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The art of live event directing

There’s no second chances when live directing. Here four of the UK’s leading live event directors explain the art of their craft

Denise Large
The Grand National, The Derby, Cheltenham Festival, Royal Ascot, Glorious Goodwood

They don’t come any bigger than the Grand National from a sporting and production point of view, in terms of the vast area you have to cover.

The Grand National is in April, but planning begins around December. As well as getting the basics right, I always try to think of a new innovation that can enhance the viewer’s enjoyment of this amazing steeplechase.

In the first year of IMG’s Grand National coverage, I introduced the Scorpio Tracking Arm – a camera used in feature films. It’s a crane on top of a 4x4 which can elevate to a height of 16 ft and also extend outwards. Tracking cameras have been used in racing for many years, but seeing 40 horses from a high elevation while travelling at 35 miles an hour provides a tremendously dramatic shot. 

Having the right people on a live specialist event is crucial.  I have a fabulous team who I have worked with for many years. They are at the top of their profession and we have a good relationship. But at the end of it I have to call the shots and be a leader. There are ways of conveying those messages. I’m not one to shout and get hysterical! 

The camera operators are my eyes on the racecourse and I rely on them to offer shots – which I will call for at an instant. Sound is just as crucial to bringing the drama and atmosphere to a race as big as the Grand National with 40 horses galloping around the track. Microphones are deployed inside every fence to pick up the unique noises you get when they are jumped or hit.

Probably the biggest challenge on the day is making a five hour broadcast appear seamless. You also have to keep  your cool. You need nerves, but not to the point where they take over.

Dick Carruthers
Led Zeppelin, Beyonce, The Rolling Stones, The White Stripes, The Killers, The Who, Oasis, Take That

The first thing I do is take the long view - what do we want to end up with ? Next I study the whole layout: band, the stage design, perhaps dancers, screens, venue, and start plotting camera positions and combinations like chess moves. No two gigs are exactly the same and this is absolutely key to getting the best shots to fit together.

I also do my homework; watching performances to tune into the the dynamic. I always like to see the way the instruments are played, interactions between band members or sometimes crowd reaction is key. I’ll make up a set list and listen to it over and over, to get an instinctive sense of the narrative arc, the pace and flow.

I will discuss with the artists all manner of things stylistically: how we are going to approach it, texture, effects, post production. Formats too: it could suit HD or now 4K, or in an extreme case, Super 8.  Artists have all sorts of proclivities – perhaps strong preferences about angles they are shot from. They have to trust you, knowing you are going to make them look not just good, but amazing. You precision-capture what they do and by detailing it, enhance it.

World class crew is essential. I’m lucky to work with experts in their field, and I choose them on their unique skills. I’ve built up a great team of people who I trust to do a great job.

For performances I might work off one sheet per song - with lots of notes in different coloured Sharpie pens: structure, specific positions, special moves or moments to nail.... I like to inhabit a fluid mid-point between scripted and pure spontaneity; reacting to what happens, as it happens. Typically I cut stuff myself – I can just call it quicker and you get into the zone.

During any shoot, I joke, encourage and whip up enthusiasm, paradoxically the comedian as well as the clear, authoritative voice that the whole team lock onto and follow.

There’s no place for hesitation or panic, and its not a role for people lacking in self confidence – justified or otherwise.

That said, I wouldn’t go into anything with blind hubris – there has to be some trepidation and stress. You need to be razor sharp and very quick thinking - you are watching 15 to 20 things at once and co-ordinating 40+ people. I have learned to channel the nerves and adrenalin into an intense focus. It’s the best job in the world.

Paul Mcnamara
Rugby World Cup, FA Cup Final, Champions League Final, FIFA World Cup

Covering a match will always involve a recce to the stadium beforehand.  Stadiums are always updating, and there is always a possibility of new camera positions.

Most football directors do the vision mixing themselves, which is quite different from other TV genres. It allows you to get to the best shots as quickly as possible and in sport things happen very quickly with no rehearsals.
You are always trying to tell the story. You are trying to bring the viewer to the event and to give them the best seat in the house.

