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Sky's Coogan & giant crab in battle of Xmas animated films

In the battle of the animated Christmas specials, Sky Atlantic HD is entering the fray with Uncle Wormsley’s Christmas on Christmas Eve.

While the BBC has put its money on witchy capers with Room on the Broom and Channel 4 is investing in the sequel to the wintry but heartwarming The Snowman, Sky will air the tale of a decayed old man with a monstrous crab in his dungeon, narrated by Steve Coogan.

Produced by Baby Cow, Uncle Wormsley’s Christmas is described as “an animated children's cautionary tale with a dark heart.”


Uncle Wormsley is a grey, decaying old man who dedicates his life to the care of his only friend, a monstrous crab called Crabsley who lives in a dungeon under his house. Across town lives Johnnie Goodington, a rich boy who has everything money could buy except one thing – a giant monstrous crab. One Christmas, Johnnie's father strikes a deal with the mysterious and shadowy Crab Catchers. Johnnie shall have his Giant crab, but dark forces have been unleashed.

Uncle Wormsley’s Christmas
is voiced by Julian Barrett, Julia Davis, John Thomson and Ben Baker, alongside Steve Coogan as the narrator.

The thirty minute animation from Baby Cow Productions is written by Joel Veitch and Tim Gallagher, and directed by David Shute. The producer is Tim Searle.
 
The animation forms part of Sky Atlantic’s Comedy Mondays.

Room On The Broom is produced by Michael Rose and Martin Pope of Magic Light Pictures (The Gruffalo, The Gruffalo’s Child, Chico & Rita). The Snowman and the Snowdog is a Snowman Enterprises film, made with Lupus Films and directed by Hilary Audus.

Posted 03 December 2012 by Pippa Considine

Back from the brink, Twickenham invests in studio upgrade

Twickenham Studios is investing £1m in an equipment upgrade as it gets back into full swing, after an uncertain future earlier this year. It’s also undergoing a complete overhaul of its three production studios. 

The first dubbing theatre is getting a new Gemini mixing desk, as is the second. The third, currently used for ADR and Foley, will also get an AMS Neve DFC PS1 mixing console.

The studios has already bought 3D projectors, including a £50k Christie projector for its theatre two dubbing theatre, and theatre one is certified Dolby Premiere.

As it looks to attract more TV productions, there are plans to build television mixing rooms and a grading suite, as well as refurbishing the changing, hair and make-up rooms. This will add to its existing cutting rooms.  

It is less than six months since property magnate and film buff Sunny Vohra saved Twickenham Studios from closure in June, taking the legendary facility out of adminstration.

In February, it looked like the end of an era, when it was announced that the studio had to go into receivership and would close one year before its centenary. The legendary studio was home to some of the best known films of the 60s, including Alfie, The Italian Job, Roman Polanski’s Repulsion and The Beatles’ Help and A Hard Day’s Night. More recently, it was used by Stephen Spielberg for the filming of War Horse and for the making of The Iron Lady.  Vohra stepped in after a petition to save the Studios gathered 1000 signatures in its first week, including those of directors Steven Spielberg, Michael Apted, Terry Jones, Peter Medak and Stephen Daldry. John Landis and Terry Jones.

Vohra, now managing director, appointed Maria Walker as chief operating officer. A former post production supervisor, she led the campaign to save the studios.

As well as the new investment in kit, Carl Childs has returned as head of engineering and Gwilym Perry has been recruited as foley mixer and ADR recordist. “Twickenham is back! We value film and TV equally and you will find us a centre of excellence,” says Walker.

It has already been used for Big Talk Productions’ new feature The Cuban Fury, which used all the stages across two months this summer. Among other productions, it is providing studio space for drama pilot Steffi from Emerald Films. 

Twickenham is looking to install its new equipment by spring of next year. It will remain open while the production studios are upgraded. 

Posted 21 November 2012 by Pippa Considine

Industry updated on green initiatives & how Anna Karenina saved money with BS8909

Senior executives from organisations including the BBC, ITV, Sky, Microsoft, Sony and Warner Bros attending BAFTA’s Greening The Screen event this week heard how BS 8909 was used during the production of Gambit, Les Misérables and Anna Karenina to help save money, while minimising the impact of the productions on the local environment.
 
