ON THE BLOG: Brook Lapping on TV Programming funding

Lesley Calmels is International Coproductions, Awards & Rights Manager at Brook Lapping, Blakeway and Films of Record. Here she tells us why it wasn't until their second submission to the TV Programming scheme that they were successful, and talks about how the scheme encourages them to work with international partners.

Tell us about Brook Lapping Productions

“Brook Lapping has been described by the Wall Street Journal as 'the acme, the Rolls Royce of documentary makers.' London based, it moved a year ago from Kentish Town to Victoria, where it shares offices and facilities with Blakeway Productions, Films of Record and Reef - all owned by Zinc Media Group.”   

“Founded in 1982, the company gained worldwide acclaim for Brian Lapping and Norma Percy’s The Second Russian Revolution, Watergate and the 1995 seminal six-part series The Death of Yugoslavia and its follow-up The Fall of Milosevic.   Focussing on international affairs but broadening its remit after the arrival of Managing Director Greg Sanderson (previously of BBC Storyville and BBC Arts & Music commissioning), recent credits include Trump’s First 100 Days for BBC1; Inside Obama’s White House for BBC2, Arte and Al Jazeera America; and The Greatest Tomb On Earth: Secrets of Ancient China for BBC2.”  

What have you most recently received funding for?

“The most recent confirmed funding is for our landmark science co-production Expedition New Earth series produced by Lucy Haken and Executive Produced by Greg Sanderson.   Prior to that, Norma Percy’s BAFTA-nominated BBC2 four-part series Inside Obama’s White House (2016) received support.”  

Why did you apply for Creative Europe’s TV Programming scheme?

“It’s simply a fantastic resource to complete the funding plan to get international series off the ground and to hold onto rights.  It’s extremely tough to get these big projects fully funded and the scheme encourages us to work with longstanding supportive international partners across Europe and in the US, Australia and Japan whilst giving our producers the budget to achieve their creative ambitions.”

What do you think made your application successful? What’s your advice to potential applicants?

“Our first funding application for Expedition New Earth was actually rejected.  It was put together in haste for the deadline and was simply too early for some of the broadcasters to make the necessary commitments in time for the application.  When we received the gloomy result, I met with the MEDIA team at Creative Europe Desk UK in London to discuss how to improve the application for a second try and they gave me some useful pointers.  We ended up getting the necessary commitments of our incredibly supportive partners, which led to a successful application.”  

“Advice would be I guess to allow a decent amount of time to put the application together – navigating the process and portals can be quite mind-boggling.   It can be a tough call to balance presales with leaving enough key territories for a distributor to want to put up a decent minimum guarantee.”

What is the benefit of this grant?  

“The encouragement to have an international distributor on board and pre-sales to international broadcasters helps shape the project for a broader audience than simply the domestic and increases its sales potential.  A lot of our work is third-party and archive-heavy, and international clearance uplifts can be pricey so the additional funding allows us to manage these clearances.  In some cases versions will need to be made, perhaps to reduce any presenters in vision for which the additional funding also helps.  There is also encouragement to produce a taster, which can be sent to potential partners and is helpful at MIP and MIPCOM etc.

Image: Still from Inside Obama's White house and portrait of Lesley Calmels