You might have 20 cameras for a match and each camera will be given a specific role. The main camera 1 shot is used to cover the majority of the game but all the other angles are used to enhance the narrative and to bring all the tension, excitement and drama to the viewer.

You have to tell the story of what is happening in front of you but you are trying to add to it the whole time. In sport there are natural breaks – corners, goal kicks, line outs or injuries. You use those moments to replay incidents that have happened.

You can also use those moments to go to crowd shots or manager shots to try to build up the excitement, the anticipation the pain and the passion.

There are always many editorial stories within each game. For example, one goalkeeper might have been dropped. When the goalkeeper that has been picked makes a fantastic save, you can make a great editorial shot by going to the goalkeeper sitting on the bench – applauding like a mad Oscar loser! In sport there is always a story. It means sports directors have to know their sport inside out.

I go through a checklist before each game. If I have watched the teams and know how they play – including every player, sub and manager – and I have looked at my camera positions, then I would trust myself to bring that game through with the experience I have. I would never be blasé and think I can just tip up to this, because that would be the time that it bites you really hard.

No two sports broadcasts are ever the same. You have to be brave to make your decisions, and trust your judgement and experience. It’s a privileged position and a great honour to cover such fantastic events.

Steve Smith

The Graham Norton Show, The John Bishop Show, Paul O’Grady Show Live

To start with, I try to assemble a team that I trust. The industry is much more freelance now, so us directors get a key group of people that they work with regularly, from a lighting director, a camera supervisor to a sound supervisor. They give you the confidence you need to make the programme.

Because budgets and schedules are much tighter, there isn’t the luxury of time to be able to make mistakes. You have to be ready to hit the deck running. For The John Bishop Show we record two shows a day. We have a four-hour window with an audience to record two one-hour shows. There just isn’t the luxury to do things twice.

So knowing your team around you are all really experienced and playing at the top of their game is really important.

Being a live event director is rather like being the captain of a plane. You have a managerial role and have to be aware of budgets and scheduling and facilities. And you have to be able to inspire and motivate people, and also firm in terms of knowing what you want.

But the most important thing is your creative vision. You are responsible for how the show looks and bringing that creative eye to bear is vital.

You also have to be prepared. In a live situation you only get one stab at it. You have to think ahead to where the danger areas might be and where things might go wrong. This often comes from experience.

Another really important thing is trust. One of the tragic things about this industry is that too many people try to be bosses and to control everything. As a director I like to create an environment where I have an overall vision for something. Then I like to ensure the crew have the ability to stamp their own mark on it. When you give people the freedom to express themselves, you generally get more out of it.

You can’t get away from the impact that The X Factor has had on the way we do things. The X Factor is a brilliant show, but it does have an enormous budget with a multi-million pound set and a phenomenal lighting rig. It gives commissioning editors expectations. They want everything to have the same production values. But The X Factor is ITV’s flagship entertainment show, and most other budgets don’t come anywhere near it. You have to manage those expectations – which can be difficult.

I chair the multi-camera directors group at Directors UK. What worries me is how we train the new directors of the future. These jobs are so pressured that commissioning editors and execs are nervous about letting someone new have a go. But at some point you have to have a go, or you are never going to get the experience.

With Directors UK we are trying to find solutions to how we can train directors of the future.

Posted 04 August 2015 by Tim Dams

Green 'step change' needed in TV production

Some shows have taken steps to reduce their carbon footprint, but the production sector needs to do far more.

Solar was used to power the entire shoot of Operation Grand Canyon with Dan Snow, while Springwatch ran its unit base and remote camera set ups with energy from renewable generators.

Meanwhile, Wonders of the Monsoon employed international cameramen to save over 100 tonnes of CO2 by reducing travel across six shoots, and Casualty recycles its sets and props.

These are just a handful examples of how TV productions have used innovative ways to cut their environmental footprint.

Other TV shows and films to boast impressive green credentials include Coronation Street and Film London-backed short film Terminally Happy – both shortlisted for the finals of this month’s Observer Ethical Awards.

Coronation Street, for example, was cited for being a ‘television drama of the highest quality with the lowest possible environmental impact’ after implementing a series of measures following its move to MediaCityUK.

