When Andy Harries was planning what became drama specialist Left Bank Pictures, around a decade ago, experienced TV executives told him that he was backing the wrong horse. They said that drama – expensive, time-consuming and hard to get right – was in decline. Reality shows were the future.
Today, drama is booming as never before and, by some reckonings, Left Bank is responsible for a fifth of all the TV drama produced in the UK.
In February of this year, Netflix won its first Oscar and its first Bafta. Surprisingly, the awards were not for any of its high-profile drama series, but for two documentaries. The Academy Award went to The White Helmets, a film about a group of Syria Civil Defence volunteer rescue workers. The Bafta winner was 13th, Ava DuVernay’s film about race in the US criminal justice system.
When the history of TV in the early 21st Century is written, The Crown, Netflix’s ravishing period drama recounting the reign of Elizabeth II, is likely to be regarded as a watershed moment.
The reasoning might go something like this: The Crown was the first genuinely cinematic, long-form TV show that audiences could watch how and when they wanted to, and it gave crucial impetus to Netflix’s international ambitions. Critics loved it and awards juries kept voting for the drama.
Journalist Andrew Billen was joined by the team behind Netflix's award-winning series The Crown to discuss how they brought the story of Queen Elizabeth II's coronation to the streaming service.
Billen was joined by writer Peter Morgan, actor Alex Jennings who plays the Duke of Windsor, Production Designer Martin Childs, Executive Producer Suzanne Mackie and Director and Executive Producer Philip Martin.
This is according to the screenwriter behind The Crown, Peter Morgan, whose lavish retelling of the early years of the reign of Elizabeth II, commissioned by Netflix, has won widespread acclaim.
Morgan, speaking at an RTS early evening event, The Crown: Deconstructing The Coronation, predicted a paradigm shift as streaming, rather than broadcasting becomes the norm.
“It really isn’t like television anymore. It’s absolutely overwhelming. It’s partly the way in which we make it is not like television.
For scripted projects such as dramas and comedies, an editor will have a script to work to, choosing the best combination of shots to tell the story.
“The script is like a blueprint,” explains The Crown editor Una Ni Dhonghaile,
A documentary is a rather different beast. “You may be faced with 400 hours of footage shot across many years in a sprawling way. The people making the film don't know what's going to happen next,” says editor Ben Stark whose credits include Dispatches, Baby P: The Untold Story and 9/11: The Falling Man.
Is Netflix set on “world domination”? That was one of the themes in this intriguing encounter between the company’s Chief Content Officer, Ted Sarandos, and Francine Stock, presenter of Radio 4’s The Film Programme. Since a huge expansion across the globe in January, only China, North Korea, Crimea and Syria remain outside the streaming service’s worldwide reach.
Hooten and the Lady – Sky: Friday September 18 at 9pm
This big-budget adventure drama follows the escapades of an unlikely duo – maverick adventurer Hooten (Michael Landes) and Lady Alexandra Lindo-Parker (Ophelia Lovibond), a refined British Museum historian. They travel the globe searching for lost relics, and get into numerous scrapes along the way. The first episode sees the pair hunting the lost city of gold – El Dorado, and hints dropped by Sky suggest further episodes will be set in Egypt and the Himalayas.
When the latest project from multiple Oscar nominees Peter Morgan (The Queen) and Stephen Daldry (The Reader) reaches audiences in November, it won’t be in cinemas.
Morgan has created and written The Crown, an extended biopic on the life of Queen Elizabeth II. Daldry is the executive producer and has directed an episode of the show. The series begins with Elizabeth’s marriage in 1947 and aims to recount the story of her life until the present day.