Naturalist Wendy Darke talks funding, tax breaks and environmental TV as Fremantle gets deals for Whale with Steve Backshall.

EXCLUSIVE: Whale with Steve BackshallBritain’s latest high-end natural history series is generating international sales, as Sky Nature executive producer Wendy Darke spoke about the importance of distribution and tax breaks in creating such programmes.

Australia’s ABC and France’s Ushuaia are the latest to join Wendy Darke’s premium natural history indie series True to Nature ahead of its debut on Sky Nature in the UK on 3 December.

The series follows conservationist and wildlife expert Backshall as he attempts to challenge prejudices against endangered animals. Through ocean free diving, he aims to bring the public closer to whales and dolphins than ever before and to demonstrate rarely observed behavior of the little-understood mammals.

Fremantle is selling worldwide after launching at the London TV shows earlier this year, and at Mipcom announced deals with the BBC in the MENA region, DokuTV (former Yugoslavia and Albania), Canal+ (Poland), TVI (Portugal) and Movistar Plus+ (Spain) before Last month. Eager to talk about the companies’ current relationship in a wide-ranging interview, Darke also touched on the state of the genre and television’s relationship with environmental activism.

She described her business partnership with Fremantle as “unprecedented”, adding: “What unites us is the desire for premium content for a global audience.” tonally will be. That’s the starting point, because in the end it’s all about the shop window.”

She also acknowledged BBC Studios, Sky Studios, Blue Ant Media and ZDF Enterprises for supporting several of her projects since the release of True to Nature in 2016, and noted that natural history commissioners are increasingly co-producing entered into agreements. .

“I did the very first co-production between Sky and Netflix, viz [2022 series] Predators narrated by Tom Hardy,” she added. “It was very important because they had never done this collaboration before.”

True to Nature also brought together ITV and Nat Geographic International for the first time in the recently announced event Predators in action (working title). “It makes it possible to get the idea right the first time, so everyone involved feels like it’s the type of show that our respective customers and viewers want to see,” Darke said.

Using the UK’s tax credit system for quality programming, complemented by investment from streamers/broadcasters and support from distributors, will boost the natural history genre, she added, calling on the government to complete the process keep. “This added value certainly allows us to take an ambitious position and gain an edge in a highly competitive global market,” she added.

A new audiovisual spending credit will combine several credits into a single payment next year, increasing the relief from a 25% cut to a 34% credit from next year – a real increase of 0.5%. In the Autumn Budget announced yesterday, Chancellor Jeremy Hunt addressed concerns about which documentaries would be eligible for the relief, saying a documentary would now be defined by being “in line with BFI guidelines”.

Darke noted that True to Nature has registered several subsidiaries, each of which gives the company access to tax credits for individual projects. “I would say we’ve been very proactive,” she added. “You have to work hard for it, but if you unlock it, it can be the piece of the puzzle that gets you over the difficult commission line around financing. It also gives confidence to investors and broadcasters because they automatically get added value.”

Fremantle have now signed new contracts whale and also represents certain territorial rights compared to the predecessor of the program, Shark with Steve Backshall. True to Nature and Sky Studios produced the show, directed by Ellen Husain and Tom Whitworth. Darke, one of the world’s most experienced wildlife TV producers, is executive producer and Simon Nash is series producer. A first trailer was released on World Earth Day (April 22).

“Steve is absolutely brilliant when it comes to storytelling,” Darke said. “It takes you to dive with whales and dolphins all over the world and you really feel like you are accompanied by the best in the world. This is a major USP of the show: Steve’s ability to hold his breath for more than five minutes allows him to literally bring us closer to the animals.

Darke described whale as a classic natural history, “one third premium blue chip, 30 to 40% a world authority with freediving experience as the first person to guide us to this world, and about 20 to 30% of the world’s leading conservationists and scientists together for the drive.” the front lines of real science or conservation in real places.”

However, it feels more contemporary than some British nature stories, thanks to a score by Chris Rowe and stories that follow environmental developments over decades, culminating in the dives featured in the show.

Darke, who has a PhD in marine sciences and was head of the BBC Natural History Unit between 2012 and 2016, estimates she has produced more than 1,500 programs in the genre during what is now her fourth 10-year television career. “I have created hundreds of whale shows and I would say the key point is that each new project represents a new approach and new content presented to the public,” she said. “Something fresh, new and different is absolutely sacred.”

Beyond pure entertainment, nature film television is directly related to environmental protection and climate change and emphasizes the need for action without preaching. Darke said the genre’s younger generation of producers heralded a positive future for both the genre and the environment, with a large percentage of staff at her Sky Studios production house in Bristol being in their 20s and 30s.

“I trust them completely because they are the inheritors of the planet and they are much more in tune with the global cultural change that is happening,” she said. “I feel this generation, greatly empowered by the internet and the ability to build alliances and relationships, is much more global in their perspective. They’re passionate—and rightly so—about the things that matter to them, and they’ve inherited some tough challenges on many levels.

She added whale Tonally, it approaches the genre by “not making people feel guilty or helpless about the environment” and instead emphasizes the inspirational aspects of Backshall’s presentations and the working lives of scientists and presenters.

Source: Deadline

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