REVIEW: Meet the Commissioner with Anne Mensah (Sky)
Our monthly Meet the Commissioner events are always very popular among our members, but March’s event with Sky’s Head of Drama Anne Mensah might have been the most sought-after session we have ever had. With a waiting list of over 70 members, the lucky ones who got in the room were rewarded with a wonderfully engaging session with Anne and our host Lyndsay Duthie.
After coffee, tea and croissants, Lyndsay began the session by asking Anne to talk through her own career and what led her to Sky. Prior to her position as Head of Drama, Anne had spent 10 years as Head of Independent Drama for the BBC working across shows such as Wallander, Waterloo Road, Case Histories and God on Trial.
Anne’s honesty and sense of humour made for an informal, yet very informative session. She talked candidly with Lyndsay about being uninterested in big names: rather, she is interested in commissioning unique, solid stories that will play well with Sky’s audience. Her first piece of advice – pitch your idea FOR Sky, don’t bring in an idea that didn’t get commissioned at another channel.
Lyndsay also asked Anne about the lack of female writers at Sky (which Anne agreed was at a woefully low number) and the plans to try and change this. There was an interesting discussion about the internal subconscious bias that Anne is trying to curb within herself and her commissioning team to allow space for more female writers to pitch and get those commissions. Although her commissioning team at Sky are predominantly women, they are still not commissioning scripts by women and this is what needs to change.
Amongst many other valuable tips and advice on how to pitch to Sky, what they are looking for currently and any restrictions on length, budget or format, Anne also let us in on what she does not want to be pitched – period dramas. She explained that she very rarely commissions a period piece, and even then, the programme will have to have its focus elsewhere. She talked about the 2015 show The Enfield Haunting – though set in the 1970s, it’s main themes were based in horror and the supernatural.
WFTV members also got to watch teasers for new Sky shows: A Discovery of Witches (a racy supernatural drama), and Patrick Melrose starring Benedict Cumberbatch, which is set to be a huge hit when it airs later this year on Sky Atlantic.
We wrapped the session up with a quick Q&A with more members wanting to ask questions than we had time for. By the end of the event, it felt as if everyone in the room was brimming with inspiration, ready to send off their creative pitches to Anne and Sky. Fingers crossed everyone!
By Becky Kukla