries and working conditions.

Many individuals say they are working harder and for longer hours – but for little extra money.

To read the full salary survey report, click here.


Posted 21 April 2015 by Tim Dams

The campaign to save BBC3

The plan to close BBC3 as a TV channel was described as ‘the biggest strategic decision the BBC has made in over a decade,’ when it was announced last year by director of television Danny Cohen.

But an increasingly vocal campaign is arguing that the corporation’s decision is misguided.

Led by Hat Trick boss Jimmy Mulville and Avalon founder Jon Thoday, it’s a campaign that appears to be gaining traction. They aim to persuade the BBC to reverse its decision, just as it did with BBC6 Music.

The pair recently met with some 100 indies at a Pact organised event to explain their alternative proposals for BBC3. They are also meeting with the BBC Trust to lobby against BBC3’s closure.

Talking to Televisual, their determination to reverse the decision is readily apparent. Despite being rivals who have built up indies that between them produce shows such as Have I Got News for You, Episodes, Russell Howard’s Good News and Catastrophe, the pair make a compelling and forceful lobbying team.

They spell out their position in a rapid-fire but measured delivery. As soon as one makes a point, the other quickly picks up the argument and takes it further. “We are finding that more and more people are coming to us, and everyone agrees that, first, BBC3 shouldn’t go, and secondly, there are plenty of ways to keep it going,” says Thoday.

The pair stress that BBC3’s closure as a broadcast channel has not yet been approved by the BBC Trust. However, they say that BBC management has already begun dismantling the channel, pointing out that one of its staple shows, animation Family Guy, has just been picked up by ITV2.

Mulville says: “The BBC made a show of wanting to retain Family Guy, but it was cosmetic. The fact is that they are dismantling the channel and setting up an online service without the permission of the Trust – and the Trust are basically doing absolutely nothing.” He describes it as a “kind of quiet British scandal.”

BBC management, he adds, are not willing to engage with them to explore other options for the TV channel that would prevent its closure.

The pair has put forward three proposals for BBC3. Firstly, that the BBC should change its mind and keep BBC3 going. Secondly, that Hat Trick and Avalon with a consortium of other indies should buy BBC3 and run it under a different name. And thirdly, that they should form a ‘statutory corporation’ similar to C4 to run it as a not for profit broadcaster.

The first of these proposals has the strongest support from the indie community. This became clear at the recent meeting with fellow indies, where a straw poll conducted by Pact chief executive John McVay after the producers’ presentation revealed strong support for preserving BBC3 as a linear channel. But, according to a report in Broadcast, there was only a smattering of raised hands in support for proposals to buy BBC3 or set up a Channel 4-style public service broadcaster.

Steve Coogan and Henry Normal’s indie Baby Cow – producer of BBC3 hits Gavin and Stacey and The Mighty Boosh – has already backed their campaign, which is set to be joined by a high profile and as yet unnamed executive from the online world.

Mulville argues that an online channel needs to have a relationship with a TV channel in order for the online channel to work properly. “You need the synergy of both platforms…the future is multiplatform, not single platform.”

Both argue that BBC3 is an important service for 16-34 year olds, and that its closure would make the BBC ‘more middle aged, more middle class and whiter’. They point out that the channel has been a crucial gateway for new talent, ideas, executives and production companies in the TV industry.They also note that the BBC is the only broadcaster closing channels. “Everybody else is actually growing channels,” says Mulville. Replacing BBC3 with a +1 service for BBC1, meanwhile, is merely a “ratings grab where no money goes into programmes.” 

They explain that the BBC has invested around £1bn in the channel. To simply close it and move it online makes no business sense: rather the BBC could realise some of that investment by selling the channel slot while carrying on with their online plans for BBC3. Mulville and Thoday have previously spoken of paying £100m for the slot occupied by the channel.

The pair question whether the closure of BBC3 actually saves the corporation any money. The BBC has said the move will save £50m a year, but £30m will be reinvested in drama for BBC1. Further money would be spent on the BBC1 catch up service and running BBC3 online.  “We are not convinced there will be any saving,” says Thoday.

They also rebut criticism that their call to save BBC3 is motivated by self-interest as key suppliers of new talent and shows to the channel. They say they are not looking to become channel owners, and are busy running their own companies – and would prefer not to spend valuable time campaigning. “We are doing this because we see this as a disaster for the industry,” says Thoday.

Mulville admits their plan is driven by “enlightened self interest.” Their campaign against the closure of BBC3 was hatched nine months ago over a breakfast meeting. “We couldn’t believe they were actually closing a service they had spent a billion pounds of licence fee on, and had got working very well,” says Mulville.

What started off as a “cheeky bid” for the channel has now become very serious, they say. “We realised the BBC hadn’t thought of any alternative beyond just shutting it down,” he adds.

“If anybody can find an argument why it isn’t in the interest of the industry that money is invested in new programmes for young viewers, then I would like to see it,” says Thoday. Mulville chips in: “They already have a fantastic catch up service – BBC iPlayer.”

Cohen hit back at their plan to buy the channel in an open letter published in February, saying they could not use the BBC3 brand name for a commercial service, could not have the EPG slot which is reserved for public service channels and would not have access to a very large proportion of programme rights.

The pair responded by saying they did not want the BBC3 brand name, and that rebranding channels – such as Dave – is a well-established practice.  They also acknowledged that the BBC3 EPG slot is not within the gift of the BBC, but argue their proposals – which include an increase in original production spend of £30m – make more sense than a catch up channel. On the issue of rights, they say that programme makers who have produced shows for BBC3 would welcome the opportunity to continue providing programming for a linear TV channel ‘rather than see their work struggle for viewers on a much diminished online channel.’

BBC3 details
- The BBC announced plans in March 2014 to close BBC3 as a TV channel in autumn 2015 and to replace it as an online service. The change is subject to approval of the BBC Trust.

- Hat Trick’s Jimmy Mulville and Avalon’s Jon Thoday mounted a £100m bid in January 2015 to buy the TV channel, with a commitment to increase its programme spend.

- The BBC responded, saying “it’s not for sale because it’s not closing”.

