This week a GUEST BLOG from BBC drama producer CERI MEYRICK.
CERI was producer of the first series of the BBC’s daytime series FATHER BROWN and talks her about how the first series got commissioned.
Ceri has since gone onto her current job as series producer on Eastenders. But FATHER BROWN is returning for a second series later this year.
Lead writer RACHEL FLOWERDAY has also written an excellent blog on her FATHER BROWN experience
Over to CERI:
How I Accidentally Produced Father Brown.
‘BBC Birmingham has been successfully launching new dramas alongside its regular “Doctors” slot for some years now.
Series by both new and experienced writers have been put out in afternoon slots – The Afternoon Play, Land Girls and 32 Brinkburn Street to name a few. All short on budget but huge in ambition.I was working on the BBC Writers Academy with John Yorke and we were looking for ways to develop Continuing Drama writers’ careers beyond our own big four shows: Holby, Casualty, EastEnders and Doctors.
After talking to Will Trotter at BBC Birmingham it was decided to pitch a detective show for the Daytime slot that we would then make out of BBC Birmingham. We also talked to BBC Worldwide, who were interested in putting some money into a show that would have appeal to an international audience. A British detective show appealed to them. Interested writers developed pitches and John took a few to Daytime Controller, Liam Keelan. Liam was worried about the risk of launching a brand new detective format. That’s when John remembered a documentary he’d heard on Radio 4 the night before on GK Chesterton – presented by Ann Widdecombe.
Father Brown, the series, was born.
I talked to writers Rachel Flowerday and Tahsin Guner and told them their lovingly crafted and excellent pitches were out the window and we were now making Father Brown. They both took it on the chin. I had not read any of the stories and neither had John or Tahsin at this point. Rachel had read a few of them I think, and was also (helpfully) a Catholic. We found the stories tricky for adaptation. In many of the stories Father Brown only appears briefly at the end, and he is often a passive observer of the action. Many stories often didn’t contain enough beats to fill what would be 45 minutes of television. Also, the locations ranged from Norfolk and Central London to Mexico and New York (not possible on a Daytime budget). What the stories did have was a beautifully rich central character, full of heart and soul, and some wonderful twists. So, we made a decision very early on to make the adaptations very loose and also to come up with our own stories too. Oh, and we decided to set it all in the Fifties (well after Chesterton’s death).
GK fans were not happy –
However, for the writers, this gave them the freedom to be themselves, and I think the end result really benefitted. Rachel and Tahsin came up with a series “bible” – much of which was invented over a pub lunch whilst on a mid-winter recce in the Cotswolds (where we filmed the show). This was given to the other chosen writers: Paul Matthew Thompson, Nicola Wilson, Jude Tindall, Lol Fletcher and Dan Muirden. There was no serial, and each writer could come up with their own idea for a Father Brown story if they chose. We ended up with five adaptations and five original stories.
Scripts completed in record time, (Is there any other kind of time in TV Production? ) we bagged a stupendous cast that included Mark Williams, Sorcha Cusack and Hugo Speer. We spent the wettest Summer on record making what ended up looking like a little piece of sunshine. It went out in January, and the audiences loved it.
The reviewers loved it –
Even AA Gill loved it –
Some of the GK fans even loved it –
Series Two got commissioned. Result!
Ceri Meyrick, Producer.’
Thank you very much Ceri!
A reminder that we are taking bookings for our next ‘Two Phils Weekend Screenwriting Course‘, with special guest BRADLEY QUIRK, in central London on the weekend of July 13-14 – your last chance for some creative re-energising before the long summer break!
PHIL GLADWIN has really been putting in a shift on the www.thetwophils.co.uk website. Thank you Phil!
And as you’ll see, it has lots of additional testimonials, video testimonials, photos, newsletters and information about our very well-reviewed weekend screenwriting courses…
Until next week,
All the best
May 31st 2013