On demand is in demand, finds Big Talk Chief Executive Kenton Allen

On demand is in demand, finds Big Talk Chief Executive Kenton Allen

Wednesday, 18th October 2017
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Kenton Allen chills in Malibu and trades gossip at the RTS Cambridge Convention

To quote the Pointer Sisters, “I’m so excited. And I just can’t hide it.” This is not just because I’m having a pre-Emmy Sunday brunch with my long-time mentor and general spirit guide, Andy Harries.

Or because my best friend and business partner, Matthew Justice, is on his way from LAX to meet us at Soho House, Malibu, where we plan to spend the afternoon drinking rosé and staring at Cindy Crawford and her mates.

It is because there has never been a better time to be a British producer in Los Angeles. I’ve been doing this trip for more than 25 years. It can be one of the most depressing experiences of your professional life.

My most memorable depressive visit was six years ago. Before I’d even got out of bed, I’d had a week’s worth of meetings cancelled and two UK series decommissioned.

But, since the arrival of the SVoD players, LA trips have become incredibly dynamic and fast-moving.

As we all know, through gritted teeth, Mr Harries blazed a trail for us all with the game-changing sale of The Crown to Netflix. That trail is now white hot. This time in LA, we announce the acquisition of a series of excellent books, Lockwood and Co.

Within an hour of Deadline reporting this – yes, that’s correct, dear reader, within 60 of your British minutes – Netflix, Amazon et al are in touch, requesting meetings. WTF? as our young Big Talk runners would say.

Before Los Angeles, I go to the equally glam RTS Convention in Cambridge for the first time. Again, WTF? Why has it taken me 30-plus years to get here?

Highlights include a brilliant/­terrifying opening session on future tech from the bloke who started Wired magazine, and a fascinating and hilarious panel, chaired expertly by Peter Fincham, about the real story behind The Grand Tour (Andy Wilman) and The Crown (yep, him again).

All this and a dinner in the splendid setting of King’s College, with equally splendid company and tons of scurrilous gossip not fit for publication.

A most inspiring, invigorating and convivial time spent with 300 of your closest colleagues from across the industry. I’ll definitely be back if Theresa Wise will have me.

I’m often asked what the difference is between UK and US comedy. To paraphrase a quote from Eric Idle, the answer is about $3m an episode. But the truth is that the transatlantic gap in all scripted programming is rapidly closing.

This is excellent news for the financially challenged British sitcom. Why 30-minute scripted comedy has never attracted the same tariff as drama has been the subject of never-ending and heated debate at Big Talk Towers over the years.

Thanks to the high-end tax credit and our US chums, it’s now possible – with the right mix of talent and broadcaster – to co-produce comedy with US partners.

Back, our newest show from the comedy holy trinity of Simon Blackwell, David Mitchell and Robert Webb, is a fine example. Channel 4 has backed us from the very beginning and the support of new head of comedy Fiona McDermott has been phenomenal.

Thanks to Sundance, we’ve managed to produce the show and… wait for it… not lose any money. WTF?!

Back in LA, the highlight of our trip is time spent in the company of a genuine genius. There’s a prize if you can guess who he is.* I grew up watching his work on a classic cop show from the 1970s.

He created one of the seminal TV shows of the 1980s. He’s a multi-award-winning writer, producer and director.

He is responsible for four of the finest movies ever made, one of which includes the perfect heist sequence, which is jaw dropping in its complexity, ferocity and sheer technical achievement.

Now, he’s working with a bloke from Birmingham and his mate from Croydon on our long-gestating SAS: The Originals project. As I said, I’m so excited.

Kenton Allen is CEO of Big Talk ­Productions. 

*Answers to info@bigtalkproductions.com