Creatives speaking: Michele Buck on the changing face of drama production

After a lengthy stint at UK broadcaster ITV, Buck and fellow former ITV production chief Damien Timmer are running indie drama producer Mammoth Screen. Granada International took a 25% stake in the company in July.

Broadcasters are under pressure, what’s the impact on drama?
Commissioners don’t give as much as they used to but the audience expectation is still of quality and drama still gets compared to film. It gets harder and harder to do. Commissioners drive prices down but TV doesn’t get cheaper to make; crews are being pushed to the max and to push any harder could be dangerous. We’re on the edge of what we can do.

So how does pressure on budgets effect what you do?
When we make something that doesn’t work, or isn’t quite right, in the old days we just reshot it. But with tight budgets what you shoot is what you get.

What effect has the internet had on drama production?
It means a different type of drama, a 360 degree approach. We ask ‘will it have an online extension, will it have a companion piece?’ Bone Kickers will have lots of bolt-on goodies, there’s a load of factual information in there that has a place outside of TV.

What are you working on now?
We have our first commission for ITV, 4x1hrs Lost in Austen. It’s about a modern -day girl who finds herself in Pride and Prejudice. It’s a traditional classic with a twist. We’re also doing a coproduction with Monastic [the production company set up by Life on Mars creators Matthew Graham and Ashley Pharoah] called Bone Kickers, a 6x1hrs series.

So, are you enjoying life as an indie?
It has allowed us to open up to other broadcasters, it’s better for us to be an indie. Often you develop something and it doesn’t go the way you want. Now what we develop can always go to the right home.

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