Larry Bass • CEO, ShinAwiL
“We will invest in strong local stories but produce them for an international audience”
by Vassilis Economou
- Cineuropa talked to Larry Bass, CEO of Irish production company ShinAwiL, about the launch of the company’s Drama division, its new TV series and its experience at Séries Mania
Set up 20 years ago, independent Irish production company ShinAwil is best known for making the local versions of successful unscripted TV formats, such as Dragon’s Den, The Voice and, recently, Dancing with the Stars. Prior to the 2019 Séries Mania (22-30 March), the company launched its international Drama division, which is headed up by producer Aaron Farrell (The Borgias) and Mary Callery, former commissioning editor of drama at Irish pubcaster RTÉ and project manager at Screen Ireland. We had a chance to chat with Larry Bass, the CEO of ShinAwil, about its latest news, its upcoming TV series and its experience at Séries Mania.
Cineuropa: ShinAwiL has already successfully produced entertainment-orientated unscripted TV formats; why did you want to branch out into drama?
Larry Bass: We decided to enter the world of TV drama so that we could grow our business internationally. So, by growing by genre and geography, we are no longer dependent solely on a small domestic market.
Could you offer us a brief overview of your upcoming projects?
The first show we are working on on this new side of the business is the crime-drama Miss Scarlet and the Duke, and we are the Irish service producer for Element 8 in Los Angeles, which is making the show for A&E Networks Studio. Currently, we are in pre-production, and the shoot is scheduled to start in June and will run for 12 weeks. This is a series about a female private investigator set in Victorian-era London.
Another project that we are working on is our own show, entitled Clean Sweep. It is a co-production with Element 8 for RTÉ, and we are hoping to start shooting later this year. Created by Gary Tieche, it is a thriller set in the west of Ireland, where a cop is chasing a killer, but little does he know that she is living in the same house as him…
Regarding our shows that are at the script development stage and were presented at Séries Mania, our most successful is Kill, in which people have shown a huge amount of interest. It was written by Barry Devlin (Ballykissangel) and is a black-humoured thriller set in the picturesque tourist town of Kill, where local cop Tom Dolan struggles to solve a series of bizarre murders. The series is being developed in partnership with Screen Ireland and RTÉ. We hope to close some deals over the next few weeks and get into pre-production in early 2020.
Judging by your upcoming line-up, you are mainly investing in Irish talents. Are you aiming to export this content to a global audience?
From the get-go, our aim in starting a scripted division has been to export content globally, so we are outward-focused. We will, however, invest in strong local stories but produce them in a way that allows an international audience to interpret what is happening. Practically, they will be local, but there’s no need to “know local” to follow the story.
What is the current status of highbrow series in the local market? Is it possible for an Irish TV show to compete against other countries’ or, mainly, the UK’s productions?
Yes, we compete with them, as we are always judged by viewers against UK TV output. In Ireland, all viewers have multiple choices for content, not only from UK channels but from the USA, too, on cable and satellite. So we hope our productions will be judged in a similar way to UK shows. We struggle to hire the best-known talents internationally, but clever casting and great young actors will make a real difference.
What was your experience of participating in this year’s Séries Mania?
Séries Mania just keeps getting better and better; this was my fifth year attending, and it is now one of our “must attend” events each year. As we only got home today, it is too early to state the outcomes. As I already mentioned, we did launch Kill, which went down well, and this time next year, perhaps the show will be viewed at Séries Mania!
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