Monday, November 04, 2013


I had a first draft commission deadline to complete for the Monday before the festival so I didn't get as much time to prepare as I would have usually. Still, as I travelled up to London on the Thursday morning by train I felt as prepared as I was going to be for the weekend, and as usual my excitement grew.

After four feature commissions in the last two years I had already decided to concentrate on TV at the festival, focusing my pitching and my schedule on British TV drama. The festival didn't disappoint.

First up for me was crime drama with the producer Gub Neal and writer Allan Cubitt of The Fall. If anyone hasn't seen The Fall them my question has to be 'why not'? It is unmissable crime drama, brilliantly written, ingenious even, delivered by producer Gub Neal, the man responsible for some of the most iconic crime series on British TV over the years. You have no excuse not to watch it.

So I sat down in the room eager to hear what they had to say. Allan started off by explaining how thoroughly he researched every aspect of the show before he began to write, going far deeper into the research than he needed to do so. He explained he did this because he wanted the research to bring a real truth to the series, to how the police react at crime scenes and especially how the killer would act not only with his victims, but also at home with his family. He pointed out if a real detective walked into a crime scene and lifted up a piece of evidence with a pen, like you see in so many crime shows both here and in the US, the crime scene would instantly be compromised.

Allan approached the script from an unusual angle quickly deciding he didn't want to create a guess 'who done it' crime show, but instead reveal who the killer was from the start and create the suspense and intrigue by not revealing why he does it. He explained that with a 'who done it' there is a lot of exposition, especially at the end when the crime is solved piece by piece to a room full of potential suspects and the culprit is finally revealed, where they conveniently tell why they did it. Allan wanted to avoid this at all costs, instead allowing the drama to come from showing the killer's home life and his sense of detachment, despite him being married with two kids. The characters start from where you don't want them to be and this is much more interesting, which is why the killer is shown with his family.

He went on to explain that in real life killers spend roughly 3% of their time killing, the rest of their time has to be filled with something, usually normal, daily activities. Showing the killers' family life, and how detached he is from it and them, helps to balance this and allows more of an insight into the mind of the killer. It also helps to keep the killings realistic, so there isn't a massive trail of dead bodies left behind by the killer.

The show concentrates on the moral accountability and not anonymous victims like other crime shows do. The audience learns as much about the victims as they do the killer and the cops, so the deaths have more impact and aren't frivolous. By doing this Allan drew the audience in because they can believe it might happen to them, has indeed happened to others, making the story more relevant to the viewers' lives. Could a killer be living next door to us, leading a perfectly ordinary life? It's possible and  a very scary thought.

Allan went on to say he deliberately didn't show any back story for Gillian Anderson's character, instead revealing who she is through her actions. Sometimes things can be left unsaid and unresolved, as with the ending. Gillian Anderson's character was also created with a sense of detachment, from her fellow officers and relationships, to show her likeness with the killer. Her character and the killer are also all about to control, control from different sides of the fence.

A great talk, very insightful, very informative and fantastic to see Gub Neal doing what he does best.

More on Wednesday.

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