Sunday, 21 January 2018

Wales gets even darker.......

This is a nice puff for Welsh TV drama, linked to a promotional piece devoted to the start of "Requiem" which will be on BBC1 as from the beginning of February.  As usual, the theme is "dark drama" following on the success of "Hinterland" (which has now came to an end, reputedly because of funding difficulties).  Everything is relative, and a "successful" TV series does not necessarily make any money unless it is a real blockbuster......

But it has to be good that programmes are being made in Wales, and that Wales is being developed as a production hub with a pool of skilled cameramen, lighting and sound people,  and all the other folk who make up the teams needed for big projects.  Gethin Scourfield, who was one of the key people working on Hinterland for Fiction Factory, and who is now acting head of commissioning for S4C, refers to "... the buzz around Wales as a new centre for exciting and risk-taking television" --  and that's great.  The more confidence there is in Wales and further afield about the TV dramas coming out of the country, the more likely it becomes that the "Angel Mountain" project will come to fruition earlier rather than later.......

Forget Scandi: the natural home of dark drama is Wales now

Otherworldly landscapes, experienced TV crews and state support are giving the country a dramatic leg-up

Sarah Hughes

Sun 21 Jan 2018

Requiem, which starts early next month, tells the story of a young cellist (Lydia Wilson) who becomes drawn into a decades-old mystery involving a small Welsh community and a missing child. Its unusual blend of horror, crime drama and supernatural chills could only have been achieved by shooting in Wales, said its Australian creator, Kris Mrksa.

“I’d had the kernel of the idea for Requiem for years but no clear idea where it took place,” says Mrksa. “I knew the story needed to feel really removed from the urban world and we also thought about the north of Scotland or Cornwall, but the Welsh landscape was so inspirational and so otherworldly that I realised this was the only place this kind of story would really work.”

The show’s director, Mahalia Belo, agrees the Welsh countryside near Newport provided the ideal inspiration for Requiem’s meld of horror and psychological suspense. “This piece is quite a strange mixture of genres and there’s something about the landscape that really lends itself to that,” she says. “The energy felt right.”

Nor is the six-part drama the only series to be making the most of Wales’s combination of otherworldly landscapes and experienced on-the-ground production crews. Sky Atlantic’s historical epic Britannia used Gower’s Rhossili Bay and the Henrhyd Falls in Powys to stand in for Celtic Britain; the BBC sci-fi thriller Hard Sun was filmed in Anglesey; and Channel 4’s adoption drama Kiriwas filmed in Cardiff. Wolf Studios Wales, a vast new production studio in Cardiff Bay, is home to both Sky One’s new fantasy series A Discovery of Witches and the BBC adaptation of Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials.

The global success of series such as Hinterland/Y Gwyll, recorded in Welsh and English, has led to a growing interest in Welsh drama. The Port Talbot-set Bang was recently shortlisted for a Writer’s Guild award. The Eve Myles-starring Keeping Faith/Un Bore Mercher will air on BBC Wales this year, having already been shown on Welsh language channel S4C.

“I think there’s a real confidence here right now,” says Ed Talfan, co-creative director of Severn Screen, the production company behind Y Gwyll and Craith. “Hinterland has shown that you can think local and hit universal, which is really liberating. It proves that you can take a risk and the interest is there.”

The deal with Bad Wolf, the production company headed up by Jane Tranter and Julie Gardner, has seen the Welsh assembly lend the company £4m in exchange for increased investment in the country from television companies such as Sky, the BBC and HBO and the creation of Wolf Studios Wales.

“The idea is to take a proactive approach to attracting funding and investment in Wales, particularly in the creative sector,” says Ken Skates, the Welsh cabinet secretary for the economy and transport. “There’s a real opportunity to carve out a very distinctive creative industry in Wales and one which is recognised around the globe.”

Ron Jones, executive chairman of Welsh production company Tinopolis Group and chair of the Creative Industries Sector Panel, agrees. “The film and TV sector has grown strongly in Wales over the past five years, directly as a result of a determined Welsh government strategic decision,” he says. “Bad Wolf’s ten-year slate of productions can only strengthen the long-term sustainability of the industry.”

Tranter, the former BBC head of fiction, stresses that the Bad Wolf deal is intended to revitalise the Welsh economy as much as attract new talent, allowing Wolf Studios Wales to employ local people in everything from costume design to carpentry. “The aim is to make people aware that working in television is not simply about being in front of the camera or holding it,” she says. “We have the chance to put in place a long-term programme that isn’t just about attracting talent to Wales but also about developing skill sets from a young age that could benefit both the community and the local economy.”

It is important too that the buzz around Wales as a new centre for exciting and risk-taking television doesn’t obscure the success of smaller productions. “It’s great that we have these big deals coming in from outside Wales,” says Gethin Scourfield, acting commissioning editor for S4C drama. “But crucial too that home-grown talents can take advantage of the new interest in Wales as a production hub and continue to create interesting, innovative shows that promote Welsh culture and interests.”

The six-part series Requiem starts on BBC One on 2 February at 9pm.

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