The Commercials 30 report
Jon Creamer introduces Televisual's exclusive Commercials 30 survey, reporting on a commercials production sector in a state of flux
The art of studio directing
Studio directing is all about planning, teamwork and keeping a cool, clear head when things don’t go as expected. David Wood reports
Life through the lens
Cameras can now accommodate a much wider range of lenses, allowing directors and DoPs to dramatically alter the look and quality of their programme images. Adrian Pennington reports on the best options
Ex-RDF founder David Frank has big ambitions for his new company Dial Square 86. He talks to Tim Dams
Boom time for film post
The government's film tax relief is attracting a growing number of international features to the UK, a fact which hasn't gone unnoticed by the post industry. David Wood reports on the post house features boom.
21 Pioneer Productions
md Stuart Carter head of development Jeremy Dear head of production Kirsty McLure staff 100 turnover £15m commissions 30 hrs commissioned 50hrs tx’d 30 key shows The Unsinkable Titanic (C4) How the Earth was Made (History US) Journey to the Edge of the Universe (Nat Geo US)
genre fact, fact ent, drama
Factual producer Pioneer is best known for big budget, cg driven factual shows like Extraordinary Animals in the Womb, Catastrophe and Journey to the Edge of the Universe. But recently it’s been busy branching out: its acclaimed C4 polemic – Christianity: A History aired in January; it’s moving into drama, having struck a development deal last year with Fremantle; and it’s built up a good sideline in fast turnaround docs like Snowstorm: Britain’s Big Freeze for C4. Unusually for a British indie, says md Stuart Carter, some 80-90% of its £15m income comes from the US market.
22 Leopard Films
ceo James Burstall head of creative Jenny Coyle md Susie Field staff 100
turnover £12m commissions 20 hrs commissioned 250 hrs tx’d 20
key shows Missing (BBC1) War On Knives (Sky1) An Englishman In New York (ITV1) genre ent, fact, fact ent, drama
A key highlight for Leopard Films since the last Production 100 was shooting An Englishman in New York starring John Hurt for ITV last summer. The company also won its first drama series commission for Missing starring Pauline Quirke. Later in the year it won a series for US channel HGTV for design show Dear Genevieve, which has just been recommissioned. “It’s been a tough year for everybody and we’ve had to work hard and tread carefully but luckily we didn’t have to let anyone go,” says ceo James Burstall. Leopard Films is developing its fact ent, entertainment and drama slate and increasing its development team. “We’re also brainstorming and developing ideas for these genres. Our priorities are BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Five and Sky. We just had our first commission from Sky too, which is an interactive project,” says Burstall. “Branded content is also a focus for the company as channels are now looking to work more in collaboration with advertising brands.”
23 Left Bank Pictures
chief executive Andy Harries md Marigo Kehoe executive producer Francis Hopkinson staff 12 turnover £10.6m
commissions 5 hrs commissioned 23.5
hrs tx’d 5 key shows Wallander (BBC1) Father and Son (ITV1) School of Comedy (E4) genre drama
Left Bank has raced up the Production 100 rankings since it was launched just two years ago by former ITV Productions' controller of drama, comedy and film Andy Harries. Despite the industry slowdown in drama commissioning, Left Bank md Marigo Kehoe says the indie is busy with an assortment of drama series, following the huge success of its first TV commission Wallander. It’s working on series two of Wallander and a “big drama” for Sky called Strike Back. Left Bank is also putting the finishing touches to a six-part comedy-drama series called Married, Single, Other for ITV. Kehoe recognises that much of Left Bank’s success is down to Harries, whose credits include Oscar-winning film The Queen, The Royle Family, Cold Feet, Cracker and Prime Suspect. “People recognise you can deliver and Andy has fantastic talent relationships.”
Other upcoming Left Bank projects include a three-part Aurelio Zen series for BBC1, an Inspector Banks special for ITV1 and a 6x30-minute comedy sketch show for E4 called School of Comedy.
24 Zig Zag
md Danny Fenton coo Kevin Utton
staff 20 turnover £10.5m profit £1.25m
commissions 20 hrs commissioned 82
hrs tx’d 64 key shows The Girl with Eight Limbs (C4) Relentless (C4) Super Agents (BBC2) genre ent, fact, fact ent, sport
Zig Zag md Danny Fenton says casting the net far and wide is still the philosophy of the indie. “In the UK and US, we have 40 active relationships. I see TV as a game of odds. If there are a thousand indies in the UK pitching to Channel 4, you’re on a 1,000-1 chance. You can halve that for Five. If you take that scale to ESPN…” where Zig Zag has just landed a 30-hour order, then the odds drop further. ESPN is, of course, a US broadcaster, and it’s to the US that Zig Zag increasingly looks, with a third of its output now made for the States. “In the UK there are probably six to 10 channels that do original programming. In America there are 70 so the opportunities are so much bigger.” Fenton says the indie has a “mixed economy,” with one-offs alongside series. “The reason we’re doing quite well at the moment is because we can be flexible. We don’t have a parent company saying ‘you can’t make that show for that price.’”
