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What is TV drama?

TV dramas span all genres; they can be a one-off or a series and their air time is usually capped at an hour. The UK have produced multiple series in recent years that have been immensely successful with audience in the UK and around the globe. Working in drama for television attracts a host of on and off-screen talent that are usually found on feature films. Many actors have found the jump to the small screen tremendously rewarding as they get the opportunity to invest more time in their characters. Directors, producers and writers also reap the benefit of having 6 hours to develop a story, giving them time to explore the fictional world they are creating.  

VOD has its own original content output alongside the terrestrial channels, Sky and satellite output, making the option for working in TV ever more appealing for those working at the top end of the industry.  

The UK channels and independent production companies output a significant amount of TV drama each year, which is shot all over the UK. London will always play host to a majority of the work, but recently the whole of the UK has played host to drama productions such as:

Dragon Studios (Wales)

These studios are located in Pontyclun, just outside Cardiff. The play host to productions such as Dr Who (BBC) Upstairs Downstairs (BBC) and Ironclad (Mythic International Entertainment).

Titanic Studios (Northern Ireland)

5 minutes drive from Belfast, Titanic Studios (named due to the component parts of ship being painted there) is thriving, having received inward investment from the US it currently plays host to Game of Thrones, it is a fully functioning studio space set on 8 acres.

who makes TV drama?

Channels such as BBC, C4, ITV and Sky produce dramas of all genres; they also commission drama from independent production companies across the UK via their online proposal systems such as BBC Pitch, C4 Commissioning, [email protected], SKY submissions and ideas page. The Channels can enter into co-productions with channels from Europe or America to spread the cost. The issue with this can sometimes be that the drama will have to play well in both regions, which can dilute its attractiveness to both audiences.

VOD companies such as Netflix and Amazon have offices based in the US. 

how much does a TV drama cost to make?

The BBC set out their guidelines for drama production costs for independent production as follows:

Drama Genre Tariffs for Independents.

Daytime and Low Cost Drama Indicative Tariff Range: £50k - £500k per hour.

Drama 1 Up to £375k per hour:

What falls into this category are the low cost daytime drama output, this slot is also reserved for new talent.

Drama 2 £375k - £500k per hour:

singles and cross genre collaborations will fall into this category as will longer running and late night series for BBC

Lower to Mid cost Drama Indicative Tariff Range: £500k - £700k per hour

Drama 3 £500k - £630k per hour

Likely to be contemporary and less contained in setting both series and serials will have high production values with known talent. Low cost period series remain an ambition for this Category

Drama 4 £630k - £700k per hour

This category covers a mix of serials and returnable series. These productions would allow for more locations or higher cast aspirations; in period or contemporary settings.

High cost Drama Indicative Tariff Range: £700k - £900k per hour

Drama 5 £700k - £790k per hour

High levels of cast; stunts; foreign locations and period settings all drive this category. Cast will be large and talent established

Drama 6 £800k +

Heavy combination of multi-location; period; high cast and short runs in serials and event singles. CGI and effects may be significant here. £900k per hour Premium Drama Category Specification

Drama 7 £900k+ per hour

Pieces in this category will be very exceptional and would be either Bank Holiday Events; Specials or Landmark commissions for BBC One. Pieces are only likely to fall into this category when there are no opportunities for major third party investment.

Nations & English Regions Drama Indicative Tariff Range: £30k - £450k per hour

The indicative tariff range applies to all Nations' drama and includes short film development schemes.

What crew is involved in TV drama?

TV drama will hire all the same crew roles that you would find on a feature film. The process and etiquette remain the same, as does the option to shoot in film or digital. It is common for film crew to work on TV dramas, if you have worked in TV and wish to make the jump onto feature films it is significantly easier than making the jump from other areas of TV to film.  

Who hires the crew?

In parallel to a feature film the AD Department will hire their Set Runners, and the HoDs will hire/put forward names for the production manager to contact. The Independent production company will have their own staff of in house runners, as will the channel. 

what experience do I need to work on TV drama?

To work in TV drama, you need to tailor your experience to working on scripted drama, such as soaps, comedy/sitcom shows, etc. Your route largely depends on the area of the business you wish to get into. If it's any of the technical roles, look at the career guides for junior production roles, and follow the same plan. If you're looking to work in production, then you could look for work experience at one of the production companies that produce TV drama for the major channels as stage one of your career plan. Do your research as there are plenty of companies producing content for television in the UK, make sure it's a company that has a reputation for drama not factual.