‘Broadchurch’ creator Chris Chibnall & ITV team to train “next wave” of UK showrunners

L-R: Jess Bray, Kaamil Shah, Jacqui Honess-Martin, Sarah Simmonds, David Macpherson, Jessica Sinyard & Alex Straker

Chris Chibnall’s UK-based Broadchurch co-producer Imaginary Friends has partnered with local broadcaster ITV to launch a new scheme to train and support the “next wave” of British showrunners.

The ‘Next Generation Showrunner Programme’ will cover every aspect of showrunning, at each stage of production: from first idea, building a team, pre-production, shooting, post-production, through to publicity, marketing, transmission and beyond.

It will deal with commissioner and talent relationships, reconciling the competing demands of writing and producing, and working as both a creative and strategic leader.

Seven writers have been selected for the inaugural year, whittled down from around 80 applicants, with the participants attending a series of day sessions across a six-month period, with each day exploring in-depth a key component of showrunning.

Those selected for the scheme include Jess Bray, who recently co-wrote an episode of BBC comedy The Outlaws; Jacqui Honess-Martin, the creator, writer and executive producer of Maternal, currently in post-production with ITV; David Macpherson, whose debut show The Rig was one of Amazon Prime’s first UK commissions; Kaamil Shah, whose omedy drama Count Abdulla was greenlit by ITV and who is signed to a first-look deal with Paramount; Sarah Simmonds, who has written for Killing Eve for the BBC and AMC and The Irregulars for Netflix; Jessica Sinyard, who wrote for Vikings: Valhalla for Netflix and MGM; and Alex Straker, who has written for The Last Kingdom for Netflix and The Flatshare for Paramount+.

The participants will hear from a range of visiting expert speakers from across the industry, including network and platform commissioners, producers, directors, designers, actors, VFX producers, colourists, marketing heads, editors, sound designers and composers.

At the end of the programme, they will have the opportunity to pitch a project directly to ITV head of drama Polly Hill, who commented: “This isn’t about getting your first commission as a writer – ITV is committed to supporting new writers getting their first show commissioned  – but this is about what it takes to be a showrunner and who better to learn from than Chris.”

Doctor Who

Adding diversity

Imaginary Friends is led by Broadchurch & outgoing Doctor Who showrunner Chris Chibnall and head of development Rebecca Roughan.

Chibnall told TBI the initiative will give writers from a diverse range of backgrounds the training and opportunities to take the top jobs on TV productions.

“Showrunners are the gatekeepers and too many of the gatekeepers look like me. We need the gatekeepers to be from [a more diverse range of] backgrounds, but to be the gatekeeper you need a certain degree of experience. There is loads still to do in the industry and those of us in these jobs need to be at the forefront of doing that.”

Chibnall, who recently talked to TBI about his stint as showrunner on BBC sci-fi Doctor Who, revealed: “I definitely felt that was my responsibility as the gatekeeper for Doctor Who. I really wanted lots more women writing and directing the show and writers and directors of colour feeling like it’s theirs and feeling like their perspectives are shown within the stories and that they are represented behind the scenes.”

The producer describes the initiative as a way to “share the knowledge that I’ve learned from doing Doctor Who,” adding: “what the British industry needs more than anything else is lots and lots of showrunners from a real range of backgrounds.”

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