- The BBC Trust is currently consulting on the managment’s proposals, and is set to publish its initial conclusions soon. 

- The BBC says its plans would mean saving over £50m a year. Of that, £30m would go into drama on BBC1. The freed up spectrum would be used to extend CBBC by two hours and to provide a BBC1 +1 service.

- A Save BBC3 petition, signed by more than 270,000 people, was delivered to the BBC Trust on Feb 15. Labour MP John McDonald tabled an Early Day Motion in the House of Commons opposing the closure.

- The BBC3 content budget was approximately £60m in 2013/14, of which £54m was spent on originations including repeats. Its content spend will decline by approximately £30m as a result of the service changes.

- Mulville and Thoday wrote to the BBC Trust in February saying, if they bought the channel, they expected BBC3 revenues to be £150m to £170m, content costs to be £100m to £120m, and overheads to be £15m to £20m.

- BBC3 has a viewing share of 1.5%. Its average weekly 15 min reach was 20.5% in 2013. The total volume of viewing was 1.15 billion hours.

- BBC3 was launched on 9 February 2003. Hit shows to originate on the channel include Gavin and Stacey, Little Britain, Bad Education, Bluestone 42, Our War, The Fades and The Revolution will be Televised.


Posted 10 April 2015 by Tim Dams

Mip TV picks: best of British shows

The MipTV international programme sales market kicks off in Cannes this month (13-16 April).

As ever, there will be a significant UK contingent at the market, touting the best shows and formats made by British producers to international broadcasters. Up for grabs is a slice of the estimated £1.3bn that the UK generates each year from selling its television shows around the world.

Here, Televisual names its top Mip picks – the British produced shows that will be launched in Cannes that look set to generate strong interest from international buyers. They range from buzz dramas like Humans and Safe House, through to factual such as Bangkok Airport, comedy including The Delivery Man and entertainment formats like Prized Apart.
 
1. Safe House
Producer: Eleventh Hour Films
Broadcaster: ITV1
Distributor: All3Media International
Directed by Marc Evans (Hinterland, Collision), Safe House tells the story of a married couple who turn their guest house in the remote Lake District into a police safe house. Their first guests are a family at great risk, pursued by a violent man with an unknown agenda. Starring Christopher Eccleston, Marsha Thomason and Paterson Joseph, it’s billed as a compelling ‘event’ thriller, delivering a fresh take on the investigative crime genre. All3Media EVP of marketing Rachel Glaister says Evans has done a brilliant job directing Safe House. “There is a real buzz about this show overseas…and we are expecting a string of sales.”

2. Prized Apart
Producer Electric Ray
Broadcaster BBC1
Distributor  Sony Pictures Television
Prized Apart is a new primetime adventure game show for BBC1, filmed on location and in a UK studio. The show sees 10 men and women battle it out overseas in tough physical and mental challenges, in the hope of winning a life changing prize. Each week, the bottom placed contestants are flown back to the UK, to a studio hanger where their partners await. The partners must keep their loved ones in the competition by answering a set of questions in a head-to-head round against the other partners. If they succeed, their loved ones will get back on the plane to continue the game. Jane Dockery, SVP International Distribution, Formats, Sony Pictures Television, said: “Prized Apart is an adventure game show - a brand new genre that the market hasn’t seen before. Mark Linsey, Controller of Entertainment at the BBC, who commissioned the show last year, described it as a potential “game changer”. We’re hugely excited about this title.”

3. The Delivery Man
Production company: Monicker Pictures
Broadcaster: ITV1
Distributor: DRG
A comedy following a male midwife making his way in a woman's world, Delivery Man stars Darren Boyd and airs on ITV after a successful pilot last year.  Noel Hedges executive vice president of content at DRG, said: “Delivery Man is British comedy at its best: fantastic writing and acting from top comedy talent, a central fish out of water story running through it that is universal  coupled with hilarious physical comedy.  It's comedy for a broad audience no matter which territory.”

4. Humans
Producer: Kudos
Broadcaster: Channel 4, AMC
Distributor: Endemol Shine International
Humans is a new drama written by Sam Vincent and Jonathan Brackley (Spooks: The Greater Good) set in a parallel present where the latest must-have gadget for any busy family is a ‘Synth’ – a highly-developed robotic servant eerily similar in appearance to humans. When one of them joins the Hawkins family, the line between human and machine increasingly blurs. Billed as sinister, thrilling and packed full of emotion, Humans explores the rapidly evolving relationship between humanity and technology and asks what does it really mean to be “human”? Cathy Payne: CEO of Endemol Shine International, said: “British drama offers innovative storytelling that, packaged with a strong cast, has captured the imagination of television broadcasters and platforms worldwide. The British standard run has created the new term – limited series”
 
5. Home Fires
Producer: ITV Studios
Broadcaster: ITV1
Distributor: ITV Studios Global Entertainment
Starring Francesca Annis and Samantha Bond, Home Fires follows a group of women in a rural Cheshire Community with the shadow of World War II casting a dark cloud over their lives. As the conflict takes hold, and separates the women from their husbands, fathers, sons and brothers, the characters find themselves under increasing pressures. Ruth Clarke, EVP, global content & co-productions, ITV Studios Global Entertainment said: "The impact of World War II touched the whole world, the events on the home front are less well known but no less relevant to a global audience. Home Fires is a fascinating story of how an extraordinary group of women kept a rural community together during a dark time.”

6. The Ark
Production Company: Red Planet Pictures, in association with Lip Sync Productions and Great Point Media
Broadcaster: BBC1
Distributor: Content Television
This one-off 90-min special is a retelling of the biblical story of Noah and The Ark. It’s billed by distributor Content as “a timeless saga of family and faith which has a resonance across all cultures.” It certainly comes with a strong pedigree.  It’s produced by Red Planet, the team behind Death in Paradise, with scripts from Tony Jordan, writer of Life on Mars and Hustle, and a cast led by David Threlfall (Shameless) and Joanne Whalley (The Borgias). Greg Phillips, President, Content Television, said: “There’s a strong demand in the international market for stand out one-off event features – content which broadcasters can create a real buzz about – and with the UK’s BBC airing the drama just before MIP, we’re expecting interest to be high.”

