I am lucky enough to be sponsored on the Media Parents Back to Work Scheme by ITV Drama (thank you ITV and I hope I can repay your faith!) writes Drama PM Geoff Dibben.
Before my career break, I worked for many years as an Assistant Director and then Production Manager on films such as ‘The Dark Knight’ and ‘War Horse’ so at Edinburgh TV Festival, I focussed on things that were relevant to my area of expertise, scripted drama production.
Apprehension was the overriding feeling as I walked into the festival, having never been to anything similar previously. I had always been too busy working or trying to rest between projects, so it is easy to miss such events. But the magic of the Back to Work Whatsapp group meant I quickly met the rest of the cohort – a very impressive group – then straight in to sessions at the festival.
The first session was the BBC 1 ‘Meet the Controllers’ session with Charlotte Moore who discussed the future of the channel. Listening to commissioners and controllers actively encouraging programme makers to come to them with interesting, challenging ideas was a useful aspect of the festival. I also found it really interesting to hear Charlotte state the BBC is looking to “… do the shows that no one has dare to, to take risks” as well as a push on diversity, and a desire to engage with a younger audience such as bringing ‘Peaky Blinders’ to BBC 1.
After our Media Parents Back to Work networking training it was more from channel controllers, in this case Steve North, Hilary Rosen and Richard Watsham at UKTV. Again, a very impressive session hearing about UKTV’s tremendous ambition; especially with their expansion into high-end original TV drama with ‘Flack’, starring Anna Paquin. They have the desire to create content comparable to the likes of BBC and ITV, providing producers and talent with ‘…opportunities they may not get elsewhere’.
At every spare moment I was trying to network with anyone who would listen. I met lots of interesting and supportive people such as Kerry Greenhill from Silver Print and Jason Simms from Sky Vision to name but few. It was gratifying that everyone I spoke to was positive about me and my return, especially gratifying after such a long time out.
The following day I watched Kevin Lygo from ITV and his session. An interesting hour listening to his approach to commissioning broad and impactful TV drama which seems to have paid off with the channel producing the most watched and the second most watched TV dramas with ‘Liar’ and ‘Little Boy Blue’ in 2017.
One thing I was surprised to hear from Kevin was how hard ITV were finding it to get Producers and Writers to create 1 or 2 hour closed end dramas – ‘Where’s the next Lewis, the next Morse?’ he asked – programmes that have defined ITV drama over the past decades. That is definitely a note I will keep for future reference.
One of the sessions that resonated most with me was listening to Lennie James and Sky Vision’s ‘Save Me’ team talking about how the production (about a child kidnapped by paedophiles) got off the ground, and how they developed and realised the project’s vision – it took me back a few years, listening to them talking about pulling the pieces of the jigsaw of production together. This only urged me on more to realise my aims within the industry – to return to Production Management and one day Produce.
Hard to admit, but I have been out of scripted drama production for eight years and I am still sure I took the right decision to spend time at home with my family rather than months and months away on location. But it is hard being away from TV drama and keeping connected to it. My visit to the Edinburgh TV festival has without doubt confirmed in my mind this is the right way forward for me and I am raring to go…