BS 8909, the British Standard for film industry sustainability launched in Cannes in 2011 has been adopted by the BFI, which is now actively encouraging other film organisations to adopt the standard.
 
A report published to coincide with the event (http://bit.ly/SICAto) found that the most significant carbon impacts for productions are associated with travel (38% of emissions) and the production office (30% of emissions).

Kevin Price, chief operating officer at BAFTA, announced that Albert, the UK’s first carbon calculator for the film and television industry, is now suitable for use by film as well as television productions, and revealed that data collected from Albert shows that the production of each hour of on-screen content is responsible for an average of 5.8 tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. This is equivalent to the emissions of one UK citizen at work in one year.

Created by the BBC, Albert was officially launched in November 2011 as a free online tool (www.myalbert.co.uk) administered by BAFTA and run with the support of a cross-industry consortium consisting of television production houses and broadcasters: BBC, Boundless, Channel 4, Endemol, IMG, ITV, Kudos, Shine, Sky and Twofour. One year later, Albert has 800 registered users from over 50 television companies and has gathered data from 266 productions, totalling 1,297 hours of output.
 
Deputy ceo of the BFI, Tim Cagney outlined the various measures the BFI is putting in place as part of its commitment to leading the adoption of sustainable practices within the film industry. The BFI is leading a UK-wide Sustainability Group made up of representatives from across the film industry, including studios, trade organisations, national and regional partners and others. It has also undertaken an audit of its own sustainable practices across every area of the organisation, from BFI National Archive facilities at Berkhamsted and the film storage facility at Gaydon, Warwickshire, to BFI Southbank, and its HQ at London’s Stephen Street.
 
The BFI has refreshed and updated the www.greeningfilm.com website, integrating the Albert carbon calculator. Greeningfilm.com is now the go-to online resource for film industry professionals who want to minimise negative environmental impacts, providing practical case studies, examples of best practice and signposting to a variety of key support services to make adoption of sustainable practices as simple and streamlined as possible.
 
The BFI has also convened and leads the industry-wide sustainability group, uniting organisations from every area of the film value chain to share best practice and coordinate activity in order to maximise benefit. Sustainability Group members include Pinewood, BAFTA, BECTU, the Cinema Exhibitors’ Association, Creative Skillset, the Mayor of London’s Office, National Screen Agencies, Directors UK, Film Export UK, Equity, the Production Guild, Film London and others, and the group welcomes and encourages new members who can bring new perspectives.
 
At Greening the Screen, actor and green campaigner Alistair McGowan chaired a panel discussion with leading figures from film, TV and games, representing organisations including Warner Bros, the BBC, ITV, Sky, Microsoft and Sony. Speakers shared the latest thinking on sustainable production and examples of business practices that are low impact in terms of carbon, finance and time.
 
Environmental management consultancies Greenshoot and Eco Consultancy presented case studies that brought to life in practical terms how companies adopting BS 8909 – the comprehensive standard for ‘sustainability management’ in the film industry – can switch to more sustainable ways of working without setting unrealistic goals or creating unnecessary administrative burden.
 


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Posted 16 November 2012 by Pippa Considine

Objective uses compact robotic cameras for Derren Brown show

Derren Brown’s Apocalypse, a two parter from Objective Productions for Channel 4, used 50 Camera Corps Q-Ball robotic heads for a shoot that took place across 400 hectares at a former US Air Force base in East Anglia.

 

Working with Neon Broadcast Services, Camera Corps provided around 50 of the  remote camera systems for the latest Derren Brown production, where Brown attempts to convince a man that it is the end of the world. The show aired on Channel 4 last week. 

 

Last year’s production of Derren Brown's The Guilt Trip used 22 of the robotic cameras, mounted in various parts of a stately home. Apocalypse was on a bigger scale, requiring 47 Q-Ball heads positioned in multiple locations. All of the Q-Ball cameras were operated by a four-strong Camera Corps team, each using a joystick steering unit and a remote control panel to ensure accurate colour matching. 