7. 7 Deadly Sins of the Animal Kingdom
Producer: Back2Back Productions
Broadcaster: Discovery & Sky 3D
Distributor: Sky Vision
Actor Richard E Grant fronts this exploration of the seven deadly sins as seen through the perspective of the animal kingdom. For humans envy, lust, wrath, sloth, greed, pride and gluttony are sins – associated with shameful behaviour. But in the animal kingdom they are simply survival mechanisms. Leona Connell, head of global sales at Sky Vision said: “This series offers a truly fascinating and original way to approach wildlife programming which really pushes the boundaries, all in glorious 3D.”

8. Top Coppers
Production Company: Roughcut
UK Broadcaster: BBC3
Distributor: FremantleMedia International
Top Coppers is a new, gag-fuelled character comedy following the adventures of cops John Mahogany and Mitch Rust in the fictional world of Justice City, as they attempt to rid it of its deranged criminal underworld. It stars John Kearns (2014 Edinburgh Comedy Award-Winner) and Steen Raskopoulos (2014 Edinburgh Best Newcomer nominee). Sarah Doole, director of global drama at FremantleMedia said the series features some of the newest stars on the UK comedy circuit, adding: “Roughcut has a brilliant track record for creating comedy that travels.”
 
9. Banished

Producer RSJ Films/Seesaw Films
Broadcaster BBC2
Distributor BBC Worldwide
This character-led drama from Jimmy McGovern (The Street, Cracker) is based on the lives of the inhabitants of the first penal colony in Sydney and stars Russell Tovey, Myanna Buring, Julian Rhind-Tutt and David Wenham.  Paul Dempsey, president of global markets at BBC Worldwide said: “Banished has so much to offer international buyers and is a key title for BBC Worldwide. Even though it is set in 18th Century, it’s also a contemporary and very relatable story about friendship, betrayal and the fight for survival. This is fantastic original, big budget British drama, shot in a stunning setting and has real potential for a returning series.”

10. A Cook Abroad
Producer BBC Productions
Broadcaster BBC2
Agent DCD Rights
This 6x60-min BBC2 series sees six of the UK’s best known cooks take viewers on a culinary tour of the world’s most inspiring food cultures. Each travels to a different country to track down how history, geography and culture have shaped what we eat today. Hairy Biker Dave Myers uncovers Egypt’s 2,000 year old baking tradition and Tony Singh travels to India to explore the breadth of Punjabi cuisine. Other chefs include Rick Stein on Australia, Masterchef’s Monica Galetti on France, John Torode in Argentina; and Rachel Khoo in  Malaysia.
 Rick Barker, head of sales at DCD Rights said: “The unique combination of travel and food is an appealing mix for international broadcasters. Broadcasters are moving away from studio based cookery shows and are keen for their audience to get an authentic feel for cooking, local flavours, culture and the landscape.”

11. Bangkok Airport
Producer Keo Films
Broadcaster BBC3
Agent Hat Trick International
With access to all aspects of the airport, this Keo Films 6x30-min series introduces the quirky Thai characters and international travellers passing through Bangkok airport. The location proves a hotbed of stories as young tourists run into trouble overseas – from run-ins with the tourist police to treatment at the on-site medical centre and missed flights. Sarah Tong, director of sales at HTI, says Bangkok Airport has already sold to Australia, Denmark, Norway and Asia, and is confident it will be a strong seller throughout the rest of Europe and ROW. “One of the big selling points is that it’s highly entertaining with lots of amusing and quirky characters. Plus it’s hour long episodes, and there’s six of them – rather than the 2 or 3 that are often commissioned in the UK but make international sales a little harder.”

12. Ainsley Eats the Streets   
Production Company: Snap TV
Broadcaster – More4/Channel4
Agent TCB Media Rights
Ainsley Harriott presents this 6x60-min street food series, uncovering the local cooking away from the tourist traps of some of the world’s biggest and best known cities. TCB managing director Paul Heaney says Ainsley is a known international 'face' who brings the popular street food sub-genre to life and creates his own slant on well-established local delicacies, and at the same time as finding out more about the cities themselves. “We think there's a need for well-made food travelogue series across the world. Australia and Asia have already bought the series before completion, we expect more to come.’”

13. Code of a Killer
Production company: World Productions
Broadcaster: ITV1
Distributor: Endemol Shine International
From the director of Broadchurch and the producers of Line of Duty, Code of a Killer tells the true story of how DNA fingerprinting was first used to crack a murder case. Set in 1984 in Leicestershire, its stars John Simm as a brilliant scientist and and David Threlfall as a progressive police detective who unite to create the biggest advance in twentieth century criminal investigation. Code of a Killer is written by Michael Crompton (Kidnap & Ransom) directed by James Strong (Broadchurch) and produced by World Productions (Line of Duty, The Bletchley Circle, The Great Train Robbery)



Posted 09 April 2015 by Tim Dams

Interview: Susanna Dinnage, Discovery Networks UK

Discovery Communications’ growth has – until recently – seemed assured. The factual outfit has expanded around the world in 30 years, reaching 220 countries and territories. Over half its $6,265m revenues come from its international networks.

The UK is one of the key hubs in its global empire. Based out of offices in a Chiswick business park – appropriately next to an (artificial) lake and waterfall – the UK operation employs some 1,200 staff.

The office is home to Discovery’s 13 UK channels, as well as its international production arm DNI Productions. Discovery’s UK reach also comprises superindie group, All3Media, which it co-acquired last year with Liberty Global. It’s a major commissioner in the UK too, ordering shows from some 78 UK indies over the past year.

Highlighting Discovery’s UK ambitions, the broadcaster has also been reported as a bidder for C5 and the Premier League rights. It also took a controlling interesting in Eurosport last year.

Back home in the US, however, there hasn’t been so much good news for Discovery. Weak US ratings and falling ad revenue, and the fear that smaller TV networks like Discovery look vulnerable in negotiations with pay-TV providers, have taken their toll on Discovery’s share price – which has fallen more than 30% in the past six months.