A poor green record
Despite these success stories, the UK production sector has a poor track record when it comes to the environment. A ‘step change in behaviour’ is needed, according to BAFTA’s albert consortium, made up of leading broadcasters and indies working to reduce the impact of the TV industry.

The albert carbon calculator – based on input from over 1000 productions – has concluded that the average carbon footprint of an hour’s worth of TV is 9.4 tonnes – about the same as eight return flights to the US (see infographic above).

The consortium concludes that the TV and film industry must take a proactive approach to support the UK emission reduction target of 80% by 2050.

Even though employees in the production sector tend to be young, liberal, university educated and therefore, presumably environmentally aware, this has not translated into effective industry-wide action to reduce its carbon footprint.

Says one series producer with twenty years experience in the industry: “At no point has anyone ever brought up the subject of reducing our carbon footprint during a production.”

Another executive producer adds: “I would say this doesn’t play at all as an issue in the industry.”

“The UK production industry is lagging compared to other industries,” confirms Aaron Matthews, industry sustainability manager at albert.

Matthews says one of the reasons is that TV production is largely staffed by freelancers who hop from one project to another. “Industry leaders in sustainability, like Unilever or Kingfisher, have a staff who they can effect change upon. Often, if you work for a production company, you might not find out much about the environmental policies of the company – you get the programme made and then you are off.”

Senior support required
Matthews adds that an on-going problem is the “delegation of sustainability down to more junior levels of a production.” Sustainability, he says, really needs senior support and has to be addressed in pre-production if it is to have any impact. “Not everyone has the ability to make the big decisions which can really affect the carbon footprint of a production, like what studio or lighting to use.”

There’s also a sense that the industry is tackling issues like diversity as well as health and safety, but it hasn’t yet given the attention to sustainability that it might.

That could change in 2015, a year when the issue will come into greater focus in the lead up to November’s UN Climate Change Conference in Paris.  The conference aims to achieve a universal, legally binding agreement on climate change, with a key goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to limit global temperature increases to two degrees above industrial levels.

Meanwhile, the consortium has just started rolling out a new training course for independent production sector members, including All3Media, Endemol, Shed Media, Twofour, Kudos and IMG. 150 people will go through the course this year. This is on top of launching website mediagreenhouse.co.uk which provides advice on how to green a production and case studies of shows which have done so.

It is also launching a major industry survey of the sector to assess the level of understanding of sustainability and climate change and the challenges they raise for those working in the TV industry.

According to albert research, the single most significant contributor to carbon emissions in production is from electricity use to power production offices, studios, lighting, edit suites and crew accommodation. The environmental impact of travel is also significant, as are set builds, waste, diesel and catering.

Chosing to shoot in the UK or abroad can make a major difference, for example, to carbon emissions. An international factual documentary is, on average, the greatest emitter of CO2 by genre, responsible for over 40 tonnes per hour produced thanks to the air travel involved. 

The increasingly global nature of UK production, which is focused on international markets such as the US and Asia, means this problem is only getting worse. Location based dramas also have a heavy carbon footprint, thanks to transport and on location energy use.

Production, of course, is only part of the challenge facing the TV industry. Distribution now accounts for increasing amount of emissions as audience viewing habits change. Modern distribution techniques to distribute multiplatform content are highly energy intensive, requiring vast numbers of 
air-conditioned servers.

“The most carbon efficient way to get a programme out there is to broadcast it from an antenna on a hill,” notes Matthews.

Matthews also believes the TV industry could be doing more to explain to the public the pressing need for everyone to change their behaviour so the UK can meet its climate obligations. Precious few programmes on television actually address the biggest issue facing humankind today, he says.

Of course, the industry has got to get its own house in order too. “If we are going to unleash the media’s power to sell us a sustainable world, then we need to make sure their operations are squeaky clean before that happens.”

Green case studies

Alaska: Earth’s Frozen Kingdom
Alaska was able to save money and carbon emissions by sourcing all their polar bear footage from Alaskan based cameraman Arthur Smith. He’s lived in the Inupiat village of Kaktovik in Alaska’s far north for more than ten years. The BBC used six minutes – 10% of the overall programme – of Arthur’s polar bear footage in the Winter programme, episode 3.