25 Rondo Media
chief exec Gareth Williams chairman Robin Evans staff 44 turnover £10.3m
commissions 18 hrs commissioned 124
hrs tx’d 119 key shows Rownd a Rownd (S4C) 2009 Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod (S4C) Sgorio (S4C)
genre ent, fact ent, drama, sport, fact
With support from Skillset and Pact’s talent attraction scheme earlier this year, Flog It!, Bargain Hunt and Wanted Down Under exec producer Tom Ware joined Rondo, and the company is now developing programming it hopes will be picked up by network broadcasters. “Our challenge is to achieve network commissions and having Tom on board is a huge advantage. The aim is to create high volume, returnable series to match what we have at the moment,” says chief exec Gareth Williams. “We’re developing new drama series in and outside of Wales, and have just completed a pilot for a youth drama with a co-pro partner.”
26 Silver River
head girl Daisy Goodwin creative director Dan Adamson head of production Sam Lawrence staff 15 turnover £10.2 commissions 12 hrs commissioned 54 hrs tx’d 54 key shows Grow Your Own Drugs (BBC) The Supersizers Go (BBC) Pulling (BBC) genre ent, drama, fact, fact ent
Silver River has a string of successful productions under its belt, including BBC2’s The Supersizers Go and cancelled BBC3 comedy Pulling. It is currently in production on the second series of Grow Your Own Drugs for BBC2, Kevin’s Grand Tour for C4 and a 60-minute one-off doc called You Pay Our Benefits. “We haven’t been affected to any great extent” by the recession says head of finance Lee Tucker, but 2009 hasn’t all been good news for the company, which lost its creative director Alan Brown to Diverse back in June. Brown joined in February last year and produced one the indie’s key series, Grow Your Own Drugs and its Sky One commission Oops TV.
ceo Carl Hall director of production Danny Tipping commercial director Peter Pas staff 41 turnover £9.3m profit £517k
commissions 7 hrs commissioned 24.5
hrs tx’d 15 key shows Baby Planet (Animal Planet Int) Mystery Files (NGCI) Wild Russia (API) genre fact, kids
Distribution outfit Parthenon has made increasing inroads into programme production in recent years. One of the highlights of last year was Mystery Files, a 13-part drama reconstruction series for Nat Geo. “We’ve previously done a lot of singles or short run series but we’ve moved into high end drama reconstruction series alongside the one-hour history specials,” says director of production Danny Tipping. New appointments this year include former Darlow Smithson head of docs Richard Sattin who joined as series producer. The company is now looking to increase its UK development team to focus on the UK market.
28 Mammoth Screen
joint mds Michele Buck, Damien Timmer
creative director Rebecca Keane director of production Jon Williams head of development Luke Franklin staff 7 turnover £8.22m profit £122k commissions 2 hrs commissioned 4.5 hrs tx’d 6 key shows Bonekickers (BBC1) Lost in Austen (ITV) Wuthering Heights (ITV) genre drama, fact, fact ent
Set up two years ago by former ITV drama chiefs Damien Timmer and Michele Buck, Mammoth Screen recently picked up its first BBC4 commission, Margot. “We’ve also enjoyed Lost in Austen’s success on DVD and internationally,” says director of production Jon Williams. With drama orders down at most broadcasters, Mammoth Screen is diversifying into other areas including factual. “The economic downturn has impacted on budgets domestically and internationally and makes us work harder to maintain high production values on screen,” says Williams.
29 Love Productions
creative directors Richard McKerrow, Anna Beattie md Andrew Brann staff 10
turnover £7.7m commissions 9
hrs commissioned 30 hrs tx’d 30
key shows Boys and Girls Alone (c4) Young Mum’s Mansion - the Dads Arrive (BBC3) My Life as an Animal (BBC3)
genre ent, fact, fact ent
Love Productions has established itself as the go-to indie for programmes about Britain’s troubled youth. It’s an important supplier to BBC3 of shows aimed squarely at and about its 16-24 audience, including Young Mum’s Mansion, Britain’s Missing Top Model and The Baby Borrowers. This year Love also made waves - and courted controversy - with C4’s Boys and Girls Alone. “One challenge for us going forward will be the ability to continue to make shows about important issues involving children and giving them a voice in an increasingly controlling regulatory environment,” says md Andrew Brann. Meanwhile, Love has made inroads into the US with The Baby Borrowers USA for NBC. Looking ahead, Love Productions hopes to expand the range of channels it works for. “We also hope to build on the success of our first BBC1 commission Famous, Rich and Homeless,” says Brann.
30 Greenlit Rights
md Jill Green exec producer Jo Wright producer Eve Gutierrez staff 6 turnover £7.6m commissions 3 hrs commissioned 12.5 hrs tx’d 7.5 key shows Foyle’s War series 7 (ITV1) Collision (ITV1) Caught in a Trap (ITV1) genre drama
Founded in 1998, Greenlit Rights is now owned by international production and rights management company Target Entertainment Group. One of this year’s highlights was delivering five-part primetime drama Collision. The series will be stripped across the ITV primetime schedule in November. “Getting a first commission – Vexed - from BBC comedy and the production of three more episodes of ITV drama Foyle’s War were other highs,” says md Jill Green.
Plans include pushing into the US market, where there is early interest in a format version of Collision. “We’d like to develop a big returnable 9pm series too. Co-productions and co-financing are also likely to become a bigger part of Greenlit’s strategy,” adds Green.