In Business: bringing Gangs of London to the small screen
The production company behind new Sky drama Gangs of London, Pulse Films, has been innovating storytelling in film, television and music for 15 years. We hear how Barclays financing was integral to the “very expensive” production – and how the bank’s media team is responding to the sector’s ever-changing needs.
It has been a challenging few months for the UK film and television industry. The coronavirus crisis forced the shut-down of productions, the cancellation of much of televised sport, many new releases to be postponed and nationwide cinema closures. At the same time, a population in lockdown resulted in soaring demand for online streaming services.
As cinemas reopen and some more socially-distanced forms of filming resume, production company Pulse Films will be among thousands having to adapt to the new normal.
Founded in 2005 by Thomas Benski and Marisa Clifford, the award-winning company is behind Sky Atlantic’s drama, Gangs of London, which was released at the end of April – a production for which Barclays provided tailored support, financing the show’s tax credit in a government scheme designed to strengthen UK-based productions.
Bringing big stories to small screens
The thriller, which follows the power struggle between international gangs in present-day London, marks the studio’s first foray into scripted drama. But creating the large-scale, nine-part series was not without its obstacles. Filming lasted 175 days, taking place at almost 100 locations to capture the city’s authentic feel – a far trickier feat than working in a dedicated studio.
“We’ve shot nearly all of it in London which at the time was incredibly busy, and an expensive city to move around in when we’ve got 120 people and 30 trucks,” said Jamie Hall, Pulse’s President of Scripted TV
The behind-the-scenes support from Barclays, with which Pulse has banked for five years, was instrumental in making sure the Gangs of London production costs were covered but didn’t encroach on other budgets
Chief Financial Officer at Pulse Films
The growing audience demand for cinematic drama series means rising production costs – which could not have been met without Barclays’ backing, he said. “We’ve shot some really big action sequences that I don’t think have been done on UK television before. This is a very, very expensive production. They’re almost like mini businesses on their own now, the scale of them, and we really require that support from our financiers to help us see through such a long project.”
Bruce Dixon, Chief Financial Officer at Pulse, said: “There's a general balance between developing new content and allowing your business to run on a daily basis.” The behind-the-scenes support from Barclays, with which Pulse has banked for five years, was instrumental in making sure the Gangs of London production costs were covered but didn’t encroach on other budgets. In addition, the crew were able to use Barclaycard solutions to make payments for many of their production expenses.
Drama on demand
Film and TV production has evolved significantly in recent years, with viewers gravitating towards on demand streaming platforms like Sky Atlantic, NOW TV, Netflix and Amazon Prime. Lorraine Ruckstuhl, Barclays’ Industry Head of Media, highlighted the shift from traditional broadcasting: “The landscape keeps changing dramatically and as most people will know, the likes of Netflix and Amazon have really come out of nowhere in the last five to six years, and they spend an absolute fortune on content – billions and billions a year.”
It’s really rewarding when you’ve seen businesses grow, win larger productions. When you actually see the content on your screen and feel you’ve just had a small part to play in that, it’s fantastic
Industry Head of Media, Barclays
Barclays is committed to staying up to date with these developments. It was the first UK bank, in 1986, to create a dedicated media team. Decades later, it continues to innovate by establishing new schemes to cater to current audiences. Barclays’ SVoD (streaming video on demand) Financing fund launched in 2017 to help UK production companies meet interest from streaming platforms. It was so successful that it was doubled in 2018.
“We take the view that just because we don’t have a particular product today, it doesn’t mean that we won’t work with businesses to come up with the right solution for them,” Ruckstuhl added. “I think that attitude has been really important in the way we’ve evolved in terms of the changing market.”
Backing UK television and film production companies makes business sense. Last year, Barclays-commissioned research showed that 37% of people are more likely to watch a drama that was filmed in the UK, and that over 40% would feel lost without access to streaming entertainment.
For Ruckstuhl, it’s exciting to see the teams behind new content thrive over the course of their relationship with the bank: “It’s really rewarding when you’ve seen businesses that maybe started out a bit smaller, seeing them grow, seeing them win larger productions,” she said. “When you actually see the content on your screen and feel you’ve just had a small part to play in that, it’s fantastic.”