As a result, there’s a sense that things are changing at Discovery. Newly installed Discovery Channel president Rich Ross spoke in January about diversifying the broadcaster’s male-centric audience and returning to its roots in documentary, after criticism for shows like Eaten Alive and Megalodon.

The word diversification also crops up frequently in conversation with Susanna Dinnage, the managing director of Discovery Networks UK  & Ireland.

“At heart we are a pay factual business, we always have been. But a lot of the growth has been from diversifying into entertainment and now sport. We have three very strong prongs to our genre offering.”

The Discovery Channel, of course, lies at the heart of its factual offer. The average age of a viewer is early 40s. About 70% are men, the vast majority married with kids. The most insightful stat about ‘Discovery Man’, says Dinnage, is that he is four times more likely than the average person to have had a motorbike when young. He’s now traded this for a family car.

Discovery’s entertainment ambitions have focused on female focused TLC, which launched here in 2013 and have broadened out the broadcaster from its male heartland with UK commissions like Katie Hopkins: My Fat Body alongside US imports such as Say Yes to the Dress and Cake Boss.

Discovery also has plans for Eurosport. The channel was linked with a bid for the Premier League rights, although Dinnage won’t comment on this. She says the strategy is to emulate Discovery’s international model of repackaging global content alongside some local commissions. It is early days, but she acknowledges that “we need to add fantastically locally relevant sports rights” to the Eurosport offering.

On channels like Discovery and TLC, Dinnage says the ‘sweet spot’ is finding shows that men and women can watch together.

Men, she notes, often struggle to take charge of the remote in a family home – so for Discovery Channel to build audience numbers, the emphasis is on commissions that men can happily bring their partners to watch.

“Co-viewing is really, really important,” she says. “If you want scale, you have to be careful about how niche you get.” The plan is to make the channel broader in appeal, aimed more at the family audience.

However, she plays down any sense of radical change, stressing evolution over revolution. She thinks Rich Ross will pull factual back to the Discovery core of “absolutely authentic, great stories and strong characters.” By way of example, she cites upcoming natural history series To Be King, which follows a pride of lions over 16 years.

But, in the UK, Discovery faces challenges from broadcasters like ITV and C4 which have moved into the adventure genre to attract male viewers. Discovery face Bear Grylls, for example, launched Mission Survive on ITV last month. Dinnage admits it is tough holding on to talent in such a competitive market. However, she cites Ed Stafford, who is making his fourth series for Discovery. Audiences, she says, respond to his authenticity. Other commissions include Hugh Dennis’ Churchill and Me.

It’s clear that Discovery isn’t content to stick just to factual pay-TV. With live TV viewing under threat from VoD and streaming, there is a sense that Discovery is positioning itself – through its production operations as well as sport and entertainment ambitions – for the new era of TV. Says Dinnage: “As an organisation, we don’t sit still…We look at every opportunity, we have huge ambitions for the UK.”

CV: Susanna Dinnage
Susanna Dinnage heads up Discovery Networks in the UK and Ireland, managing the region’s porfolio of 13 channels including Discovery Channel, TLC, Quest, ID, Animal Planet and Eurosport. Dinnage joined Discovery in 2009 and was promoted to the role of UK business head in October 2010, responsible for the company’s growth strategy for its largest market outside the US. Before joining Discovery, Dinnage was part of the launch team for Channel 5, Fiver and Five US over a ten year spell. She began her career at MTV Networks, specialising in audience insight.




Posted 24 March 2015 by Tim Dams

True Vision: a singular indie producer

Doc indie True Vision has had four single films on air this month. Founder Brian Woods talks with Tim Dams about keeping overheads low so it can produce ‘films that make a difference’

True Vision is, in the words of founder Brian Woods, a “highly unusual” business. The renowned doc indie, which celebrates its 20th anniversary this year, made its name with hard-hitting, revelatory films like The Dying Rooms and China’s Stolen Children. But, compared to other indies, True Vision stands out for producing almost entirely one-off films. It has only made one three-parter, C4’s 15,000 Kids and Counting, and one two-parter, BBC3’s Growing Up Poor.

Among indies, it is commonly accepted that it’s almost impossible to sustain a company by making single docs. They make little money and take up huge amounts of exec time, while series afford greater stability and revenues.



True Vision has just been through a busy period, delivering eight singles between October and March. Four have been onscreen this month: BBC1’s No Place to Call Home, on homelessness; BBC2’s Surviving Sandy Hook, about the 2012 school massacre in Connecticut; BBC1’s Kids in Camps, on refugee camps in South Sudan (pictured above); and ITV1’s Raining in my Heart, about children with cancer (pictured below).


“It’s not a conscious decision to only go out to make singles,” says Woods, who runs True Vision with his wife Deborah Shipley and filmmaker Jezza Neumann. “But we are very clear that we want to make films that have a social impact. And that has consequences – on the whole broadcasters don’t want a whole series of those.”

True Vision keeps overheads low. About one third of Woods and Shipley’s Chiswick home is given over to office space for True Vision (pictrued below). All its editing, grading and sound is done there, while a cabin in the garden acts as the meeting room. True Vision also buys rather than hires its own cameras.



This cost-conciousness doesn’t affect creativity, argues Woods, who points out that it’s not always important to use top of the range kit. For example, Neumann won an RTS Craft Award for factual photography for America’s Poor Kids – shot on a Sony PMW 200 and Canon 60D. “Our experience is that what you point the camera at is actually more important than the bit of kit you are using."

Woods and Neumann also shoot and edit their films, while APs are also trained up to be self-shooters. It often takes True Vision months or years to gain access to the people and institutions in its docs, so filming is done by those who have built up the trust and rapport with the contributors.

There are ten staff at True Vision, which can rise to two dozen depending on the films in production. Woods describes it as ‘very much a family business’ with a ‘fantastic team’ who are in tune with its ethos of producing films that make a difference.

True Vision, for example, runs its own trust, The Aletheia Foundation, set up to support the contributors to its films. It all started in the wake of The Dying Rooms, when £500k in unsolicited donations poured in from shocked viewers to help children in Chinese orphanages.