Acquiring this footage in the usual way by flying a UK-based cameraman to Alaska with 500kg of kit (25 x 20kg peli cases of kit is standard for wildlife films) would create carbon emissions of around 9.5 tonnes. So the Alaska production team saved roughly the same amount of carbon emitted by two UK homes in a year.

Trollied (series 4)
Trollied cut its stage power usage by 50% by removing a third of ceiling light fluorescents and reducing floor lamp lighting. The Roughcut series also reduced paper use by 80% by using an opt-in policy for call sheets and scripts, and sourced second hand props and dressings for the set and as, as far as possible, tried to source these locally. Left over perishable food on set was also donated to feed the local pigs!

Transport was one of the greatest challenges, representing over 50% of the footprint for series 4. Roughcut tackled it by largely crewing locally and accommodating the majority of the cast in the same hotel and transporting them to set together. It also made public transport the default.

More green production examples can be found on the Media Greenhouse website

Posted 03 August 2015 by Tim Dams

Amy from the archives

Asif Kapadia’s biopic of Amy Winehouse is a technical as much as a storytelling triumph. Tim Dams on the making of the archive doc

Asif Kapadia’s documentary about the life and career of Amy Winehouse is his first since the Bafta-winning Senna. It’s released this month on the back of strong reviews after a well-received screening at the Cannes Film Festival. The Guardian, for example, called it “intimate, passionate, often shocking, and almost mesmerically absorbing.”

But the film, which recounts Winehouse’s story chronologically from her pre-fame teens to her early death from alcohol poisoning, is as much a technical as a storytelling triumph. As with Senna, Kapadia has boiled down 1000s of hours of footage to make the 127-minute Amy.  The film has taken over two and half years to make, he says.

Kapadia worked with the same Senna production team to hone and craft the film. Many of the techniques are the same too: there are no talking heads or a single voice over, but rather recorded interviews and archive audio tell Amy’s story seamlessly over a complex patchwork of footage. This looks effortless in the final film, but it left no room for shortcuts during production. The archive visuals had to carry the film alone.

The big challenge, however, was in the quality of the footage available. Much of the Senna archive was cinematic, shot by professional sports cameramen. In contrast, the material on which Amy is built comes from home movies, television news reports, YouTube clips, concert videos and mobile phone footage.

Almost none of it was filmed with the big screen in mind. “It was really hard taking this material and making it work theatrically,” says Kapadia. “People have no idea how hard it was.”

For a start, every shot had to be stabilised, reframed and colour corrected. Many had to be slowed down or speeded up. Nearly all had to be reformatted to suit the 1.85: 1 widescreen format that is common in cinemas.

One of the team behind Amy was colourist Paul Ensby of Company 3, who also worked on Senna. A key part of his job, he says, was to make the raw material acceptable for the big screen. That meant toning down and controlling “really vivid, garish video style colours” and “putting them into a film colour space”. He took the harsh edges off the TV footage, creating a ‘film curve’ around the sides to so it is not so bright and strongly lit. This helped create shape in the image, says Ensby.

He would also subtly try to focus the eye of the viewer on what they need to see, edging out non-essential material by reframing or darkening certain areas. “I’m trying to concentrate the eye on what we need to see,” he adds. “Otherwise it could be a tough watch because there is so much going on, like paparazzi flash bulbs.”

Kapadia also picks out key members of the team behind Amy, such as editor Chris King and online editor Jamie Leonard for their role in telling the Winehouse story effectively and making the film look so strong. The edit process took 20 months alone. “Every shot had to look as good as possible,” he says. Kapadia says that every image has been worked on, whether to reframe it or simply to bring out the eyes of the contributors, to make the film as cinematic as possible. “There’s a hell of a lot that has gone on in every single shot.”

He also cites the work of Matt Curtis, who was responsible for the graphics and titles. They play a subtle but crucial supporting role in the film. They are an almost continual presence, individually placed in different parts of the screen to explain who is speaking or to spell out the lyrics of Winehouse’s songs – which themselves assume a tragic resonance when set so strongly against the film.

