A Tyneside film company has pulled off a major coup in the growing on-demand TV market after winning a commission to produce a drama series for internet giant Amazon.
Newcastle-based Headline Pictures will produce 10 hour-long episodes of the programme The Man in the High Castle after the pilot was described Amazon vice president Roy Price as “our most-watched pilot ever” and it was chosen for a full series following a viewers’ poll.
Amazon and major competitor Netflix are changing the face of TV production making by their own programmes for their streaming customers, rather than simply selling films and programmes made by conventional TV channels.
Headline Pictures, which is based in Newcastle’s Charlotte Square, has worked with North East-born director Sir Ridley Scott on The Man in the High Castle, having previously produced Dustin Hoffman’s directorial debut film Quartet.
The company was helped to secure the commission by the Government’s export support agency UKTI.
Stewart Mackinnon, founder and director of Headline Pictures, said: “There’s been a real revolution in the way programmes are produced in the last few years. Previously you had the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Sky - they were your only domestic broadcasters.
“But now you have organisations such as Netflix and Amazon actually making their own programmes using the money they’ve made from their digital business and they can reach a whole new market of digital consumers.
“It’s a real step change in the industry. Now we have digital delivery and in the next few years those such as Amazon will become worldwide television companies. It opens up a whole host of new opportunities for us, which we’ve been exploring with the help of UKTI’s Passport and Gateway to Growth (G3) initiatives.
“With this latest commission, we are the first independent in Europe to get the go ahead for a full series. The pilot generated a huge amount of interest in the international press and on social media and the new series will get a world premier on Amazon Prime later this year. We’re thrilled and hope this will be the first of many.”
Based on a novel by American writer Philip K. Dick - who also wrote the story that inspire Sir Ridley Scott’s classic film Blade Runner - The Man in the High Castle is based on the premise of the Allied Powers losing World War Two and much of the world being split between Japan and Nazi Germany.
It stars British actor Rufus Sewell and French-American actress Alexa Davalos.
UKTI trade advisor Chris Jewitt said: “There has been something of a revolution in the way TV programmes are produced and watched in recent years and Headline Pictures has embraced the opportunities that the new digital age has brought.
“Its latest success has proven it has what it takes to compete on the world stage and we’re delighted to have been able to support the company’s efforts.
“I hope its success will inspire others to take up the exporting for growth challenge. Taking that first step into international trade can be daunting, but UKTI is here to help every step of the way and we offer a range of support services to help companies – whatever their size or product – to compete in the global market place.”