Sherlock leads the way

In truth, Hartswood Films didn’t necessarily need another producer on Sherlock series 4 as I was producing, but we were asked if we could get involved in a High-end TV ‘step-up and shadowing’ programme (now known as High-end TV Drama Co-Producer programme) and were keen to embrace any positive and effective idea that was looking to future-proof the industry.

Sherlock © Todd Anthony, Hartswood Films 2016

The co-producer programme is funded by the High-end TV Levy, overseen by the High-end TV Council and administered by Creative Skillset. The programme offers up to £40,000 per placement and we in return give insights into our financing, casting, head of department interviews and key deliverables, allowing the producer to shadow from prep to post. The launch of the scheme also happened to fit in very nicely with the filming dates for Sherlock 4 and so Hartswood became early adopters.

Martyn Smith was already an established producer and series producer in factual entertainment (The Apprentice, and creator of the UK version of Dragons’ Den) when he joined the Sherlock family for two episodes of the new series. While there are, of course, many similarities between producing the two genres, there are differences too.

While it does take a little time at the start to share everything and allow your high-end TV producer to bed in, it is certainly worth the effort – it has to be a ‘warts and all’ process, or it’s simply not going to work.  

You need openness and trust on both sides. I’m not going to discuss the details of our budget with someone that’s just with me for a few days, but for someone to work with me and learn how dramas work and how much they cost, this is exactly the sort of information they need to be privy to.

On a drama of this scale and scope, I had a few days where we had two units running at the same time. Having Martyn on board as high-end TV associate producer and fully immersed in the show, meant that after a while he could get really involved in the preparation and scheduling of these days and go over to the second unit and be my eyes – utterly invaluable to me and the production as a whole.

Generally, opportunities for work experience and shadowing tend to only be for a few days. There is nothing else on the scale of this scheme, and nothing this effective. If we are truly committed to expanding the talent pool, this is the route we need to go down.

It might take a leap of faith to open your production up to someone new, but the short-term benefits to your drama, and most importantly, the long term benefits for the industry, are clear to see.

I’ve been told there are several talented producers and heads of departments already interviewed and approved by the Council, ready to step-up into high-end TV drama producing, and there is high-end TV money allocated for another six placements – time to swell that talent pool.


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