And Kapadia is quick to emphasise the vital importance of sound in a documentary about a musical icon.  Like the visuals, much of the original audio was amateur – from phones or home video. The film was mixed at Twickenham Studios by Tim Cavagin and Dafyd Archard, while supervising sound editors Andy Shelley and Stephen Griffiths worked on the dialogue and sound design. “The sound is what elevates it,” says Kapadia.
Reflecting on process of bring Amy to the big screen, Amy, Kapadia adds: “It is the most technically challenging film I have ever done. 
On a technical level it is far more complicated than a drama.”

Details

Director
Asif Kapadia
Producer
James Gay-Rees
Exec producers
David Joseph, Adam Barker
Editor
Chris King
Co-producer
George Pank
Archive producer
Paul Bell
Original music
Antonio Pinto
Production manager
Raquel Alvarez
Post production super
Miranda Jones
Supervising sound editors
Andy Shelley, Stephen Griffiths
Colourist
Paul Ensby
Online editor
Jaime Leonard
Graphics and titles
Matt Curtis
Production co-ordinator
Alice Cady
Researcher
Jack Symes
Post production coordinator
Nadiya Luthra
Re-recording mixers
Tim Cavagin, Dafydd Archard
Sound mix technician
Max Walsh



Posted 22 July 2015 by Tim Dams

Televisual Bulldog Awards in pictures

Here’s a selection of photos from last week’s Televisual Bulldog Awards.

Held at The Hospital Club, the evening brought together the makers of some of the best productions of 2014 as voted for by Televisual readers, including Strictly Come Dancing, Gogglebox, Sherlock, Wimbledon,  Shaun the Sheep and The Paeodophile Hunter.

Pictured are the winners with their Bulldog trophies. The photos were taken by Jonathan Perugia (ww.jpfoto.com)



































Posted 30 June 2015 by Tim Dams

Which camera?

The camera market has been undergoing a process of constant transformation over the last few years.

The agents of change are technological innovations such as 4K, file-based media and the entry of new players who have challenged the more established manufacturers. 


To help navigate through the choices available, Televisual has produced a new report called Which Camera?.

The aim of the report, which was first published in the June issue of Televisual, is to point to the most readily used cameras in the major genres of production and to discuss why these models have risen to the top.

You can now read the full report in the Reports and Surveys section of televisual.com.

Which Camera?
will be the first in a series of reports in Televisual which will take a closer look at the technology which is most widely used in media production, with the spotlight falling on lenses and lighting in future issues.



Posted 29 June 2015 by Tim Dams

Tips from the top of television

Thoughts on the state of programme making in the UK today - from some of the winners of the Televisual Bulldog Awards 2015

The Televisual Bulldog Awards take place this month (25th June), with a celebration dinner for the winners at The Hospital Club.  Ahead of the Awards, Televisual canvassed some of the winners – who were unveiled in last month’s issue – for their thoughts on the state of programme making in the UK today. 

We wanted to hear from the UK’s leading producers and directors about the key trends in TV: what they feel audiences are responding to and will respond to in the coming year, and what programme makers should be thinking about if they want to succeed – and perhaps win a Bulldog next year.

Their responses throw up a wealth of ideas and suggestions. There’s an awareness that much of television is simply concerned with exploring well trodden “territories.” Against this, there are opportunities to stand out for real stories which compel and engage. These, of course, take time – and money – at a time when broadcaster budgets don’t always allow such a luxury.

Drama writers Jack and Harry Williams say the three fundamentals always stay the same: “It’s all about good stories, compelling characters and primal emotions that people can connect with.”

This is true in factual features too, where there is also a strong emphasis on authenticity. For Love Productions creative director Richard McKerrow, it’s vital “to place the emphasis on authentic experiences and individuals who are so captivated and passionate about what they are doing that they forget the cameras are there.”

Meanwhile, “joyous entertainment” is the theme for BBC controller of entertainment and events Katie Taylor, who says audiences are tiring of cynical entertainment “where the heavy hand of the producer is at play.” She uses the “authentic” word too, saying viewers like to see real endeavor paying off.

