‘Death In Paradise’ exec Belinda Campbell talks “exceptional” scripted TV

Death In Paradise

Red Planet Pictures’ joint-MD Belinda Campbell says that “good is not good enough” when it comes to adapting IP for the screen.

The exec, whose UK company is behind scripted series such as BBC1/France 2 crime drama Death In Paradise and ITV historical drama Sanditon, shared her thoughts on the kind of material that makes a good scripted adaptation in conversation with writer/showrunner Kate Brooke (ITV’s Mr Selfridge, Sky’s A Discovery Of Witches) yesterday as part of an exclusive Women in Film & TV virtual event.

“What I read for pleasure is sometimes different to what I look for in a book to adapt, because not everything does adapt,” said Campbell. “What I really need for an adaptation is something that has got a very clear hook and has a real emotional pull; I can connect to the characters, I can connect to the material.”

Campbell also stressed that source material requires “clarity of proposition” as well as the need for originality and whether the original text is “undeniable”, explaining: “Good isn’t good enough, it has to really stand out and be completely exceptional. I do ask myself immediately, can I see it on TV? I also think commercially, can I sell it? Is this what I think commissioners are looking to buy?”

She continued: “I think even if it is a period book, the question has to be asked, is there contemporary resonance here?”

Campbell and Brooke also discussed the risk of pitching original shows over adapted IP, with Brooke noting that “originals don’t feel that safe” for broadcasters and stressing the importance of working up a thorough pitch, including plot details for second and third seasons. “What you don’t want is to go into a pitch or have a conversation with a broadcaster and they ask a question about an original that you can’t answer.”

“Broadcaster commissioners are inundated,” added Campbell. “So there are now in this country apparently over 250 production companies, all of them pitching to the same people. I really do live by the adage that you get just one bite at the cherry.”

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