An independently-financed TV film has been nominated for the Best Drama category by the Midlands Royal Television Society in an award traditionally dominated by the BBC.
European Drama Network, a new Midlands-based production company making modern movies from classic plays, has been nominated with its first film The Mandrake Root.
Adapted from the comedy La Mandragola written by the infamous Niccolò Machiavelli in 1518, the makers describe The Mandrake Root as “Carry on up the Renaissance” – “funny and silly but faithful to the original text”.
Royal Television Society Midlands secretary Gerry King said the lack of drama production in the region has led to the regional Best Drama category being dominated by the BBC.
“When you are looking at what is being produced by broadcasters in the Midlands, nobody else is making quality drama or indeed any drama at all,” he said. “The independent sector is reluctant to get into drama as it’s very difficult to break into particularly if you don’t have a track record so the BBC has had that part of the competition to itself.”
The Mandrake Root was directed by theatre director Malachi Bogdanov, previously associate director of the English Shakespeare Company, and features four Birmingham-based actors – Jonathan Owen, Chara Jackson, Den Woods and Craig Painting – in the lead cast.
European Drama Network said: “By raising the finance to produce its own films, European Drama Network has remained creatively independent from the TV channel commissioners who decide what and how TV drama is made.
“The Network is thus free to make appealing films which aren’t traditional in style or content, like the Renaissance comedy The Mandrake Root or its next project From Ithaca With Love a comedy based on Homer’s The Odyssey.”
The Mandrake Root was shot by an Italian and UK-based movie crew in Sardinia where it was screened outdoors this summer to an enthusiastic reception from 1,000 locals.
The film was shot in 14 days in August last year in Sassari, the second largest city on Sardinia. The final day’s shooting took place at the I Canderlari festival which has taken place in Sassari for the past 500 years.
The company investment was led by Birmingham-based Orbis Corporate Finance and The Mandrake Root received completion funding from Screen West Midlands.
Among the other local films up for a Royal Television Society Midlands award is A House on the Moon, a documentary and animation made by Wolverhampton-based Light House Productions in conjunction with English Touring Opera, nominated in the Best Corporate/Non-Broadcast category.
In 2007 the education department of the English Touring Opera commissioned a new community opera based on refugees’ experiences of coming to the UK and the full-length piece was performed twice at the Wolverhampton Grand Theatre in June 2007.
Light House Productions director Nerina Villa and producer Urmala Jassal followed the action during rehearsals and the final performance in a behind-the-scenes documentary.
Nerina Villa said: “Working with the English Touring Opera was such an inspiring process and we are really pleased that the film is having an impact.”