 

“The production area of more than 400 hectares presented interesting challenges in terms of cable runs, some of which were well beyond the safe limits for HD-SDI over copper," says Camera Corps' equipment manager Neil Ashworth."We installed 11 of our new Simply SMPTE hybrid electro-optical links which can operate over five kilometres or more, allowing us to run feeds from aircraft hangers, bunkers, barracks and other former military buildings into the main control room."

 

Neon Broadcast's managing director Colin Vinten says: "The Q-Ball heads are much more compact than traditional robotic cameras and deliver excellent high-definition images over a wide range of lighting conditions. Their pan, tilt and zoom drives are extremely quiet and allow very precise control so can be used for in-vision tracking shots without risk of distracting the participants.”

 

The Q-Ball is an ultra-compact remotely-controlled camera with integral 10x zoom optical lens and smooth-accelerating pan/tilt motors, housed in a robust and fully-weatherproof 115 mm diameter aluminium sphere.

 

First used for the Euro 2012 football tournaments, 2012 Wimbledon tennis and the Summer Games in London, Camera Corps' Simply SMPTE compact remote link consists of a base unit and remote unit. Powered by 110 or 240 volts AC, the 303 x 165 x 65 millimetre 3.63 kilogramme base unit has an optical input for incoming video data. Electrical inputs allow direct connection of analog genlock video and audio-frequency control data. A loop-through connector is provided for the control data channel. Incoming video from the remote camera is accessible via two HD-SDI outputs.

 


Posted 06 November 2012 by Pippa Considine

Toddlers recreate Dexy's Come on Eileen

Cow &Gate’s new Supergroup ad is all about the sounds made by toddlers experimenting with instruments in a recording studio, with the haphazard sounds magically culminating in a reversioned Come on Eileen by Dexy’s Midnight Runners.

Sound engineer Adam Smyth at Soho Square Studios had to create all the sound other than the specially created version of the single from composer Lester Barnes.

Supergroup has been described as ‘category re-defining,’ as it uses minimal branding and no product information, ending on the brand’s new strapline, Feed their personalities.

The two-minute film was directed by RSA’s Jim Field Smith, who directed sitcom Episodes and recently-released feature film Butter and is now working on new BBC comedy The Wrong Mans with James Corden.

The shoot involved two cameras in a studio with toddlers. Field Smith described it as being like “a wildlife documentary."

At Soho Square Studios, Smyth began working with the edits as a rough guide to how the sound should be built, with the brief to create a sound track that was realistic and which would gradually merge with the soundtrack from the composer.

He then started with the two minute video and no sound. The first move was to go back to the rushes from the shoot where he managed to find some sounds, including drums and a dropped guitar. But this had been a shoot with parents on set and there was the noise of concerned mothers and fathers encouraging their child to rattle the tambourine, hit the drum and blow into the saxophone, on most of the sync sound making it almost unusable.

Some library sound effects were effective at replacing the more unusable sync sound, including a saxophone and the hum of a guitar amp feedback which gave  depth and realism to the instruments being played. But, the sound design needed more than just library sound effects and sync sound, so Smyth headed to Denmark Street, famous for its music shops and just down the road from Soho Square Studios.

“To build on the sound from the rushes I needed to add in the actual sounds of instruments being played, for example a keyboard being struck or a drum pedal being kicked,” he says. “But in order to get these effects, I had to spend an afternoon loitering around the music shops of Denmark Street, playing the instruments and recording the sounds with a location recording kit.”

Smyth also needed to reinstate imperfections to make the sound realistic, such as a child’s hand on the keyboard, the detuning of guitars and tambourines being dropped.

“I’ve never done sound design which was so musically intense,” says Smyth. “I’ve usually built sound design from library effects, but this was a type of foley, the foleying of instruments in a very different way.”

The soundtrack of Come on Eileen, arranged by Lester Barnes, was broken down so he could work with the individual elements.

“One of the great things for me was the chance to collaborate with the composer and really begin work on bringing the sound and the ad to life, which rarely happens in the audio post stages of an ad campaign,” says Smyth. “Usually I receive a full mix of the music, but in this instance I had all the elements which enabled me to ensure the  sound is of a much better quality and has a nicer feel to it.”

