BLOG: On the cusp of forging Liverpool’s new TV golden era
In the wake of the news that Liverpool productions getting recognition in a number of award nomination categories, Liverpool Film Office’s Executive Producer and Fund Advisor, Chris Moll, reflects on how the city’s filming credentials are making Liverpool one of the most sought-after filming destinations around.
The prestigious Rose D’Or and Royal Television Society North award nominations have been announced and there’s much to celebrate for the recent prime-time TV dramas Time and Help – which are both set in Liverpool – each of which received investment through Liverpool Film Office’s Production Fund.
Both productions are up for Best Drama at the 60th annual Rose D’Or alongside such acclaimed series as Bridgerton, Mare of EastTown and Squid Game, whilst over at the RTS, Time, its writer Jimmy McGovern and lead actor Sean Bean all receive ‘Best’ nods.
The awards recognition that is starting to be bestowed only confirms what the 11.6 million people who tuned into Time (BBC One) and the 3 million who have so far watched Help (Channel 4) already knew – that Liverpool makes TV drama like nowhere else – and could genuinely be on the cusp of a golden era to rival that of the 1980’s when Boys From The Blackstuff,Grange Hill, Brookside and Bread had people from all walks of life glued to their TV sets.
And it’s not just audiences in the UK that are embracing our stories. TV drama is becoming one of the city’s key cultural exports. Time has already been sold to broadcasters in the US, Canada, Latin America, France, Spain, Russia, Africa and Australasia amongst other. Help has just signed a deal for US and Canada, with more territories to follow.
Much of the credit for this flowering sector must go to the incomparable Jimmy McGovern who, even in his early 70s, continues to bring forward strong, original stories that bubble over with truth, compassion and humanity that feels representative of so much of the best work produced in the city. Essential and relevant, it would be a foolish gambler who’d bet against Jimmy receiving his 16th BAFTA nomination for Time when March 2022 rolls around.
But there are also new local writers following in Jimmy’s oversized footsteps and those of Bleasdale, Russell and Cottrell-Boyce.
Ex-police officer Tony Schumacher is a name that you’ll soon be hearing a lot of when his debut five-part drama The Responder airs on BBC One early in the New Year. It’s also been supported by our Production Fund and stars a Martin Freeman that I promise you’ve never seen (or heard) before. The Respondermixes drama and black comedy to heart breaking effect as Tony tackles the stresses of modern policing in the city in a way that you couldn’t imagine being set anywhere else, but here in Liverpool. Hopefully, a second series beckons.
Looking a little bit further into the future, keep an eye out for some of the locally set projects that we supported earlier this year through our Development Fund from writers including Gavin Scott Whitfield, Helen Walsh, Nick Saltrese, Helen Blakeman, Joe Ainsworth, Lizzie Nunnery and Daniel Fitzsimmons. Many of these are now with broadcast commissioning editors and are being packaged for financing & production.
We’re also focussed on enabling more diverse, grassroots voices – be they bubbling up in the theatre, podcasting, stand-up comedy and spoken word – and hope to share some exciting news about an upcoming TV new writers programme that we’ll be partnering with a broadcaster on early in 2022.
It is, of course, always risky to start talking of golden ages in the highly competitive and unpredictable world of TV and film. The ratio of projects that get developed to those that get made to those that are actually successful is… well… another one for that foolish gambler!
But this time there really does seem to be something in the air. The cultural confidence and momentum that Time, Help and soon The Responder have helped to engender, the positive interventions of our Development and Production Funds (the latter recently recapitalised to allow a further three to four investments over the next 12 months), and the amazing achievement of The Depot evolving from a spade in the ground to fully-functioning 2 x 20,000 square foot studios in less than seven months are all indicative of what Liverpool does best. Making things happen. In its own inimitable way.