Film and TV favourites of 2016
Here at Knowledge Towers we like to make sure we have our editorial finger on the pulse of film and TV production, which includes watching the end results too.
We canvassed opinions from our team here at The Knowledge about their top picks of the year, from UK-made productions on both the big and the small screen; see if you agree…
The Girl with All the Gifts
The Girl with All the Gifts was made on a relatively low budget – an estimated £4m – with filming based in Birmingham and Stoke-on-Trent. It starred Sennia Nanua, Gemma Arterton and Glenn Close.
Colm McCarthy directed the post-apocalyptic dystopian drama, which was acclaimed by critics, including our very own journalist and film buff Nick Goundry, who had this to say:
“The Girl with All the Gifts is one of my top films of the year. The movie showed there’s still originality to be found in the well-worn zombie horror genre as director Colm McCarthy and screenwriter Mike Carey told a melancholy survival story rich in subtext and featuring an astonishing turn from Sennia Nanua, who was just 12 at the time of the shoot.
“Birmingham doubles for London in the movie, which shows the West Midlands can handle larger-scale, ambitious filmmaking just as confidently as the capital.”
Publishing manager Alexandra Zeevalkink had a hard time choosing just one title, with a shortlist that included The Night Manager, The Crown, The Five and Marcella. But we pushed her for a final answer… “If I had to pick one stand-out production from the long list of UK credits then it would be The Fall.
“Yet again Gillian Anderson and Jamie Dornan produced a chemistry in Series 3 that was tangible and electric. Anderson’s costume design team deserves a medal for her sleek, elegant but imposing outfits which were mentioned by every viewer and reviewer alike, and Belfast showed off its versatility as a serious filming location.
“Alan Cubitt’s direction and razor-sharp script created an edge-of-your-seat crime drama in which stereotypes were turned on their head and female sexuality was explored without the need to be apologetic or judgemental.”
Senior sales manager Sarah Keegan voted Dark Angel as her top TV show of 2016. Made by World Productions for ITV, the show filmed in north Yorkshire and County Durham for seven weeks from late August. Joanne Froggatt played the Victorian poisoner Mary Ann Cotton in the two-parter.
“I really enjoyed Dark Angel. Based on true life and very well produced with great photography; it was a strong story.
“The storyline was very different to the usual period dramas. The actors were also well-known names…”
Robbie Coltrane’s heralded return to television came in the shape of Channel 4’s National Treasure, a four-part drama from Jack Thorne loosely based on the real-life police investigation into historic sexual abuse allegations known as Operation Yew Tree.
Coltrane played Paul Finchley, a much-loved but fading comedian, once a household name as part of a double act and now accused of historic sex crimes including rape. From production company The Forge, the show also starred Julie Walters and Andrea Riseborough.
Nia Daniels, The Knowledge’s digital content editor for drama, deemed it her top telly pick of the year, saying: “I could happily watch Robbie Coltrane reading out the phone book, but his astonishing performance surpassed expectations. Jack Thorne’s compelling script perfectly conveyed a morally ambiguous man on the edge as the suggestion of guilt shredded his reputation and devastated those around him.
“Original drama tautly written with an outstanding cast.”
Marketing manager Nina Bhalla also highlighted National Treasure, saying: “I loved the way the mini-series was shot and the visuals and background score made you feel numb.”
War and Peace
Nina’s other choice of the year was War & Peace. Andrew Davies’ sumptuous adaptation of Tolstoy’s epic novel came from Lookout Point, BBC Cymru Wales and The Weinstein Company, and starred Paul Dano, Lily James and James Norton.
The hefty 6 x 60 was directed by Tom Harper and filmed on location in Lithuania, Latvia and Russia.
Nina’s review of the drama reflects what many TV critics said of the show: “I thought this was a great, glittering start to 2016. It was a perfect fix of extravagance, emotion, gory battle scenes and overall great casting!”
Sales manager Matthew Wright lauded the second series of The Missing. The international co-production was filmed on location in Germany and Belgium, with Morocco standing in for Iraq.
Jack and Harry Williams wrote the 8 x 60 drama, which comes from their production company Two Brothers Pictures and New Pictures for BBC One.
In Matthew’s words, the show was: “Gripping - with more twists and turns than Ed Balls on Strictly. Tcheky Karyo is quite brilliant as the hobbling French detective Baptiste, as he embarks on a one-man crusade to unravel the fate of Sophie Giroud.”
Ashleigh Shores is The Knowledge’s data executive and voted Noel Clarke’s Brotherhood as her stand-out UK film of the year. Clarke wrote, produced, directed and starred in the film, which was the final instalment in his trilogy, following Kidulthood and Adulthood.
“Noel Clarke’s Brotherhood was both unexpectedly comical and thought-provoking throughout. You are taken on a journey, witnessing the realities of British inner-city life. A great end to the trilogy” was Ashleigh’s verdict.
Brotherhood was selected to be shown in the 2016 Special Presentations section of the Toronto Film Festival.
The shape of things to come
We are returning to publishing manager Alexandra for our final words, as she gives us her overview of the past year and the shape of things to come:
“All these TV dramas and films show how far British-made productions have come since the introduction of tax credits and how the investment in technical skills and crew development has led to the UK becoming an outstanding international player.
“Next year will no doubt bring us more ground-breaking and fresh scripts when it comes to high-end drama. Sky’s Fortitude will air its second series in January, Left Bank Pictures’ period drama series The Halcyon for ITV will also beam into our living rooms and Idris Elba stars in new mini-series Guerrilla, written and directed by Oscar-winner John Ridley.
“Apart from blockbusters Beauty and The Beast, Star Wars: Episode VIII, Wonder Woman and The Mummy – just a handful of the big-budget movies that chose to film in the UK in 2016 – there are plenty more domestic dramas lining up on the big screen for release next year.
“Their Finest, a period romcom with Bill Nighy and Gemma Arterton that is set to showcase Welsh locations; Ben Wheatley’s Free Fire, which used Brighton for its Boston setting, and Dunkirk, Christopher Nolan’s take on the Second World War evacuation of Allied troops from France.
“To see what else is in the pipeline, look at our extensive database Production Intelligence, which has information on more than 8,000 UK productions and is growing faster than it ever has before. Roll on 2017, I say.”
Brotherhood photo via Rob Baker Ashton.
Also on The Knowledge
Disney+ UK has partnered with Northern Ireland (NI) Screen to establish a development fund for NI indies to source a female-skewing single doc.
The Culture, Media and Sport Committee has written to the chancellor, urging the Government not to be “complacent” when it comes to targeted tax support for the production of film and high-end television.
Sales of British TV shows hit a record-breaking high of £1.853 billion in 2022-23, a 22% increase on the previous year.
The Grierson Trust has announced the winners of the 2023 British Documentary Awards in association with All3Media.
Banijay has continued its UK scripted expansion by acquiring National Treasure and Help indie The Forge.
The BFI has launched its new National Lottery Creative Challenge Fund, seeking applications from UK screen organisations and production companies to create and run targeted project development labs for features or immersive projects.