Drawing on his training as a drummer, he was able to build in the tempo and get the right timing for the crescendo effect as the toddlers appear to be doing their own cover version of Dexy’s Midnight Runners.

The ad launched last week with a 40-second version; there is also a 30-second version. A two-minute extended ad is launching in cinema and available on YouTube.

Ad agency BETC London
Exec creative director Neil Dawson
Copywriter Clive Pickering
Art director Paul Copeland
Designer Louise Sloper
Agency producer Nikki Cramphorn
Director Jim Field Smith
Production company RSA Films
DoP Rob Kitzmann
Producer Debbie Garvey
Editor Dave Webb
Editing company Final Cut
Post production Unit TV
Sound design Adam Smyth @ Soho Square Studios


Posted 16 October 2012 by Pippa Considine

Self-financed sitcom goes from YouTube to hit show in South Africa

British sitcom Meet the Adebanjos is an example of how, in 2012, a show can get off the ground without a UK commissioner.

Meet the Adebanjos
was made with money raised by a former city trader from Croydon. It started out on YouTube, went to DVD and has been sold internationally. In the last few weeks, it has become South Africa’s third most popular comedy.

The audience for the sitcom about a Nigerian family living in London doubled to 1.4 million after the first week on South Africa’s SABC2.

Osayemi raised £175,000 to make the first eight episodes through production company MTA Productions, after becoming frustrated with meetings with UK commissioners.

The first three episodes, which were produced by former trader Andrew Osayemi and the show's creator Debra Odutoyo, were put online as a taster for the eight episodes on DVD. They got over a million views on YouTube.

Meet the Adebanios
, which stars stand-up Lateef Lovejoy, has also been bought by Ghana, Nigeria and Uganda. It currently runs on The African Channel in the UK.

The second series will begin filming early next year.

The show has also been adapted as a stage play and will play at London’s Hackney Empire in November.



Posted 15 October 2012 by Pippa Considine

The Secret of Crickley Hall: the post production story

Deluxe 142 worked on the visual and audio post and created the titles for the BBC’s three-part adaptation of James Herbert’s best selling 2006 novel The Secret of Crickley Hall, which will be broadcast this Halloween.
 
Produced by BBC Drama Production North, it is directed by Joe Ahearne (Dr Who) and stars Suranne Jones and Tom Ellis as Eve and Gabe Caleigh, a young couple who decide to move into Crickley Hall, a former orphanage in a Devonshire ravine named Devil's Cleave, following  the disappearance of their own child.
 
The Deluxe 142 team included Paul Staples (colourist), Simon Brook (online editor), Nick Timms (online editor and title design), Chris Roberts (dialogue editor), Richard Fordham (sound effects editor) and David Old (sound mixer).  Harriet Dale, head of Production at 142, supervised the project
.
The online for The Secret of Crickley Hall was completed in an Avid DS Nitris suites. Director Joe Ahearne wanted a significant amount of picture re-sizing and camera zoom modifications to improve the tension or dynamic of a scene and online editor Simon Brook was asked to recreate a ‘mesmeriser’ look which is normally achieved using a modified camera lens.
 
In addition to the removal of modern artefacts for the period scenes, other VFX challenges included making sure ‘dead’ people did not appear to breath or twitch, whilst hand held shots were stabilized and rain added to storm scenes.
 
For the title sequence, Ahearne and colourist Paul Staples came up with two looks for the panning shot used. In order to integrate the credits into the foreground and use both of the looks supplied, online editor Nick Timms tracked the credits to trees and branches in the foreground, then moved them forward in Z-space to give a sense of independence. He used a slightly gothic font which was given a glow for all the credits and main title. The main body of the work (tracking and credit placement) was done in After Effects, with the final compositing completed in the Avid DS Nitris.
 
Sound effects editor Richard Fordham was provided with a clear brief from Ahearne. Crickley Hall itself was to have neutral, almost lifeless background atmosphere, this allowed nothing to distract from the narrative as it was revealed, yet left space for the more subtle and disconcerting sound effects. It also provided scope for the bigger sound scares to be all the more shocking.
 
