TV is the new film debated

25 August, 2014 by Don Groves

Has TV replaced film in terms of quality of story, risk taking, directors and casting?

That question was debated in a panel session at the Edinburgh International TV Festival last Friday where the speakers included Matchbox Pictures MD Chris Oliver-Taylor.


There was no consensus but Oliver-Taylor expressed the view that TV drama has to compete with cinema in depth and quality of the story.

“In Australia we pull above our weight internationally due to our having some of the best actors, writers, crew, directors and producers in the world,” he said. “The current slate of programs being remade or in development in the US from Australia is testament to that.”

The panel agreed that feature films are very difficult to finance in the UK and Australia and that only blockbusters are delivering sizable returns in both countries.

Oliver-Taylor observed, “Australian programs need to work in an international sphere in order to secure finance. Our financing model means that in order to get a drama up, you nearly always need an international distributor.”

There was a debate around whether producers should create shows for international audiences or whether to focus primarily on local audiences.

“Australian programs have to fight to be picked up in the major territories, thus an eye to international distribution at the writing, crewing and casting stage is important,” Oliver-Taylor said. “If Australia just made very local shows without any reference to the (overseas) market that would limit their potential.”

The panellists included Pippa Harris, co-founder of Neal Street Productions, Dan Isaacs, COO of the Shine group’s Kudos Film and Television, and Cameron Roach, acting head of drama at Sky.

The panel noted that the most successful UK exports such as Call the Midwife, Downton Abbey and Broadchurch have very high production values and strong storytelling and utilised a mixture of TV and film crew.

Oliver-Taylor said Australian broadcasters, particularly the ABC and Foxtel, are commissioning strong, rich drama that can stand up to film, citing Matchbox’s Devil’s Playground and Deadline Gallipoli.

S.J. Clarkson, the English director of Orange is the New Black, Dexter, House, Heroes and the new Keshet drama Dig, said that while she loves the challenging work in TV she believes film still has a distinctive place for audiences and talent.