“Producing drama for a global audience” drew a capacity audience to the Huckletree D2 workspace in Dublin in mid-September, with the panellists agreeing that local trumped global content in the genre.
Remaining “local” in terms of story, themes and talent was key. In fact, Paul Marquess – MD of PGM TV and a veteran of soaps including Brookside and Hollyoaks – argued that what worked, in his experience, was being “very local”.
Marquess said: “It is much harder to build a franchise with global appeal… but there is a huge appetite for quality English-speaking drama.” He called for more locally produced drama in Dublin, adding: “This is a cool place!”
Steve November – former ITV drama chief and now MD of new indie Further South Productions – argued that local storytelling will travel, and stressed the importance of drama and culture in society. “Local goes global,” he said.
Director Liz Gill (RTÉ drama Raw), who chaired the Republic of Ireland session, pointed out that the old model of the TV public service broadcaster as the main funder, transmitter and distributor of TV production has now been largely superseded by a profusion of outlets, such as streamers, cable companies and most recently the technology companies such as Apple.
November said it was now increasingly rare for a production to be fully funded by a broadcaster. He also warned of a “a ‘subprime’ bubble in deficit” and even of the possibility of a “South Sea Bubble” type collapse. “Big distributors will have big losses,” he added.
Nevertheless, the panel argued that making drama was possible without huge budgets. “Passion and authenticity” were the primary requirements, said Katie Holly, MD of television and movie producer Blinder Films (RTÉ comedy show The Savage Eye).
Holly added that an unintended consequence of Ireland becoming a popular location for TV production was the increased demand for and pressure on local resources, which had led to local crews and venues becoming more expensive.
She suggested using a levy on the over-the-top streamers as a means of investing in homegrown drama.
Rebecca O’Flanagan – co-MD of Treasure Entertainment and producer of Oscar-nominated Viva) – highlighted the viability of the Danish model. This concentrates on making local drama, with local talent, for their own audiences – but with meticulous and detailed long-term planning, which leads to international success.