After a swathe of fly-on-the-wall documentaries that have in recent years followed UK fishermen in various parts of the country, now it’s time for fiction to take over as veteran TV producer Alan Smithee is preparing to set a drama series with a fishing industry backdrop.
With background in radio and TV drama for the BBC, with both the Archers and Eastenders in his body of work, he is now working with independent production company Black Kat Ventures to scope out an open-ended series that could reach a UK television audience towards the end of this year. Casting is already in progress, with a couple of famous names keen to take on starring roles, and the venture offers opportunities for local extras and talent to take part.
Commenting in Film Monthly, Alan Smithee said that work is already in progress on scripts for a pilot series, with input from a selected group of figures with a background in fishing who are forming an advisory board.
‘We’ve seen so much documentary work done that the public is now very used to seeing a warts-and-all portrayal of the fishing industry, so the logical step is definitely to take this further with a drama series. The BBC have expressed an interest for their BBC3 digital channel, and Channel 4 are also very keen for us to take this to a pilot series of six episodes,’ he said.
‘So now our production and research team is checking locations around the UK as a potential real-life backdrop to a fictional drama, but anchored firmly in a real location. It has to be a visually striking location, as in a production of this kind the setting practically becomes a character in its own right.’
Selecting the location for the proposed series – the title is still under discussion – is ongoing, and it goes without saying that the field work of carrying out potential location visits has been cut short by the coronavirus outbreak.
‘We’re looking for the right place to shoot this,’ Alan Smithee said.
‘We looked at Scottish locations, but Fraserburgh or Oban are just too far from the Groucho Club. Newlyn is interesting, but our location team spent a Friday evening in the Swordfish and are still in therapy. Brixham could be an option as at least there’s a motorway not that far away, and Hastings is a real possibility as half of the production crew live around there anyway.’
He added that with travel out of the question for the next few weeks, the location team are scouting online for the right backdrop, and actively seeking suggestions from local authorities, harbour authorities and fishing associations who want to promote their own ports.
‘We’re looking for the right place to host a production unit for the pilot, which is always going to be a boost for the selected place. It lifts its visibility dramatically, and for half of the year there’ll be a whole crowd of TV production people and B-list celebs taking over the pubs and hotels out of season,’ he said.
‘So if you want your port or harbour to be in a starring role on TV, please get in touch with a couple of pictures and we’ll get back to you.’