“When the stories of our contributors evoke a strong emotional response in viewers, and the viewers want to help those families, my feeling is that we have a duty to facilitate that if we can – and not just to say we are filmmakers, we can’t help.”

Woods cites the case of one of the kids, Obert, who featured in Zimbabwe’s Forgotten Children. A bright child, he was filmed panning for gold but ‘essentially almost starving to death’ and could not afford to go to school. Now, as a direct result of viewer contributions, he has had his schooling paid for and has just achieved 11 GSCEs.

Producing films that make such an impact is ‘kind of addictive’, says Woods. And it’s a good time for documentary makers, with the BBC, ITV and C4 supportive of the genre. But, he adds, “I’d like to develop more series to give us more stability.”

Posted 23 March 2015 by Tim Dams

From Mr Bean to the Clangers: the UK gets animated again

From Mr Bean to The Clangers, a swathe of animations are now being made in the UK. Tim Dams on the decline and rise again of an industry

Just a few years ago, the mood within the tight-knit UK animation sector was grim. Broadcasters had cut back on commissioning and slashed budgets as a result of the economic downturn. The costly, labour intensive nature of animation also meant production was heading off shore to rival territories offering incentives, like Canada, France or Singapore.

In response, the industry fought back with a lauded lobbying campaign for an animation tax credit led by Animation UK. It worked, with Chancellor George Osborne famously announcing in his 2012 Budget that he was determined to keep Wallace and Gromit in the UK.

Now, nearly two years since the tax credit was introduced in April 2013, the animation sector has rediscovered its mojo. From The Clangers to Mr Bean, there’s a swathe of shows in production in the UK.



“The industry is in the best shape it has been in for a number of years,” says Pact senior policy consultant Rosina Robson, who oversees children’s TV and animation at the producers’ alliance.

A recent Olsberg SPI and Nordicity report on the impact of tax credits said animation production spend had risen from £46m in 2011 to £51.7m in the first year of the tax credit, 2013-14 – a rise of 11%. This included £43.9m on domestic UK production and co-pros, and £7.8m from inward investment production.

Animation producers certainly back up the official figures. Collingwood & Co boss Tony Collingwood describes the tax credit as a “life line” for the sector. He recalls that many in the industry were in a state of despair before April 2013 as they struggled to get shows fully financed.

“It has really set the whole animation industry alight,” adds Factory managing director Phil Chalk. Based in studios in Altrincham, Factory has, in less than two years, gone from making a single project to now producing five. These include 52 new episodes of The Clangers for CBeebies and Coolabi and six episodes of new satirical show Newzoids for ITV. As a result, Factory’s staffing levels have increased from 30 to 125 people.


Boosted by the 20% tax credit, a swathe of shows across the industry suddenly went into production after April 2013 – including Collingwood & Co’s Ruff-Ruff, Tweet & Dave. “It would not be in production if it were not for the tax credit,” says Collingwood. Ruff-Ruff Tweet & Dave is a co-pro for CBeebies and Sprout. “A lot of the CGI is being done in Singapore, but there is a crew of 20 people inhouse and outhouse in the UK who wouldn’t be employed if it hadn’t had happened,” he adds. “It’s a win win for the the government and industry across the board.” Collingwood & Co is now in development on new show Thorgar, and is planning to animate the entire series in England – employing some 40 people.

The tax credits, say producers, have finally put the UK on a level playing field with rival countries. US broadcasters, in particular, are chosing to invest in shows made by the strong pool of talent in the UK.

By way of example, Phil Chalk cites Scream Street, a 52x11-min series for CBBC and Coolabi. It took almost three years to pull together the financing, with the tax credit providing a vital fillip. “The tax credit helped enormously – it gives all investors confidence. It is often the last 20-25% of a production budget that is the most difficult to find.”

Meanwhile, Tiger Aspect is 18 months into the production of a new animated series of Mr Bean. Ten years ago, the original series of Mr Bean was farmed out to Hungary. Now a team of 50 is animating the series in Tiger Aspect’s office in Shepherd’s Bush.

Tom Beattie, head of Tiger Aspect’s animation department, thinks that making the show in the UK has improved its quality. “There’s not the hassle of directing by email,” says Beattie, who adds that directing teams of animators based abroad can be a false economy. “What you get back is not what you asked for. Then you’ve got to redo things and there may be extra charges ” says Beattie. “You’re fighting backwards and forwards and you end up with a middle ground of what you can both achieve for the agreed price.” With a UK team, things can even be changed and added in the edit because all the creators are in the same room.

Many of Tiger Aspect’s animation team have been trained up in CelAction, the 2d animation software favoured by UK animators. The ambition now, says Beattie, is to keep them together to work on an adaptation of Aliens Love Underpants.


Elsewhere, vfx company Jellyfish has responded to the upswing in production by setting up an animation studio in Brixton, where it is working on Floogals, produced by The Foundation/NeVision for Sprout. The 52x11-min series is a mixture of CGI and live action. It’s also making Amazon preschool pilot Buddy: Tech Detective – also with The Foundation.

Jellyfish CEO Phil Dobree says the animation studio now has 35 staff. “We are investing a lot in people because what we have noticed is that the art of traditional kids animation, which the UK used to be so strong at, has been lost as animation work has been almost entirely done in overseas territories. The people coming out of film school tend to be trained to do photo real animation – useful in feature films – but we want to get them up to speed with kids animation techniques.”

There was a concern that the sudden glut of animation projects would create a buyers market for animators, inflating prices. But that hasn’t happened, says Collingwood. He says Creative Skillset’s Skills Investment Fund, which collects a levy of 0.5% of production spend for shows that access the tax credit, has been put to good use to train people in CelAction.

The biggest problem is that the number of UK broadcasters commissioning animation remains small, with the BBC the key investor. CBeebies and CBBC are the first port of call for indies in the UK, but their budgets have been dropped since the licence fee settlement in 2010. “Hopefully, the animation tax break will encourage the others,” says Collingwood.

It is, however, possible that other UK broadcasters will start to commission more animation.

