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BBC Worldwide Showcase: big drama in Liverpool

Scripted-logo-460_2Buyers will get a first look at some of 2017’s most-anticipated dramas at BBC Worldwide Showcase including first looks at the new Top of the Lake, starring Nicole Kidman, Jimmy McGovern’s Broken, and Peter Moffat’s period drama The Last Post.

top of the lake china girlMisha Glenny’s McMafia will also be on show while White Gold, reuniting several of The Inbetweeners team, leads out the comedy offering.

“We’re conscious it’s our most important time of year with 700 buyers there,” BBC Worldwide drama boss Liam Keelan (left) says. “It has changed, as well as a huge amount of sales activity we’re concurrently having meetings with all of the major platforms and broadcasters about upcoming stuff.”

Liam KeelanKeelan will be joined by fellow Liverpudlian Jimmy McGovern as part of the drama events and screenings at Showcase. The writer and producer will be talking to buyers about Broken (top), his new series.

It has Sean Bean playing father Kerrigan, a Catholic priest presiding over an urban parish in northern England. “It’s a state of the nation piece,” Keelan says. “It’s centred around a priest and his parish, and shows the stresses and strains in that precint and has that story of the week element buyers are really looking for.” Anna Friel (Marcella) also stars and is rumoured to be showing up in Liverpool.

“It’s political and deals with homophobia, racism and the state of the NHS in the country, but also has a universality.”

But does this kind of gritty UK drama sell internationally? “It’s not Sherlock and it’s never going to be, but [McGovern’s] previous shows such as The Accused have done well.”brokenWith A-lister Nicole Kidman joining Elisabeth Moss in the second instalment of Top of the Lake, titled China Girl, it will also be a major launch in Liverpool.

The drama moves from New Zealand to Sydney, Australia, for the new run, and sees Moss investigating a murder after a girl’s body is washed up on Bondi Beach. There still isn’t a full episode for buyers, but some early footage.

the last postAs well as distributing, the first series sold into 200 territories. Worldwide is a coproduction partner, teaming with US partners Sundance and Hulu, Foxtel in Australia and Arte in France. See-Saw Films is the prodco.

The roster of partners is testament to how high-end drama has evolved, requiring several parties to cover the increasing costs of the biggest projects. Keelan says a lot of discussion about funding will take place in Liverpool.

“There’s a lot more about coproduction and different ways of funding,” he says. “For us there are different ways a project can get made, we could partner with BBC Studios, the indies we have stakes in, Lookout Point.”

Returning series include second runs of family drama Doctor Foster and detective series Unforgotten, and a new season of The Durrells, the latest adaptation of the Gerald Durrell autobiography series.

With the BBC known for period drama, there will also be a focus on The Last Post (above left), the Bonafide Films drama set in 1960s Yemen from Criminal Justice writer Peter Moffat and based upon his early life.

McMafiaIn terms of the programming cycle, sales teams will have ratings from last autumn’s launches as well as shows that went out over Christmas. Buyers also want to know about upcoming shows – last year War and Peace was a Showcase preview – and one of the most anticipated for later this year is McMafia, the BBC-AMC drama about organised crime.

“We can start to talk about shows for this autumn,” Keelan says. “We have a big session on McMafia, which has been billed ‘the British Godfather’, and will have some clips for buyers.”

paulaPact’s recent export figures underlined the increased demand for UK drama. The emergence of the digital platforms has impacted the whole sector in this respect Keelan says. “If you go back a few years it could be difficult getting a [UK-originated] show away in the US,” he says. “The SVOD players have changed the appetite for UK drama – there are few shows that we think of as difficult for the US nowadays.”

While Top of the Lake, Broken and McMafia have the big-name talent and auspices to generate buyer interest, Keelan says Paula (left), from Conor McPherson, could be one to watch. “Conor is a real up and comer and, I think, on the cusp of something big.” he says.

The BBC and Cuba Pictures psychological thriller follows a woman who becomes involved with an obsessive man after a one-night stand. “Three-parters can be difficult to get away internationally, but this could sell as a feature, particularly in Europe where it could be an event show,” Keelan says.

The comedy launch for Showcase is White Gold (below), which has several of The Inbetweeners team back together. The creator of that hit comedy, Damon Beesley, and two of its stars, Joe Thomas and James Buckley, reunite for the series, which follows a group of double glazing salesmen in 1980s UK.

white goldAgain the SVOD players are spurring international demand.

“Comedy is not as big as drama as a genre but there is a shift and shows like Transparent on Amazon have had an effect,” Keelan says. “And there are platforms like Seeso from NBC – there’s definitely an international market for [UK] comedy.”

In the run-up to Showcase TBI will be taking an in-depth look at the drama, formats, factual and kids offerings for buyers in Liverpool. Tomorrow, TBI speaks to Mark Reynolds about this year’s factual line-up.

Paul Dempsey on Showcase

Henrietta Hurford-Jones on Showcase for kids

Tracy Forsyth and Sumi Connock on formats