The mood at the Broadcast Indie Summit ’22 was light and sunny – unlike the weather as an eerie mist shrouded our entry to the Barbican Centre. It’s the first in-person industry event that Broadcast has run for two years, so the smiles were wide and handshakes & hugs warm. Really nice pastries too (definitely appreciating the IRL treats after 2 years of Zoom…)

Kimberly & Chris Curtis, Editor of Broadcast

The event aims to give frank advice and intel to independent production company bosses and industry professionals, with sessions on how to handle commissioners (by commissioners), pitching to the likes of Disney Plus, Channel 4 and Amazon, career mistakes, development secrets, and even masterclasses on getting your company ready for sale.

For us at TP, it’s always interesting to see how high on the agenda conversations about talent are. And despite no session specifically on the subject, the ‘talent crunch’ was brought up 3 times in the first 15 minutes of the day. Pretty high up then, it turns out.

In the ‘State of the Nation’ session, panellists from a mix of drama and unscripted genres discussed how commissioners were for once forced to hire Directors or Showrunners they didn’t know, or did not have ‘perfect’ experience (whatever that really is) due to the talent drain. They put this down to a boom in production after Covid, some people having left the industry, and the fact that people could be choosy in this market with several offers on the table. We agree, on the one hand it’s a fantastic opportunity – giving new talent a break or a promotion, and ditching commissioner ‘lists’ of approved names because they simply aren’t available or interested – but on the other hand, it’s a dangerous game, as it’s so important that these people are supported in their role, or else they’re set up to fail. And is the support or training there?

Talented People used the opportunity to ask how we can make sure that things don’t just return to the old favourites after this so-called ‘boom’, when availability is better. Emma at Lambent replied that indies would need to fight for talent on their behalf, and push back with commissioners when there is hesitancy. Sam at Monkey agreed that the market for freelancers is fierce with companies having to hard sell their projects and make big offers – ‘”it’s like we’re gazumping each other with talent”.

In other sessions, Glenn Hugill at Possessed made a warm and impactful impression when he talked about his inclusive style in development born out of his acting days pre telly, where his team do certain brainstorms with the rule being that everything is a yes, and the goal is to simply build on an idea whatever you think of it personally. This way, no one gets shot down, everyone grows in confidence and finds their voice. The very successful Jimmy Mulville at Hattrick talked openly about lurching from failure to failure with enthusiasm and Tim Hincks told us that in your career you get a million no’s, but it’s the yes’es you remember…

The day’s learnings wrapped with Chris Curtis’ candid conversation with the reliably direct commissioner Ben Frow, who told us that he despairs at the TV landscape being dull and homogenised at the moment, and that he swings from wondering how he can carry on in his role to loving every minute. It’s the likes of Bargain Loving Brits (his favourite show), building Paramount UK and his new initiatives on diversity and collaborative health checks with indie suppliers that keep him energised and in the game.

A couple of drinks with clients, freelancers and friends later, and we were on the tube digesting the day’s sessions and thinking about what a challenging period it really has been for talent recently. From a tragically quiet and worrying time for freelancers two years ago, through the bumpy road of Covid protocol and working practice, to a fully acknowledged ‘talent crunch’ with freelancers having the upper hand. Let’s at least hope that it spawns more exciting opportunity than burn out.

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