As The Secret of Crickley Hall is told in a dual timeframe, there was also the opportunity to use sound to support how these eras were presented in the frame. The sound effects and backgrounds for the contemporary scenes were quite straightforward to establish, but the scenes set during the Second World War were emphasised by elements such as a Spitfire passing over head, or a distant motor engine of the period.
 
For the portrayal of a London Street the morning after it has been bombed in the Blitz, dialogue editor Chris Roberts recorded additional voices and off-screen activity, such as firemen and ARP wardens searching for survivors in a bomb damaged house, a doctor and ambulance men carrying the wounded and the reactions of people.
 
The orchestral score was balanced by dubbing mixer David Old with all the other elements to create a soundtrack that draws the audience into the tale of loss at the heart of the story, but delivers plenty of chills and excitement.
 
 
 

Posted 15 October 2012 by Pippa Considine

The Documentary Report

With the Televisual Factual Festival due to begin on October 24th, Pippa Considine takes a look at the documentary landscape in the UK


The UK's hold on documentary shows no signs of weakening. At home, Sky has been putting its money where its mouth is with a steady stream of documentary to add to its drama and entertainment commissioning. Fears about DQF have been largely quelled; it has caused minor cuts and bruises to BBC documentary, but no real body blows.

The US market seems to be increasingly keen on British documentary talent. According to the latest Pact Census, international buyers spent £625m on UK indie productions in 2011, up from £495m in 2010; undoubtedly a good wedge of this will be the US buying into UK documentary. "There are lots of British companies who are doing well selling singles or series in the US," says John Willis, chief executive of Mentorn Media. "We're seen as a badge of quality in the US."

One of the big documentary stories of 2012 in the UK has to be Sky. Celia Taylor, the head of factual and features at Sky says, "The landscape has changed quite significantly in the last year and for the good. There's a very wide range of content. It's almost like the BBC, where you can pitch to them for BBC1, BBC2 or BBC3. Now you could have something very erudite, smart and intelligent for Sky Atlantic. You could have something funny and warm for Sky1. We have the capacity to take on a wide range of documentary ideas and the confidence to do big projects, whether a feature documentary on Sky Atlantic or a long form documentary on Sky Living."

Sky is about to launch its first history production with Nutopia's The British on Atlantic and at this year's Sheffield DocFest it announced Footprints, commissioning feature docs from high profile filmmakers. Nick Broomfield was the first to be signed up.

ITV is also keen on those big documentary specials, which add one-off vim to its returning documentary series. Leslie Woodhead's feature length documentary 9/11: The Day that Changed the World was a hit for ITV1 this year. "ITV has a sense of what it's for and what it wants," says Jo Clinton Davis, the channel's head of popular factual, who says that the channel has opened up to factual over the last few years. "With 9/11, people might have thought that ITV would do the softer story and yet we didn't, we went in hard and it felt like a thriller."



After a year of worry about DQF at the BBC, it seems to have had only minimal impact. Although there's some concern among indies at the new focus of BBC4, with its arts and culture remit. "BBC4 feels like it's an area that's suffered quite hard with DQF," says Willis "and that's one of the places where people could make the pleasing programmes that wouldn't fit anywhere else, but were still good for the viewer." Kate Buchanan, head of documentaries at Keo Films, which brought chef Yotam Ottolenghi to the screen on BBC4, voices common concerns when she says that the new focus has "given it a rather narrow scope."

BBC commissioning editor for documentaries Charlotte Moore has added BBC3 formats and specialist factual to her responsibilities; she now works with a team of six. BBC3, which has cut back on drama, has recently announced a string of new factual shows, including six in its Body Beautiful season.

Moore has this year showed her enthusiasm for user generated content, with a number of commissions including Morgan Matthew's Britain in a Day and two series from Firecracker Films - I Want to Change My Body and We're Having a Baby. The shows will give cameras to the characters in the shows in the time-honoured tradition of Video Diaries and the more recent, BAFTA-winning Our War.

