West of England’s latest “Meet the commissioner” event took place this month at the Watershed in Bristol with Channel 4 Drama Commissioning Editor Gwawr Lloyd in conversation with Centre Chair Lynn Barlow.
Lloyd gave an in-depth look into the commissioning process, from the significance of producers – “one of the most important relationships a writer will have is with a producer” – to the time a show spends in development: “On average, [it’s] three to four years before it hits the screen.”
Channel 4’s remit was key, said Lloyd: “[Our shows] need to deliver on so many fronts… inclusivity, regionality, [they should] be revelatory, funny, have something to say… We do need to tick all those boxes, because that’s what makes us different from every other channel.”
But Lloyd emphasised that “[although] all our shows have to work incredibly hard, they shouldn’t feel like they’re working hard when you’re watching them”.
One project that exemplifies Channel 4’s remit is the forthcoming six-part drama The Gathering. “It’s got Liverpool on screen… It’s an intergenerational drama and it’s from the perspective of younger people.… It’s got such a diverse cast and a range of really relevant stories,” said Lloyd.
Regionality is a big focus for Channel 4 and especially for Lloyd. “Coming from Wales, I know how important it is to have access to training and opportunities that seem… incredibly difficult to get on if you don’t know the right people… but you’re still very, very talented and you want to stay where you live and tell stories about where you’re from.”
With this in mind, Lloyd helped to launch the Channel 4 TV Writers Scheme (West and South West) last year, having previously set up a similar scheme in Wales. Chris Yong, one of the alumni of the new scheme, said: “It felt very special to be in the room with this incredibly talented group of writers.”
Another participant, Sharon Clark, said that the scheme “[helped] us to break down a wall that we didn’t know how to get through…. Trying to get into television felt like every door was closed to me… but these guys drew out a really clear route map.”
Lloyd can’t yet confirm whether the scheme will run again, but says: “There are some great discussions going on.” She told the budding writers in the audience: “Watch this space!”