The challenges and opportunities thrown up by new technology also feature strongly in our award winners’ thinking. Wimbledon exec producer Paul Davies points out that multiplatform delivery is crucial to attract the modern consumer, particularly the younger audience. New streaming platforms are also affecting the way that drama is written. As dramas get more serialised, “the big end-of-episode hook is no longer reserved for your series finale,” point out Jack and Harry Williams. Factual producers, meanwhile, are aware they must compete against the complexities of long form drama for viewers attention. So, says 24 Hours in Police Custody exec producer Simon Ford, viewers expect documentary makers to tell their stories in sophisticated and intelligent ways.


Richard McKerrow
Creative director, Love Productions
The Great British Bake Off 
Factual features continues to be one of the most exciting genres on British TV and remains a world leader in terms of creativity in popular TV. Wherever it places the emphasis on authentic experiences and individuals who are so captivated and passionate about what they are doing that they forget the cameras are there, then this will continue to be the case.  As long as it’s about placing people within the exciting frame of a clear simple format in a new space or special access to an undiscovered world, then audiences will continue to engage.

Paul Davies

Executive Producer, BBC Sport
Wimbledon
There are very few sporting occasions that aren't available to watch live these days. Core TV coverage remains king, but you don't plan any major event without considering multi-platform opportunities. While it's crucial not to alienate your traditional audience, you ignore the demands of the modern consumer at your peril. Delivery to tablet, mobile and via social media has opened up new opportunities, expanding live audiences and appealing to a younger audience. Embrace this digital revolution but protect the core values of OB production, an art form where we must always keep our eye on the ball!

Simon Ford
Executive producer, The Garden
24 Hours in Police Custody
With so much factual television simply exploring (and re exploring) familiar "territories," the people who watch and love documentaries reward those films which dig out real stories that really compel and engage them. They absolutely expect programme makers like us to tell these stories in sophisticated and intelligent  ways. After all we are increasingly competing with the satisfying complexities of modern long form drama when we ask for the attention of viewers.

Graham Stuart
Exec producer, So Television

The Graham Norton Show
The Laws of Talk Shows were written on tablets of South Californian stone many years ago. They decreed that format was sacrosanct and hosts should not change. Then came a time when Jimmy Fallon turned the Tonight Show into an all-singing, all-dancing, game-playing party. And Jimmy Kimmel forgot Old Media and concentrated on the New. And Hollywood stars realised that sitting three on a red couch with a charming Irishman was actually fun. And David Letterman bowed out and James Corden swept into the Late Night universe. Now anything is possible. Welcome to Talk Year Zero. Good luck everyone.

Katie Taylor
BBC controller of entertainment
Strictly Come Dancing
Strictly shines through for audiences as it encapsulates joyous entertainment. Audiences are tiring of cynical entertainment where the heavy hand of the producer is at play. It’s a pure format that is enhanced every year, but without format gimmicks. It’s authentic, showing that real endeavour pays off and the performers genuinely care about what will come out of the Judges’ mouths. It’s inclusive and much like Britain's Got Talent, it’s become event TV that my 9 year old niece and my 80 year old Auntie will watch and engage with on different levels.

Henry Singer
Director, Sandpaper Films
Baby P: The Untold Story
The Baby P film was the first feature length documentary on prime time on BBC1 in many years.  It created a real sensation, and I think as a result of that BBC1 — and I think some of the other channels — will be looking for some really big films, whether they’re investigative or not.  Channels throw the term ‘reputational singles' around lot, but whereas in the past I think that was mostly talk, now there’s some real interest in them. But independent producers should see them as ‘reputational’ as well: budgets will remain very, very tight. 

Jack and Harry Williams
Writers
The Missing
Streaming and catch-up are becoming ever more common, and the way we watch TV is reflected in the content as dramas continue to get more serialised - the big end-of-episode hook is no longer reserved for your series finale. With bigger TVs and more international opportunities, the line between TV and film gets ever more blurred as high-end television drama now attracts movie stars and incredible crews. But the fundamentals remain the same – it’s all about good stories, compelling characters and primal emotions that people can connect with.




Posted 16 June 2015 by Tim Dams

ITV focuses back on the UK to bolster production arm

After focusing on the global market for the past year, ITV Studios is once again bolstering its presence in the UK production market.

ITV is reportedly close to announcing the acquisition of Twofour Group, the maker of The Jump and Educating Yorkshire.