"The advances in technology - smartphones etc - and people's willingness to make their lives public has meant that we've seen a huge increase in the volume of user generated content available," says Moore. "With docs like Our War and Britain in a Day, we've been able to access very private moments and raw experiences which feel all the more immediate, unmediated and authentic just because there's no director or crew. I think we're likely to see more and more of it used in documentaries on all the channels."

While the BBC has embraced UGC, 2012 has to be the year that the rig show came of age on Channel 4. Any doubts were cast aside as new series of 24 Hours in A&E were commissioned and Educating Essex worked for the channel. Windfall Films' groundbreaking murder trial series currently 
in production will be another show with the rig at its heart. "It's enabled us to go into familiar television territories and bring audiences something that feels fresh and modern and different in a very Channel 4 way," says Nick Mirsky, deputy head of factual at the Channel.



Mirsky joined the channel in May, taking over the documentaries remit. Emma Cooper, with whom he worked at the BBC, is now masterminding the Cutting Edge strand and Lina Prestwood, who also joined the channel earlier this year, oversees First Cut. The old guard of the department remaining are documentaries commissioning editor Mark Raphael and Anna Miralis, who continues to oversee True Stories.
Mirsky, who came from the BBC were he worked on its Wonderland strand, stresses the channel's commitment to single documentaries. "You can trawl the BBC and find three strands overall," he says. "Here on Channel 4 there are three strands on one channel. It's very, very committed to single docs."

There's still a sense from producers that the slots for singles are fewer across channels. David Dugan, chairman of Windfall Films says, "I think it is quite hard to get singles off. There's less interest and there's possibly less interest from the bigger, more established indies as well, because the amount of effort you have to get a single off the ground sometimes can be the same as if you're doing a four or six part series."

October Films managing director Denman Rooke agrees, pointing to the increasing trend for seasons of programming, where singles can be marketed as part of a whole, such as the BBC's recent season on ageing. BBC3's Body Beautiful is another example. "There's a huge pressure on broadcasters," he says.

Markets overseas, especially the US, remain critical for indie profitability. Rooke notes that SBS in Australia has been more generous with co-production funding recently. Like other successful indies, he’s also pitching in the US. The US customers, he thinks, look to Britain for "English style". British producers are seen as having a different look and feel to home-grown stuff and we don't necessarily want to compete with those shows that wrestle with alligators."

Dugan at Windfall has made several shows in America. "The main thing in the US is that everything has to be so character driven. It's happening here to some extent. But if you want to get a doc series off the ground in America, you have to have shot a sizzler with those characters paced with action and sensational sound bites. Here it's all about hospitals and institutions and over there it's more about extreme situations." Dugan compares this with the UK. "Here in the factual arena presenters are king at the moment. It's very hard to imagine presenting any idea without a presenter."

Willis observes that, whether they're using rigs or UGC or traditional filming techniques, UK docs are in large part still doing what they say on the tin. "Some of the most successful docs of the last year or two have been classic documentaries that could have been made in the last 10 years at any time, Protecting Our Children or The Tube are models of access documentary making."

There's a general downward pressure on budgets and Pact's census showed declining net margins at 6.7 per cent in 2011, down from 13% in 2010. But producers are cutting their cloth and it wouldn’t be too far off the mark to say that the UK documentary landscape is flourishing.


Nick Mirsky, 
deputy head of Factual, Channel 4
Does Channel 4 want more rig shows?
With the rig, Channel 4 has found a precinct where it is able to deliver something quite special for the viewer. They're absolutely brilliant, but it's really important to see where else we can take it in a rig or semi-rigged way. And we have to think about things that are different from that...Make Bradford British did very well as a formatted social experiment.
Whats happening with singles?
The move of True Stories from More 4 to Channel 4 was very successful, with films like Gypsy Blood. Emma Cooper is trying to make Cutting Edge mean cutting edge a bit more, films that reflect the zeitgeist, that describe the Britain today. With First Cut, by making it 60 minutes and putting it out late, it means that people have got a better chance to prove themselves as directors. Of course, if we get great films that don’t fit the strand definitions, we'll take singles.
Are you after anything specific?
I'd love any ideas that feel like we're making television a bit differently. I look back at 7 Days and I feel that we need to go back, there were a lot of things right about it.....The broadcast of a first programme and audience response to it should have a meaningful affect on the second and I'm looking for ideas that embrace that.

