Take Two: Playmaker Media’s David Maher and David Taylor
This article originally appeared in IF Magazine #145 (Feb-March 2012).
We would’ve met about 13 years ago. We met while we were working for Fox Television Studios and we were doing a range of things from international scripted sitcoms – we produced two series of Supanova for the BBC – and anthology dramas but we were also producing the Fox format catalogue on the unscripted side.
We also produced a couple of series for Nickelodeon so we were producing a real broad range of things, reporting directly to LA. And during the time we probably came to the realisation that producing Australian drama is what we really loved and that’s why we set up Playmaker. I guess we were just looking at producers that we really admired like Hal McElroy and we felt that setting up Playmaker, that there was an opportunity to be part of the next generation of Australian TV drama producers.
We’re going to make a lot of drama and we really want to get better at doing that. And we’ve definitely decided that trying to empower writers and keep them at the centre of the process is the way to be a better producer of higher-quality TV drama so that’s what we’re going to do. So we’re just having a go basically.
Dave’s very strong editorially, has a great blend of practical production – there’s no disconnect between what you write and what you shoot with Dave – he’s always thinking about the fact that you have to be able to execute your ideas and that actually focuses the quality of his ideas rather than compromises them.
He’s great with stories, great with music, great in post and he’s also got real production understanding. He obviously comes from a strong production background – worked in a lot of roles – but his experience on set means that he really understands that side of the process so he’s really good at putting money on screen rather than wasting it on things that aren’t practical to execute.
I like the fact that the shows we make are a combination of both of our interests and tastes and I think we complement each other – I think Dave is a lot more practical than I am which is good. I like the contrast from our days from Fox; obviously we took nearly 10 years of working for an international studio and all the experiences that we gained from that and the perspective on the business both here and abroad. But with that comes this great corporate process in terms of reaction times and I think television in particular, TV drama is moving so quickly that you need the flexibility to react to opportunities.
And while you have this great machine behind you when you’re part of an organisation like Fox, often things take time and you don’t obviously get to do everything that you’d like to do. Now David and I have set up Playmaker where we can do exactly what we want to do.
Our board meetings can take 14 minutes over a morning coffee and we make decisions about what we’re going to develop, and why, and who with, and I love that streamlined decision-making process more than anything.
We met on Crash Palace – I came over to produce it for Fox TV a long time ago as a producer and then I stayed on as head of production for Fox. Dave was part of Fox before I joined.
I actually did the same course as David Maher at Macquarie University but only did it for a matter of months before I got a job at Channel Seven. I started working at Channel Seven when I was 17.
At Fox we had quite different roles: I was producing and Dave was an associate producer I think. Dave was more across scripts at that stage and I was more the ‘big picture’ producer but it was still a getting to-know-you stage.
Now there’s a bit of overlap; we both strongly believe in the authorship and that getting the script and the story right is the most important part of the process. So we’re both very story and script-focused.
We complement each other; as a head of production I come from a mechanics of production background – there’s a lot of overlap but we respect each others opinions so it works.
Dave’s more keenly-script focused and I’m happy to go more across the budgets and those sorts of things but we’re both across everything.
He’s very good at script – developing, shaping, giving feedback on, nurturing – everything that you need to do with writers.
We’ve obviously worked together for a long time and we do have similar tastes and we do have similar ambitions so I think it’s a good fit. I think the exciting thing at the moment is to be master of your own destiny and that’s fantastic.
We’re both pushing in the same direction which is exciting and we both have the same goals. We’re very passionate about having a crack at being the next generation of Australian drama producers and we think there’s an opportunity and we’re going to give it everything.