ITV Studios has also raided leading comedy and entertainment producer Objective Productions, hiring a number of senior execs to launch entertainment outfit Cats on the Roof Media.

The deals would significantly boost ITV presence in factual, entertainment and comedy in the UK.

The Guardian reported that the Twofour deal could be announced this week. An ITV spokesperson declined to comment.

The Twofour Group turned over £87.5m according to Televisual’s 2014 Production 100 survey and comprises factual, entertainment, drama and comedy indies Twofour, Boom Wales, OSF, Indus, Mainstreet and Delightful Industries.

Meanwhile, ITV is setting up new indie Cats on the Roof with Objective co-founder Andrew O’Connor, plus Objective Productions managing director Paul Sandler, head of entertainment Matt Crook and creative director Adam Adler.
Cats on the Roof Media will act as an umbrella group within ITV Studios, overseeing a number of labels.

Gameface Productions will focus on gameshows and will be headed up by Adler as managing director.

Second Act Productions will produce scripted comedy to be run by a yet to be appointed executive.

Cats on the Roof Media will also oversee Crook Productions, an existing label run by Matt Crook. Its credits include Watch’s The Incredible Mr Goodwin.

The hope for ITV Studios is that Twofour and Cats on the Roof will create hits that ITV Studios Global Entertainment can exploit on the international market.
The deals also continue broadcaster ITV’s pivot towards production as part of its ongoing bid to diversify.

ITV’s UK production labels now include The Garden, Big Talk, So TV, 12 Yard, Potato and Possessed. Earlier this month, ITV took full control of Poldark producer Mammoth Screen, increasing its stake from 25% to 100%. 

ITV's US acquisitions include Gurney, High Noon, Thinkfactory, DiGa and Leftfield. In March it acquired The Voice producer Talpa.

The swathe of deals mean that ITV is now a significant player in the global TV production market.


Posted 10 June 2015 by Tim Dams

C4: protect 'Britain's Creative Greenhouse'

The title of Channel 4’s latest annual report is ‘Britain’s Creative Greenhouse.’

The phrase speaks volumes about how the broadcaster is positioning itself in 2015, a year when talk of a £1bn privatisation by the Conservative government has reared its head.

C4, argues chairman Lord Burns, “plays a special role as a creative greenhouse for TV, film and digital.” He describes C4 as a not for profit, publically owned company that makes a major contribution to the UK economy at zero cost to the tax payer.

Indeed, C4 remains a vital source of business for the UK’s successful indie sector, spending £430m on original programming and working with 338 suppliers last year. 207 were indie TV companies, 92 online suppliers and 92 film companies. 49 were new suppliers to C4. ITV by comparison, works with 89 indies and C5 some 59.

Meanwhile, C4 spent £169m on factual, up 10% following investment in series like The Jump, The Taste and Troy. Investment in entertainment also rose 10% to £109m, with new series of Gogglebox and 8 out of 10 Cats. Drama spend fell 13% to £100m following the cancellation of Shameless, but the channel says it plans record spend in both drama and comedy this year.

Some of the figures in the annual report are less impressive. Viewing to the main channel fell to its lowest-ever share at 5.9%. Back in 2005, it stood at 9.6%. However, the audience share of C4’s portfolio of six channels was more stable at 10.9% compared to 10.8% in 2005.

C4’s executive team were also handsomely rewarded, with chief executive David Abraham receiving £855k – almost double the £450k pay of BBC director general Tony Hall. Creative director Jay Hunt earned £581k.

Speaking at the launch of the C4 annual report today, chief executive David Abraham warned that privatisation would inevitably mean less money being spent on original content so that C4 could achieve a “20-25% margin, like ITV”.

Abraham added: “I don’t think you could have a C4-lite; you either have full Channel 4 or you have Channel 5.”

The implicit warning is that C4 would have to spend less on distinctive, not for profit shows like Dispatches and Channel 4 News if it was privatised.

The message to government seemed pretty clear: selling off Britain’s Creative Greenhouse would risk undermining the fragile ecosystem that helps grow the UK’s creative industries.







Posted 09 June 2015 by Tim Dams
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    Tim Dams is contributing editor of Televis...
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