The new tax break for live action children’s TV is set to come into force from April, and will mirror that for animation with the relief available at a rate of 25% on qualifying production expenditure.

And this week Pact and the Ragdoll Foundation launched a campaign to to improve availability of good quality TV programmes for children.

Spend and hours of original content across the PSB channels have plummeted over the last decade, according to a report prepared for the campaign. It found that spend on PSB children’s content  has fallen by 95% since 2003, and the volume of PSB children’s content (first run hours) has fallen by 68% since 2003.

The report set out options for improvement which include a return to PSB quotas for original children’s programming.

The campaign, coupled with the children’s tax credit, could provide a spur for  greater investment in kids’ television – which could have a further positive knock on effect for an already busy animation industry.

Facts and figures from the animation world

- The UK animation production sector remains relatively small. Production 
expenditure on animation was £51.7m in 2013-14, supporting 1,100 full time 
equivalent jobs.*

- 22 animation productions began principal photography in 2014. 16 of these were domestic productions, the remainder inward investment productions. These include new series of CBeebies’ Sarah & Duck, produced by Karrot 
Entertainment; Toot the Tiny Tug Boat from Lupus Films for C5’s Milkshake; and One Night in Hell, Queen guitarist Brian May’s animation for Sky Arts.

- Six new CBeebies animated series came to fruition in 2014, largely thanks to the tax credit - including Pesky Productions’ Boj and Studio AKA’s Hey Duggee.

- The average full time salary in the animation industry is £31,772

- The median budget per minute of UK animations applying for tax credit cultural certification is £8,202. For co-productions, the budget per minute is £5,665.

- The UK has a long tradition of creating successful animation programmes such as Wallace and Gromit, Bob the Builder, Thomas and Friends and Peppa Pig.

- The sale of licenced merchandise from UK animation brands, such as Peppa Pig and Thomas and Friends, was worth an estimated £500m in 2013.

- The total economic contribution of the UK animation sector to the UK economy was £171m, supporting 4,700 full time jobs and generating £52m in tax revenues.

- The live action children’s tax credit was announced in the Chancellor’s autumn statement last year, and is expected to come into force in April.                   

*Figures from the Economic Contribution of the UK’s Film, High-end TV, Video Games and Animation Programme Sectors, produced by Olsberg SPI and Nordicity




Posted 20 March 2015 by Tim Dams

Factual producers go on a big adventure

Several recent shows hint at a fresh direction for factual entertainment and features. But can they deliver the next big turn of the wheel for the genre?

Authenticity. If there is one buzzword doing the rounds among TV producers when describing the key characteristics of successful new factual shows, this is the one.



The Island, Walking the Nile, Eat Well for Less and Our Guy in India are all cited as some of the most talked about new programmes in the genre – ones that may hint at new directions just as rig shows like Gogglebox or Educating Yorkshire did a few years ago.

In each case, the premise of the show is relatively simple, but very well executed. Any formatting is worn lightly, with very little producer intervention to raise the stakes.



“The one word that sticks out at the moment is authenticity,” says Andrew Mackenzie, chief creative officer at Twofour Group (Educating the East End, The Jump). “The things that aren’t working are when TV producers stick their oar in to make a horrible format.”

The premise of The Island, for example, was simple. Bear Grylls drops 13 men on a remote, uninhabited Pacific island for a month to see if they can survive. Beyond this clever top line, it was almost formless underneath – allowed to play out like a very real experiment. For much of the time, very little happened. To viewers, it felt real and authentic.




Our Guy in India and Walking the Nile, meanwhile, were almost like detective stories. Passionate, expert talent, in the form Guy Martin and Levinson Wood, explored India or the Nile naturally, in depth and in their own time on camera. They experienced and learnt from their environment, and conveyed this to the viewers. 

Over 2m tuned in to watch Walking the Nile – a remarkable feat for a factual series about a man walking through large, empty swathes of the Sudan. “It felt very real, sweaty, dirty, thirsty and horrible,” says Patrick Holland md of Boundless (The Apprentice, Grand Designs), rather than a “rubbishy con where everything was over-egged all the time.”



Holland says audiences want to watch original, authentic experiences – rather than tightly formatted, ‘fish out of water’ shows that claim to transform participants’ lives in a cursory week long shoot. 

Viewers want more than formatted TV’s obvious narrative arcs, transformations and resolutions. “The audience has got wise to the empty lies of transformation,” he says. 




Boundless recently made BBC3’s World’s Toughest Jobs, which followed hard-up young Brits find well paid employment in some of the world’s hardest jobs. Each episode was filmed over a month, and the experiences of the participants could – financially at least – have a tangible impact on their lives. The format, says Holland, was merely a framework from which to follow their story in an ob doc style. “Absolutely central to it is that these are real jobs, they get paid real money. The audience doesn’t just think it is a bit of telly putting people over predictable hurdles.”



“The push for authenticity is the key driver at the moment,” confirms Jess Fowle, creative director at True North (Building the Dream, Animal SOS). However, she adds that ‘format’ isn’t quite the dirty word that it was a few years ago. But it has to be worn lightly and sit around the outside of the show, while everything within feels real and unmediated. 

Viewers, she says, want to be immersed in the subject rather than the rules of the format. “People don’t want to be watching a show and thinking, ‘Now we’re coming up for the ad break so this is where X has to happen’. They want to watch for brilliant characters rather than the rules of the game. People don’t want to be told what to do.”



This ties in to another key trend in factual TV, says Fowle – the move away from the expert telling people what to do. It’s no longer enough for presenters to be filmed walking up someone’s garden path, knocking on their door and to start wagging their finger.



“There’s less talk about know-it-all TV,” confirms Neil Smith, creative director at Betty (Bear Grylls: Mission Survive, The Undateables). He says there is still a demand for experts to front shows, but the experts have to go on a journey – and to extend their own knowledge through their experiences. 

The popularity of Guy Martin’s shows is a perfect example of this, says Smith. “Expertise is still very important. But we want our experts to stop telling us what to do. We want to learn something with them.”

Presenter and producer Henry Cole (The Motorbike Show, World’s Greatest Motorbike Rides) of HCA Productions in many ways sums up this trend for the expert to go on an authentic journey. 

