17th October 2019
Katherine Churcher made her name in documentaries but it was always the storytelling that was her motivation. When she saw an opportunity to move into drama thanks to the High-end TV Skills Fund she seized it.
She had begun her career doing everything from sweeping floors on low budget features and running around with old tapes to being a researcher, assistant producer and finally directing current affairs programmes on television.
Soon she was established as a quality and reliable factual film maker, having worked for Channel 4 on 3 Minute Wonder and Unreported World, and doing observational films for ITV and BBC, among others.
But spotting the High-End TV Drama Director’s Programme from ScreenSkills High-end TV Skills Fund and Directors UK, she thought it would be a good route to achieving her ambition to work in drama.
“I didn’t know what drama I would be working on, and when I was told it would be for Killing Eve, I hadn’t actually seen it, but was sent a few episodes and thought, ‘Wow!’” Katherine explains.
She was to shadow Damon Thomas, who directed seven episodes of the first series and went on to be lead director and executive producer of the second series. It was the perfect match, as Damon had also made the transition from documentaries to drama.
“I was lucky that Damon gave me 360-degree access to what he was doing,” Katherine says. “I was there from pre-production to post, including location recces, script drafts, the feedback process, notes-giving, everything. I got to see how to manage time and budgets and the parameters in which you can be creative. All that while asking lots of questions of Damon and the heads of department.”
She describes the experience as “a masterclass”. She was even given the opportunity to do a few days as a second unit director, keeping in regular contact with Damon, who was impressed with her contributions.
Another person to keep an admiring watchful eye was Lee Morris, Managing Director of Sid Gentle and executive producer of Killing Eve. “We could feel when we first met her that she is someone who has an extraordinary amount of talent and a lot to offer in drama but needed someone to give her an opportunity to move across from documentaries. That’s what this scheme and series did.”
Lee believes she gauged the opportunity just right, not getting too involved because she was not the director, but if she was asked for her opinion, it was a good one. At the same time, she took in everything that was happening.
“It was no accident we went for Katherine. She was a kindred spirit for Damon. Hopefully, this gives her the confidence to cross over from factual to drama,” Lee adds.
Katherine is now set to direct a few episodes of the long-running hospital drama Casualty at the start of next year. “It’s a good step in the right direction and will hopefully lead to something like Call the Midwife or Silent Witness, and then eventually, hopefully into directing something like Killing Eve.”
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