A love letter to storytelling

“You’re never going to kill storytelling, because it’s built into the human plan. We come with it.” Margaret Atwood.

Working in the film and television industry in both London and the North West of England over the past 15 years, I’ve witnessed some seismic changes in its culture, from the recession, to Operation Yewtree, #MeToo (me too BTW), the growth and impact of social media, the current BBC License Fee debate, and the recent, terrifying (more so as they’re not completely surprising), findings of The Looking Glass survey.

Amidst, perhaps concealed by, all the noise and politics, and fighting hard in a business built on ingrained prejudice, there is an army of determined, talented people supporting that change, and working incredibly hard to try and make creative, innovative and entertaining television that reflects the UK’s nations and regions. 

My heroes are those whose ambition it is to create opportunity for new young content producers, from all backgrounds and cultures, to tell stories. There is a determined shift towards greater regionality and diversity in broadcasting, and a wealth of projects that take small steps that are our hope for the future of British content.

Back in 2013, when we were still a very young company, Universal Pictures entrusted us with Elaine Constantine’s Northern Soul – the film, her love letter to the scene, which we fell in love with. The film became a pivotal project for us. It was expected to hit 7-10 screens across the country, but what had been underestimated was the tremendous groundswell of support from Northern Soulers in the media and, most importantly, in the regions across the country. It became a break out top ten box office hit, our campaign won a BVA, and the film eventually screened in over 150 cinemas.

Elaine herself was a first-time filmmaker, and it took her 17 years to get her film made, even as a highly respected fashion photographer and image maker, and even with great friends, including Steve Coogan, Lisa Stansfield, John Thompson and Ricky Tomlinson, who guest starred in and supported her film.

Having seen first-hand the sheer force of will and boundless enthusiasm Elaine had to call upon to make her voice, and that of the Northern Soul scene, both seen and heard, we were inspired to find our own place in the industry, championing stories of different backgrounds, cultures and place.

Northern Soul – the film made us realise the power of the largely overlooked audience power in the regions of the UK. It made us realise that being Northern was our superpower, and that growing a specialist entertainment consultancy in Manchester was definitely possible, and absolutely necessary. 

Seven years on, proudly based in Manchester, we’ve been honoured to raise the profile of wonderful projects from all corners of the UK.

In Manchester, we’ve delivered programme publicity for The Tez O’Clock Show, a late-night satirical comedy, made at The Studios in Salford’s MediaCity, a ‘TRULY anti-establishment show’ hosted by Tez Ilyas, a Northern working-class British-Asian-Muslim; we’ve worked with the Royal Exchange and Talawa Theatre Company on the film of King Lear, broadcast on BBC Four, which cast Lear’s family as black and raised questions about the whitewashing of British history and the lack of roles for black actors in the UK; and we’ve delivered an incredibly important campaign for I told my Mum I was going on an R.E. trip, a BBC Performance Live project from Contact and 20 Stories High, that told verbatim stories of abortion, from all sides of the debate and very different perspectives.

Across the country, we’ve produced international level red carpets for BBC Sports Personality of the Year in Leeds, Glasgow, Belfast and Birmingham; we’ve publicised London Short Film Festival, the UK’s premier showcase for emerging and established, homegrown and international short form, for four consecutive years; and we’ve launched the £57 million Young Audiences Content Fund with the BFI, dedicated to making exceptional programming that reflects the lives of all young people in the UK on screen.

Recently we’ve been working with Creative England on ShortFLIX, a flourishing short film making scheme, in conjunction with Sky Arts and ScreenSkills, which creates valuable opportunity for new voices to create diverse and representative films for broadcast. This year’s finalists hail from Newcastle, Cheshire, Wakefield and London, bringing a rich slate of short films with culturally relevant and powerful stories exploring family, friendship, rivalry, loss, survival and recovery in contemporary Britain.

We’re also about to launch The Snow Spider for the brilliant Leopard Pictures. A co-commission from CBBC and BBC Wales, the spell-binding fantasy drama is based on Jenny Nimmo’s best-selling book trilogy,  and adapted for television by award-winning writer Owen Sheers. The 5×30’ series, featuring an all Welsh, and all Welsh-speaking cast, blends ancient Welsh folklore, magic and myth with contemporary adventures.

In short, in an industry where being regional is still often seen as being synonymous with a lack of ambition or talent, and where the door is so often closed,  we think it is vital to celebrate difference. At Sundae, we publicise stories about people and place, from all regions of the UK, and are delighted to help give them the national and international platform they deserve. 

Fiona x

 

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There is an army of determined, talented people working incredibly hard to try and make creative, innovative and entertaining television that reflects the UK’s nations and regions. 

Fiona McGarva, Sundae founder

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Check out the brilliant young talent of @LeopardPictures' #TheSnowSpider answering some tricky 'Would You Rather?'… twitter.com/i/web/status/1…

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