Tag Archives: Delicious

A taste of Delicious

Writing for DQ, Phillippa Giles, executive producer of Sky 1’s Delicious and MD of Endemol Shine UK prodco Bandit, discusses how the relationship series puts women front and centre – both in front and behind the camera.

“Show us as women with all our flaws. Show us in huge close-up.”

That challenge, issued by Delicious star Dawn French upon the drama’s conception and combined with the brief from Sky’s former head of drama Anne Mensah to push women to the foreground, has always informed the series.

The show, which concluded its third four-part season on Sky1 last week and is now available via the Sky Store, centres on two women, both former wives of the same man, but now, after his death, struggling to make the hotel he left behind a success in the middle of bucolic Cornwall.

French plays passionate cook Gina, who has inherited the Penrose hotel and restaurant together with the glamorous Sam (Emilia Fox), both of whom were once married to the deceased head chef Leo Vincent (Iain Glen). In season three, Gina and Sam’s business has been booming, their delicate friendship has lasted and they are on the lookout for a new protégé in the kitchen.

L-R: Serena Thompson, Ursula Rani Sarma, Robin Sheppard and Phillippa Giles

Delicious is that rare beast, a relationship show, but, even rarer, a relationship show revolving around four generations of women. The characters range from 85-year-old matriarch Mimi, played by veteran actor Sheila Hancock, to newcomer Tanya Reynolds as 22-year-old Theresa, with Gina and Sam bang in the middle. Putting Gina and Sam at the front of the series and subsequently all four generations was important to Sky right from commissioning the series. They didn’t want this to be ‘just another hotel show,’ and nor did I.

Sky has given us unrivalled support in allowing us to showcase women in front of and behind the camera in the last three seasons. We specifically look to discover new and up-and-coming women directors and writers for future seasons and hope, through the role-modelling on the crew, to bring on women in key trainee roles on camera and in sound, within the industry. Sometimes it takes a bit longer to fill these roles in a less traditional way, because the pool of talent is smaller due to the access to such positions, but the atmosphere fostered as a result is always worth the effort. There is a wealth of talented women out there waiting for their opportunity to show what they can do, and all it needs is the right project to attract them.

This season, original creator Dan Sefton, busy on other projects, was happy to pass on the baton to new lead writer Ursula Rani Sarma. Ursula and the all-female script team of Bandit head of development Muirinn Lane Kelly and script editor Ella Tayler Baron have ensured a number of things: that the sex (and it’s raunchy stuff) is not initiated by the men, that we talk about mastectomy as much as pregnancy and that we make sure there is a lot of wine-drinking, weed-smoking and skinny-dipping along the way.

Fun, both on and off set, is important to how Delicious works. With our female-heavy top tier of commissioning editor, commissioning exec, programme exec and producer, there is a family feel on set and both team and cast members are encouraged to bring their children along. In fact, one scene opens with a tracking shot past three young girls — the director’s daughter, the writer’s daughter and the composer’s daughter! The female bias percolates down through the crew with a woman boom swinger, camera assistant, art director as well as second and third ADs.

Delicious stars Emilia Fox (left) and Dawn French

Director Robin Sheppard was our lead director this season and she quickly bought into the collaborative atmosphere Delicious fosters. Schedules, scripts, design and photography all benefit from the cross-disciplinary dialogue encouraged by the woman-centric subject matter and predominance of women on cast and crew. Even the traditional bastions of chauvinism on any film set – sparks and riggers – have bought into the family atmosphere of hard work without the hierarchy.

A key sequence for us this year was the string of scenes playing out Mimi’s fake wake, or ‘death party’ as it is referred to in the script. This sequence occupies a substantial chunk of the third episode as it is the culmination of a big story strand for Mimi, which builds to an emotional climax through the season as, originally, Mimi hides her cancerous breast lump, then reveals it to her step-granddaughter who is sworn to secrecy but who eventually forces her grandmother into the open about the fact she needs help.

Second director Amit Gupta, new to the show, was tasked with giving this set piece the hallmark Delicious feel of natural beauty and cornucopia. We were anxious to shoot it in an outdoor location, as al fresco eating and partying is very much part of the Cornwall scene, but was it practical to take on the elements over two days of shooting? In the end, a compromise was reached with the design team whereby we would shoot in Port Eliot’s beautiful walled gardens with a large Victorian greenhouse to dash into for rain cover. But luckily this was never necessary.