Cole, who also runs a business making custom-made British motorbikes in Oxfordshire, has journeyed around the world for his Travel Channel series The World’s Greatest Motorbike Rides. 

Cole says audience demand for authenticity means that presenters really have to be seen to be living the experience, often at considerable risk to themselves. “An element of danger is now an imperative,” he says. 

Presenters, he adds, need to be authentic too.

Cole says audiences have to believe that a person presenting a show “is living that life and would do what he does whether the camera is on or not. There is no point in having a TV presenter who is just a TV presenter.” 




HCA is currently producing Shed and Buried for ITV4 and Travel Channel, which sees Cole and specialist helper Sam Lovegrove scour the nations sheds to find, buy, restore and sell on old cars and bikes. Tellingly, Cole is risking his own money, rather than any production budget, to trade the cars and bikes – proving very directly that the demand for authenticity now extends to financial as well as physical input too.



Shed and Buried is one of a host of new shows coming to air that are aimed at a male-skewing audience. “There is a new audience being understood by broadcasters – the intelligent male audience,” says Cole.

Indeed, there is a sense that broadcasters are waking up to the potential of appealing to a broader male audience, which in the past might have been marginalized by traditionally female-skewing factual features shows.

Adventure shows, for example, suddenly seem to be all the rage. ITV, hit by the loss of European football rights, has been making a big push to hold on to its male audience with shows like Bear Grylls: Mission Survive. C4’s The Island and Walking the Nile are both, essentially, adventure stories. 



It all goes back, says Boundless Patrick Holland, to that buzzword authenticity. “One of the reasons adventure works is because it has a rawness to it – it takes you to a place which is less filtered.”



There are other trends apparent in factual television, two of which have come together in BBC1 hit Eat Well for Less. With audiences of over 5m, it’s another of those shows that people working in factual TV are talking about.



“It’s a Ronseal title,” says Tim Harcourt, creative director at Studio Lambert (Gogglebox, Undercover Boss). “And it has caught on to two zeitgeists – how to live your life and be healthy, and how to save money.“ A well made, straight down the line features show, Harcourt says it proves that “if you have a simple idea and you execute it really well, viewers will watch it.”



Studio Lambert is, of course, the home of 2013 sleeper factual hit Gogglebox. Harcourt says the company is focusing its development attention on formats and factual shows that have “more of an entertainment sensibility.” He argues the success of shows like The X Factor lies in the fact that they are entertainment and factual hybrids. Their back stories are a classic example of “amazing British documentary storytelling being stuck on to an entertainment format.”



“Now I think how can we make documentary and factual entertainment shows have a bit of an entertainment sensibility. Not just in terms of laughs and the beats, but how they are produced and how they look.”



Harcourt cites Studio Lambert’s new series Tattoo Fixers for E4, a doc in which three leading tattoo artists offer their own ideas to help fix tattoo disasters. Clients decide which artist to use, and there is a big reveal at the end of the show. “There are entertainment or factual entertainment beats on a show that to all intents and purposes looks like a great documentary,” says Harcourt.



Certainly, there is a feeling that the mainstream broadcasters need to discover the next big thing as competition from multichannel and video on demand players increases. “It’s a massive challenge for producers and broadcasters to deliver the next turn of the wheel. The last one was the rig show,” says Twofour’s Andrew Mackenzie. “Something will come in the next twelve months that will do it – it is desperately needed.”


Posted 17 March 2015 by Tim Dams

Tracking down the best tunes

Want some musical inspiration for your next show? Televisual asked production music libraries to suggest track ideas for seven hypothetical programme ideas.

It’s never easy choosing the right music for a production. Music is so subjective that programme makers can seriously disagree about the right choice – a director may love a track, while the editor may not.

One thing is certain though. With budgets under pressure, cost effective production music is becoming increasingly important. But where to get the right track from? In this article, we’ve sought to showcase some of the places you can turn to. We have come up with seven hypothetical programme ideas - across docs, formats, drama, commercials and corporate.

We put these (fictional) programme ideas to production music libraries so they could suggest which of their tracks might work best – and to explain the reason for each choice. We’ve not published costs of the music as some broadcasters will cover music in their blanket agreement. Otherwise, many companies will follow the PRS rate card.

Click on the track links to hear the music in full.

Primetime documentary series
This brand new rig show is set in a London fire station. With cameras placed all around the station, it reveals the challenges and realities of life as a fireman in 2015.

Reliable Source Music
Music suggested: Traction (Album Style Rebels)
Why suitable “A catchy pop-rock track with a great intro that then builds with a slightly aggressive feel evoking the feeling of urgency. It even features a distant sounding siren, but not in an obvious cheesy in your face way!”

Addictive Tracks
Music suggested Hunters B
Why suitable “This is a fast and hard beat to reflect a job that is equally so. The driving rhythm creates a sense of energy and urgency whilst the urban feel evokes the imposing atmosphere of the big city.”

JW Media Music
Music suggested The Last Echo from album SW011 Minima in Switch library
Why suitable “This track adds great punctuation to the drama of being a fire fighter. A very simple repeated figure, this track would work in the same vein as the punctuation motif used in the hit C4 doc Royal Marines Commando School. Not overpowering, very thoughtful and reflective of the drama and risks involved.”

Travel/history series
An acclaimed historian travels to the battlefields of the Napoleonic War, using state of the art digital technology to recreate the key battles of the conflict.

Addictive Tracks
Music suggested Srebrenica B
Why suitable “Picture the scene of two grand armies approaching each other through the morning mist whilst a groan of ominous strings is heard overhead.  This track transcends effortlessly through classical and modern, tying together the historical and technological elements of the piece.”

De Wolfe Music
Music suggested Ice Flow 3 Julian Scott
Why suitable “While I would want to choose music to reflect the scenes of war, it can’t be too overpowering. You want to be able to hear and understand the history as told by the experts, so let’s not steal their thunder with over-the-top music. This track is subtle, poignant and understated, yet the morbid bass drum effectively reflects war or a battle aftermath of some kind.”