charlotte Moore, commissioning editor for Documentaries, BBC
What shows have worked well recently?
Ob docs are doing well across all channels, particularly BBC2. Now we want to push the genre - we're looking for ideas with a sense of scale and purpose. Keeping Britain Alive is a great example of an ob doc super sized, looking at the entire NHS over the course of one day. But scale and ambition doesn't always mean an eight-parter. Britain in a Day was probably our most ambitious project this year. On BBC3, Our War has led to real excitement around big, provocative ideas. Junior Doctors has renewed the channel's appetite for series with a light construct, but very much set in the real world.
Are there specific slots you’re looking to fill?
We’ve commissioned several ob docs series for 9pm on BBC1, but the harder one to crack right now at 9pm on BBC1 is personality-led, entertaining documentary series. One slot, which I'd love to develop on BBC2, is the Sunday 9pm male skewing post Top Gear slot.
What do you want for BBC4?
We're looking for counter intuitive takes on mainstream and familiar subjects.  Whether singles (Scenes from a Teenage Killing) or series (Catholics, Sandhurst), authorship and interesting perspectives on the subject is key. We're still in the market for contemporary history ideas. And Storyville is stronger than ever.



Celia Taylor, head of factual and features, Sky
What are you looking for on Sky Atlantic?
The big piece in our documentary strategy is Footprints, our feature documentary strand on Sky Atlantic with 12 films a year. We want to be able to work with the best talent in the world of documentary film-making. On Atlantic, you either have to have epic scale or a show fronted by a celebrity or someone with industry standing, like Hotel Secrets with Richard E Grant and Networks of Power with Sir Christopher Meyer, an intelligent take on the world, with a level of glamour and mischievousness which feels very Atlantic. The British is our massive history series a big, quality piece.
What about Sky One?
We've got Brize Norton as a long-running series on Sky One. It's the first time the RAF have given access in 15 years. On Sky One, we're looking for extraordinary access, like Brize Norton, and we're also doing celebrity-fronted shows. We commissioned Eddie Izzard to do the Mandela Marathons and continue with Ross Kemp.
Are Sky Living and Sky Arts investing in documentary?
Obese 2 has moved from Sky One to Sky Living. It's got the kind of scale you wouldn't necessarily expect on Living, following people for a whole year. It shows that we are commited to something different on Living, not the slightly thinner more fluffy content that you might expect. On Sky Arts, Lily Cole has a factual series where she spends two or three days with the globe's biggest contemporary artists. It's not the usual middle-aged man interviewing a middle-aged man artist.

Jo Clinton Davis, controller popular factual commissioning, ITV

What has worked on ITV1 in the last year?
We had three programmes in the top five of factual across channels. There's the whole gamut of factual on ITV, including high class observational series with remarkable access like Strangeways getting six million and the ultimate returnable format 56 Up. We were thrilled with Leslie Woodhead's 9/11: The Day that Changed the World, an uncompromising look at the political story of the day yet told through the human narrative. It's that human heart that needs to beat in ITV documentaries. At the other end of the spectrum, some of our specialist factual pieces, which we make on tiny budgets, like Words of Captain Scott, hold their own and are ambitiously cast, made to feel like dramas.
What are you looking for in series?
Long Lost Family is the holy grail of a returnable factual format where the format doesn’t get in the way of the emotional documentary content. The scale and ambition is fantastic. The door is always open for the next definitive returnable documentary series. And we are still looking for access if it's extraordinary, remarkable and hard won
Are you interested in specials and singles? Top directors are now coming to us and saying "we want to work with you". That, for me, is about showcasing their work. The ITV 1 factual schedule can accommodate those singles and it gives variety, just as being able to do early evening specialist factual and the odd 10.35.
What's coming up?
We have a special about Murdoch coming up, also made by Brook Lapping, who made 9/11: The Day that Changed the World.

Posted 26 September 2012 by Pippa Considine
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