Sheila Hancock as Mimi

The next challenge was to work with costume designer Rebecca Hale and food designer Lisa Heathcote to talk about colour palette and the look and feel of the party. Although this was a wake, of sorts, it was predominantly a family occasion with our four women leads– Sheila, Dawn, Emilia and Tanya – all needing to look wonderful but not overdressed or clashing. They also needed to carry in the food, so what they were wearing needed to be practical – no stilettos or trailing sleeves. And the food needed to survive two whole days outside in rain or shine.

These sorts of heightened family moments are the fulcrums of Delicious with its four female generations. The settings can be devastatingly beautiful and the frocks out of this world, but all this aspiration and glamour needs to be underpinned by strong writing and performances to deliver something that doesn’t tip into schmaltz or soap. The ambition of the camerawork and design helps to elevate the show, but towering performances like that given by Delicious matriarch Hancock at her own wake ensure the series maintains its own unique tonal brand of bittersweet.

The two-day stand culminated in a wonderful ‘on the blink’ moment when all four lead actresses were round the table, ad-libbing, and enjoying the family reunion as dusk set in and the camera pulled back on a long track to end the episode.

We seem to have turned a corner, with more and more series getting commissioned that have women leads and great roles for women throughout. Let’s keep up the momentum and build on this opportunity to make the best drama with women writing, producing and working behind camera. We’ve waited long enough. Now is our time.

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Sky takes drama to new heights

The Last Dragonslayer
The Last Dragonslayer is coming to Sky as a ‘family adventure’ drama series

In the US, big-budget drama has become a key battleground between pay TV platforms and their fast-growing SVoD rivals. Now, the same pattern is emerging in other parts of the world. After months of announcements from Netflix and Amazon about their new European dramas, DTH satellite platform Sky has hit back by announcing a formidable slate of six original shows.

At the end of last week, the firm said: “Responding to demand from customers for more original drama, the new productions combine with Sky’s groundbreaking HBO and Showtime partnerships to build on Sky’s growing reputation as one of the world’s best storytellers. (This is Sky’s) most ambitious slate of original productions yet, adding to its growing portfolio of drama.” No wonder they’re putting my subscription up by £4.25 next month…

Made by producers including Kudos (The Tunnel); Fifty Fathoms (Fortitude) and Carnival Films (Stan Lee’s Lucky Man), the six shows are expected to air across 2016/17. The writing and acting talent isn’t too shabby either. Writers include John Ridley (12 Years a Slave), Neil Jordan (The Crying Game) and Rowan Joffe (28 Days Later), while Idris Elba, Dawn French and Tim Roth are among the actors attached.

In truth, some of the series that are bundled together in the Sky announcement were already known about, though perhaps not with full details. Rowan Joffe’s Tin Star, which stars Tim Roth and Christina Hendricks, was first discussed in March. Described variously as “a contemporary take on the western genre” and “a revenge thriller,” it tells the story of Jim Worth, an ex-Met police detective who starts a new life in Canada’s Rocky Mountains.

Neil Jordan’s Riviera, meanwhile, has been in the public domain since February. Starring Julia Stiles, Sky calls it a glamorous thriller “set in the world of the super-rich, where art, money, sex and love all come at a price.” Also known about for some time is Bill Gallagher’s period drama Jamestown. Produced by Carnival, it is set in 1619 during the early days of the first British settlers in America. It “tells the story of a group of young women as they leave the Old World and their old lives behind them.”

Idris Elba, pictured here in Luther, will star in Sky's Guerrilla
Idris Elba, pictured here in BBC detective series Luther, will star in Sky’s Guerrilla

News of The Last Dragonslayer first leaked in January. Based on the first of Jasper Fforde’s novels, it’s “a family adventure that follows the story of orphan Jennifer Strange, who reluctantly discovers her destiny is to become the last Dragonslayer.”

The last two projects on the slate (which are divided evenly across Sky Atlantic and Sky1) are Delicious, a four-parter starring Dawn French, and Guerrilla, a copro with Showtime starring Idris Elba. Written by John Ridley, the latter is “a love story set against the backdrop of the 1970s. It follows “a young couple whose relationship and values are tested when they liberate a political prisoner and form a radical underground cell in 1970s London”.

