Nicola Shindler wants her new production company to bring unheard voices to TV – and to cut down on her chocolate intake.
Almost every minute of every day used to be very different. Now, what I’m doing might still vary all the time, but each day starts pretty much the same as they have done since last March: heading to my home office after wrangling the kids to start their home schooling.
During lockdown, I have found it important to sit at my desk to start the day, even though I could work anywhere. Bed feels tempting but I’ve resisted so far. Luckily, my office is next to the kitchen, so I can supervise the family without moving and, occasionally, shout out orders and try to stop the kids from killing each other during lunchtime.
I’m still getting used to the new normal. Being next to the kitchen makes restricting my chocolate intake harder than usual. I spend a lot of time trying not to eat all day.
But the pandemic has made the world smaller in many useful ways. Normally, I would be on the Manchester to London train, and back, at least once a week, which was tough.
But the world of Zoom/Google/ Hangout/Teams means that I can meet anyone anywhere in the country (and the world), without the need to leave my own office. Which is really useful – as well as, at times, being hugely frustrating.
I never knew how much I’d miss the “in-person” chit-chat around the meeting. This is where so many ideas were made better or originated.
This year has been a real new start for me, even if the pandemic hasn’t let me move far. I have launched my new company, Quay Street Productions, partnering with ITV Studios. It’s been full-on and exciting talking about new ideas and developments with my new team.
This is in addition to my continuing work of executive producing Ridley Road, No Return, Traces season two and Stay Close, as well as Finding Alice and It’s a Sin, which have just gone to air. No day has been the same, which is challenging and fun. Never boring.
In between having dozens more phone calls than pre-pandemic and working on the usual production jobs – looking at design photos, location photos, costume ideas, watching audition tapes, having conversations about scripts, watching edits, listening to sound edits and watching rushes – I’ve been having numerous meetings about Quay Street and the direction of my development slate.
My new development team officially starts shortly, but they are already sparking new ideas. Working with my new book scout, I have a lot of reading material alongside new scripts. It’s vital to find space to read. I carve out time each day to read as much as possible.
I’ve always tried to put the writer at the centre of the process to bring their story to the screen, and one of my ambitions at Quay Street is to work with brilliant new and established writers on their best work.
There is a wealth of exciting and entertaining stories to tell, especially stories that are currently not represented on screen. I have a responsibility to seek out and work with voices that have been unheard, given less opportunity or just aren’t on screen.
I want to make sure that those voices are given a platform and, ultimately, tell stories that are going to stand out from what’s already on television. And, of course, be entertaining, fun, funny and watchable.
While working at home, I’ve found that the day never really ends. Making tea and talking to the family merges into emails and more reading. When the office is an extension of the kitchen, the two worlds are going to stay very close!
Nicola Shindler OBE is the award-winning drama producer behind hit series The Stranger, Years and Years, Happy Valley and Queer as Folk. She recently set up Quay Street Productions.