Dynamic Music
Music suggested Chasewerk
Why suitable “Its driving beat creates an atmosphere of urgency leading into battle. The tune employs a strong string section which can be seen as sensitive to the Napoleonic period where Beethoven was composing his large symphonies.”

Antiques daytime
Expert presenters scour the nation’s attics, sheds and garages for forgotten antiques and then help their owners to get the best possible price at auction.

Synctracks
Music suggested A Sneaking Feeling (Vincent Webb SYNC_5106), Paper Planes (Vincent Webb SYNC_5112)
Why suitable “Using something light, sneaky and playful creates the feeling of excitement and curiosity for what may be discovered. The quirky nature of the music also lends itself to the mix of objects often found on these shows. A mix of tuned percussion and pizzicato strings.”

Musichub.tv
Music suggested Happy Song (BNB056 # 031); Make or Break (INSD005#5); Dreamers (LQC026 #037)
Why suitable “All are musical beds made for TV to allow for storytelling voiceover. The music reflects the scenes. 1. Finding old treasures, optimistic about making some money. 2. Auction – tension, will it sell, will we get a good price? 3. Euphoric (hopefully) at going home with cash!”

9 Lives Music
Music suggested Auction Time and Curious Cat (NLM070 Wonderful & Eccentric)
Why suitable “Music from this album was produced for daytime TV, light entertainment programmes. The tracks are quirky and curious comedy featuring a lot of pizzicato, edging onto the dramedy category. The music is a little eccentric like many of the presenters!”

Commercial
This cheeky, irreverent ad for a new price comparison site seeks to introduce the service to the UK public.

EMI Production Music
Music suggested Chicken Wax Supreme (a)’ (KPM 913)
Why suitable “This cheeky, positive ska groove complements the nature of the commercial perfectly. The fresh, sunny brass bounces consistently throughout without being too overbearing or taking anything away from the primary message. Plus, brass is so hot right now…”

Universal Publishing Production Music
Music suggested Gold Digger from the album Dramedy 2 - The Sequel Label: Hollywood Music
Why suitable “The classic light-hearted ‘dramedy’ style of Gold Digger portrays the irreverent and cheeky feel for the ad. The instrumentation promotes a company image which is friendly and ‘no hassle’ with a slight childlike quality.”

Lemoncake
Music suggested Cheeky Pizz
Why suitable “Light and cheeky with a feeling of movement and confidence. This style of music has a very general appeal across all ages. This track would sit well under the voice (male or female).”

Early evening docusoap
Doc series that goes behind the scenes at the UK’s biggest airport to reveal the complexity of getting passengers safely to their destination.

EMI Production Music
Music suggested Busy Bumble (C, KPM 853)
Why suitable “Pizzicato strings may be overused on TV but there is a reason for that. They fit perfectly for driving narration forward and providing the set for busy, bustling scenes. The track immediately picks up the viewer to the pace of the myriad of complex tasks being performed, as well as giving great edit points to follow specific characters and situations.”

JW Media Music
Music suggested Spirit of Light  (SOZ062 Ambient Chill Vol 6), Creation & Flow (Sonic Ozault)
Why suitable “This is a minimal tense underscore with a flow like feel. This would suit because while the premise of the show is busy and a feat of organisational skill, it should feel tense and pressured but not overly dramatic or dangerous. Also, it leaves room for narration which features heavily in these kinds of shows.”

Universal Publishing Production Music
Music suggested Light Tension (underscore version, Essential Drama, Kosinus label)
Why suitable “The UK’s biggest airport has a complex infrastructure where error can occur in every stage. The Light Tension track (underscore version) helps to maintain and build the documentary’s narrative. Also, it has a ‘ticking’ feeling. Timing is a very important element at the airport so ‘ticking’ should make this element even stronger.”

Drama series
A mid-budget, fast-paced crime drama series about a crack UK forensics team who will stop at nothing to solve a case.

Universal Publishing Production Music
Music suggested Mood Pulse (Hard Drama 4, Atmosphere label)
Why suitable “As well as being quite gritty and industrial it also has a beat which pushes it forwards with a bit of pace. The track isn’t too dark so isn’t too overbearing but has the right levels of tension. I could picture this track in a scene where the forensics team is investigating a murder scene or in a lab running tests allowing for continuity through the series.”

De Wolfe Music
Music suggested Unravelling, Edward Cooper
Why suitable “Its exciting, hard hitting drum rhythms keep the tension right up and the listener on edge. The revolving motifs and that relentless spiral of sound in the background create a suspenseful and sinister atmosphere, building up to a really heightened sense of drama and urgency.”

Reliable Source Music
Music suggested Music for Murder (RSM163)
Why suitable “One of our recent releases Music for Murder was made with crime docs/dramas in mind. Mixtures of orchestral strings and electronic elements often work well, our track Black Ops being a good example. The strings help to create an anxious atmosphere and the electronic parts are able to complement subject matter such as forensics to apply or reinforce a modern technological element to scenes.”

Corporate film
This film from a small British manufacturer is designed to introduce its latest product to the marketplace and will be used primarily at trade shows, corporate events and on its website.

Cue Songs
Music suggested The Ramona Flowers, Lust and Lies, Instrumental)
Why suitable “Corporate videos are very easy to get wrong as it’s hard not to make it sound dull without being distracting. You need to be wallpaper, but designer wallpaper rather than Homebase. This track manages to never outstay its welcome without ever dominating. You could listen to someone talk about valves and market shares forever with this as the soundtrack.”

Dynamic Music
Music suggested Waves
Why suitable “This track exudes class. This is for the British brand that wants to portray modernity but also demonstrate that they have employed old techniques. This track would complement a British luxury item. Its sound is on point with the tropical house movement that is sweeping the country still, so it would invoke a familiarity with its listeners.”

Lemoncake
Music suggested Getting There (Typical)
Why suitable “This track is cool, emotive, uplifting and exudes a real sense of pride. The music has a very British sound and would enhance a sincere, assured voice-over or presentation. The addition of high strings adds an air of sophistication and pushes the feel-good factor to number 11.”



Posted 16 March 2015 by Tim Dams
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