Sky content MD Gary Davey said: “We know our original content is highly valued and a reason why customers choose and stay with Sky. Combining the scale and ambition of our Sky original productions with the best of the US and exclusive partnerships with HBO and Showtime, we believe our customers enjoy a better choice of drama at Sky than anywhere else in the world.”

Head of drama Anne Mensah added: “Our customers adore original drama, whether that’s a rich and complex storyline on Sky Atlantic or a blockbuster adventure on Sky1. We are incredibly proud to be working with such amazing talent across all our dramas. Everything we do at Sky is about being passionate, bold and unique and that philosophy underlines all of these shows.”

Sky drama boss Anne Mensah
Sky drama boss Anne Mensah

Sky said the new productions join eight original drama series already on air or set to air in the coming months on Sky Atlantic and Sky1. These include The Tunnel: Sabotage, Penny Dreadful, Fortitude, Stan Lee’s Lucky Man, Agatha Raisin, The Young Pope, Harlan Coben’s The Five and Hooten & the Lady. In terms of international distribution, Sky notes that Guerrilla will be handled by Endemol Shine International; Tin Star by Sky Vision and ESI; Riviera by Sky Vision; and Jamestown by NBCUniversal International Distribution.

In the US, meanwhile, premium pay TV channel HBO has just announced renewals for three of its key shows, Game of Thrones, Silicon Valley and Veep, all of which started new seasons last night in the US. Game of Thrones, which has just started season six, will have a seventh season in 2017. Veep will now run for at least six seasons, while Silicon Valley will air for a minimum of four.

In the same week, A+E-owned cable channel Lifetime unveiled a range of new scripted projects last week, including Sea Change, a supernatural drama based on the young adult novel by Aimee Friedman. Also in development is None of the Above, a coming-of-age drama about a girl whose status as a homecoming queen is called into question when she discovers that she is intersex. Lifetime is also developing Deadline, a satirical one-hour drama that follows aspiring journalist Emily Twist, who is struggling to get noticed in a world that values gossip over investigative news.

Silicon Valley's third season started last night on HBO
Silicon Valley began its third season last night on HBO and has already been renewed for a fourth

Still in the US, producer Mark Gordon (Quantico) has teamed up with Mel Gibson on a project called The Barbary Coast, which will star Kurt Russell, Kate Hudson and Gibson, who will also co-write and direct. Backed by Entertainment One, the series begins during the Californian Gold Rush of 1849 and tells the story of San Francisco’s formative years.

“Most people don’t know the scandalous history behind San Francisco, and The Barbary Coast offers a rich portrayal of a period when success was often attained through illicit and brutal means,” said Gordon. “I’m excited that Kurt and Kate are working alongside Mel, whose astute direction will bring this devious time in our history to life.”

As yet no broadcaster has been attached to the production.

In a busy industry calendar, one event that seems to be attracting an increasing amount of attention is Paris-based Series Mania, which came to an end last week. As part of the event, there is a Coproduction Forum, which showcases projects looking for partners or finances.

This year, 16 projects from 10 countries were in the spotlight. The titles on display were 16 Knot (Lux Vide, Italy), Belle Epoque (Scarlett Production, France), Eden (Lupa Film/Atlantique Films, Germany/France), Flight 1618 (Makingprod, France), Gastronomy (Drama Team, Israel), Hidden (Yellow Bird, Sweden), Keeping Faith (Vox Pictures, UK), Let’s Save the World (Constantin Film, Germany), Liar (Two Brothers Pictures, UK), One Square Mile (Pampa Production, France), Pipeline (Apple Film Production, Poland), Pwned By The Mob (Submarine, Netherlands), Stella Blomkvist (Sagafilm, Iceland), The Illegal (Conquering Lion Pictures, Canada), The Specialists (Fridthjof Film, Denmark) and Warrior (Miso Film, Denmark).

Series Mania general director Laurence Herszberg said: “The Forum has now become a key date in the calendar for TV series professionals from around the world. The 16 titles that were chosen reveal a wide range of forms and genres, including procedural thrillers to historical dramas, and all the way to edgy contemporary stories without forgetting mainstream fare.” It will be interesting to track these shows as they build momentum.

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